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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: Ports deal begs for tighter security

    Last week, the White House announced it had approved a $6.8 billion deal for Dubai Ports World, operated by the United Arab Emirates, to acquire control of 22 U.S. port operations, including ports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia. The ensuing uproar from Democrats and Republicans alike prompted DP World to offer to submit to a second investigation of its bid.

    The public outcry over the deal was compounded and magnified by the sloppy, secretive brokering of the deal – President Bush originally said he had no knowledge of the deal until he read about it in the newspapers, a claim the White House later retracted – and an embarrassing failure of imagination and lack of communication from both policymakers and dealmakers.

    Conspicuous security concerns were seemingly swept aside in favor of sending the right message to American allies as Bush breezily declared that “”people don’t need to worry about security.””

    The crux of the debate is easy to mistake for general anxiety over anti-U.S. violence, sectarian strife and political tensions in the Middle East, as selling control of American port operations to a Mideast state-owned company seems on its face to abandon any pretense of security. However, the issue isn’t whether the U.A.E. is U.S.-friendly -ÿit’s whether an Arab organization is more likely to be infiltrated by unfriendly people than organizations based in other countries.

    Despite the apparent dissonance, DP World, a global leader in port operations, has an enormous financial stake in maintaining its commendable security record. Further, as the deal’s proponents have noted, the Coast Guard would continue to provide security and American workers would continue to man the docks.

    National security ostensibly remains Bush’s most important priority, yet the administration’s cavalier handling of some of the nation’s most vital points of commerce seems commensurate with the state of American port security, which is notoriously weak.

    This public relations fiasco does present both the Bush administration and DP World an opportunity to rectify the apparent disregard for U.S. security. DP World, which has already vowed to appoint an American citizen as its chief security officer in the U.S., should also volunteer to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil – a condition the administration declined to require – where they would be subject to searches by U.S. courts.

    Bush can, for his part, help dispel the notion that good PR abroad is more important than security at home by insisting that DP World adhere to whatever security demands result from a second review of the deal and by vowing to sign a congressional appropriations bill to increase funding for more searches of shipping containers at U.S. ports.

    President Bush is right – blocking the deal would send “”a terrible signal”” of suspicion and mistrust to American allies. A failure to closely examine the deal and demand rigorous security measures, however, would send a terribly inviting signal to those plotting to breach American ports.

    Opinions Board

    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Nina Conrad, Lori Foley, Caitlin Hall, Michael Huston, Ryan Johnson, Aaron Mackey and Tim Runestad.

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