A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.
The Bush administration considers the UAE an important ally in the fight against terrorism since the suicide hijackings and is not objecting to Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.
The $6.8 billion sale is expected to be approved today. The British company is the fourth largest ports company in the world and its sale would affect commercial U.S. port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.
Dubai Ports World said it won approval from a secretive U.S. government panel that considers security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in American industry.
How does this fit into Homeland Security plans to secure our borders? After Sept. 11, the FBI concluded that the UAE was an important operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks against New York and Washington.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat whose district includes the New York port, urged the administration to consider the sale carefully.
"America's busiest ports are vital to our economy and to the international economy, and that is why they remain top terrorist targets," Schumer said. "Just as we would not outsource military operations or law enforcement duties, we should be very careful before we outsource such sensitive homeland security duties."
This is just inviting trouble. Apparently free trade and profits are more important than security and people.
UPDATE: Sen. Schumer was also on Fox Television voicing his concerns about this deal and asking if we should be outsourcing our own security.
"I think there ought to be a full and public review before this company is allowed to control security up and down the East Coast," he said. [Emphasis mine.]
"The issue is not the head of the company. I'm sure he's been checked out. But how good is their security? How good do they check on their employees? Could people infiltrate this company a lot more easily than they could infiltrate an American company?"
Why is Schumer the only one speaking out so far? Is everybody else on the Hill waiting till a WMD makes it through a port before they finally say something?