Coast Guard Memo On Port Transfer Counters Bush Administration Spin
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) yesterday released an unclassified version of a document showing that the U.S. Coast Guard — located in the Department of Homeland Security — “cautioned the Bush administration that it was unable to determine whether a United Arab Emirates-owned company might support terrorist operations.”
That would counter the spin from various Bush Administration undersecretaries that the transfer of six U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World is a "routine" matter that no one is "second-guessing."
It also countered what White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday:
MCCLELLAN: This was a transaction that was closely scrutinized by national security experts who are involved in these decisions and by our intelligence community. The intelligence community provided an assessment. The Department of Homeland Security also worked to make sure any national security concerns were addressed by entering into an agreement with the company and requiring some additional security assurances before it moved forward.
Why was the Coast Guard concerned? Here's what the document said:
"There are many intelligence gaps, concerning the potential for DPW or P&O assets to support terrorist operations, that precludes an overall threat assessment of the potential DPW and P&O Ports merger. The breadth of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities."
And what are the "intelligence gaps"?
-- Operations: What is the security environment at all the DPW and P&O port or terminal operations; to include the methods of conveyance and the personnel management of related ports and terminal operations?
-- Personnel: What are the backgrounds of all associated personnel working for or associated with DPW and P&O?
-- Foreign Influence: Is there foreign influence on DPW or P&O operations that affect security and other major decisions? If so, what countries and to what degree?
In other words, the U.S. doesn't really know all that much about Dubai Ports World, in spite of the fact that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers used the United Arab Emirates as an operational and financial base, and the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.
McClellan also threw out this bit of spin yesterday:
MCCLELLAN: But this was a consensus of all the relevant departments and agencies — there are some 12 altogether — that are part of that Committee on Foreign Investment.
That sounds impressive, but we know that at least three cabinet secretaries on the committee -- Treasury Secretary Snow, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff -- didn't know about the deal until after it was announced.
Exactly how did Homeland Security "address" the Coast Guard's concerns, if Chertoff didn't even know about the deal? Is this another example of the Bush Administration cherry-picking information to rationalize its action -- ignoring "second guessing"?