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US Sea Ports and Airports Face Security Threats


March 4, 2006
The Progress Report & American Working Group for National Policy

The supposed "review" of a contracat that would permit Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, to operate 21 US ports is "a sham compromise aimed at providing President Bush political cover, not protecting the national security of the US." Meanwhile the Open Skies proposal threatens an even larger breach of security and environmental laws — in the skies.

Securing Political Cover
Judd Legum, Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel and Payson Schwin / The Progress Report

There is a vigorous debate about the prudence of allowing Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, to purchase the right to operate 21 US ports. The animating principle, however, is not in dispute: port security is vital to the safety of all Americans.

Therefore, when a transaction involving the operations of US ports is proposed, it should be reviewed carefully, in strict compliance with the law and in close consultation with Congress. In the case of the Dubai Ports World transaction, none of that happened. Instead, the administration has concocted a sham compromise aimed at providing President Bush political cover, not protecting the national security of the United States.

The 45-day investigation now being conducted by the administration was actually legally required of the Dubai Ports World transaction from the outset. In ordinary cases of direct foreign investment, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) first conducts a 30-day “review” of the transaction.

After the review, the committee makes a judgment as to whether an additional 45-day “investigation” is necessary to address national security concerns. However, the law was amended in 1993 to make the 45-day investigation mandatory in cases like the Dubai World Ports transfer.

The so-called Byrd amendment requires the investigation in cases where: 1) the company is controlled by a foreign government, and 2) the acquisition “could affect the national security of the United States.” The sale of operational control at 21 US ports meets both prongs, yet the investigation was not conducted before the deal was approved. The New York Times reports that Bush administration officials “could not say why a 45-day investigation did not occur.”

The administration has now agreed to conduct the 45-day investigation "at the request of the company." Actually, according to the AP, "senior US officials and DP World executives have closely coordinated their efforts in recent weeks." The charade is too much even for right-wing pundit Charles Krauthammer, who otherwise supports the ports deal.

On Sunday, Krauthammer said, "It sounds like a Soviet show trial in which the defendant says I would like to request that the court indict me again. Obviously, this is a cover the administration is cooking up to allow it to save the face and say we didn’t ask for a second review."

THE SHAM COMPROMISE
The 45-day review is political, not substantive. First, the deal would not be delayed. DP World has agreed only to a different management structure until May 1. Until then, operations would be run by an executive based out of London who is a British citizen.

DP World would be entitled to all profits during the review. Second, DP World has said it may sue if the outcome is different. Third, and most importantly, there would be no meaningful review of the investigation. The report would not be available to Congress or the public. Only President Bush, who has said emphatically that the deal must be approved, would be able to review the report and decide whether the transaction should receive final approval.

Yesterday, bipartisan legislation was introduced in Congress that would make the 45-day investigation meaningful. The bill would require "the Secretaries of Homeland Security and the Treasury to prepare a full report and brief members of Congress on their findings." Also, Congress, not the President, "would have the authority to disapprove the sale within thirty days." Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) explained, "That’s what’s needed, because the president has already decided. He said he’s for it. So he has the verdict already, and now he’s having the trial."

The results of the 45-day investigation need to be thoroughly reviewed by Congress because the administration has misled the public about the contents of the initial 30-day review. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the transaction "was a transaction that was closely scrutinized by the experts -- by the counterterrorism experts, by the intelligence community, and those who are responsible for protecting the American people.

No one in those departments objected to this transaction going forward." While that is technically true, he obscured the fact that "the Coast Guard raised concerns weeks ago that it could not determine whether a United Arab Emirates-based company seeking a stake in some US port operations might support terrorist operations."



Proposed Open Skies Treaty Threatens US Security, Environment
Jack Saporito / American Working Group for National Policy

(March 2, 2006) — An effort on the part of international and multi-national air transportation companies plans to abort the rights of countries to have legal jurisdiction over airline and airport operations within their borders. Like the US Port situation, this destructive effort by multinationals demands that Congress take immediate action to protect the US.

The European Union (EU) Open Skies Treaty, which proposes to allow the aviation industry unlimited utilization of world airspace, will eventually lead to the end of the nation's ability to impose restrictions, environmental taxes and safeguards on airlines within the EU and the US The result will be a supra-national, air-industry controlled by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization.

"This would be worthy of a 'chutzpa of year' award, if it weren't so blatantly bad for US and world citizens, states Jack Saporito, President of The American Working Group for National Policy (areco.org). "The draft treaty bars any environment safeguards against possible adverse effects on the free traffic of aircraft."

An Australian law review [Law Society Journal, April 2005, Journal of the Law Society of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia] raised concern about the movement by calling this one of the most serious affronts to democracy, quote: "It is a documented reality that the powerful agenda of the airlines is supported by federal government...[a] wake-up call for those Panglossians (read: naively optimistic) people who believe we live in the best of all possible (democratic) worlds.)"

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already been stripped of its powers to regulate significant environmental issues within the air transportation system, having been politically forced into an "advisory position only." Instead, air transportation environmental regulatory enforcement powers are now assigned to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Saporito says, "It's generally known that the multinational industry has co-opted the US FAA, making the agency both the regulator and the booster for the air industry."

Ironically, the Open Skies Treaty is being pushed by the US government via air-industry lobbyists, PAC money and influence on the FAA and Congress. Congress needs to fight back by passing a new law prohibiting the assignment of US environment protections to any global organization, except the US Congress and the US EPA.

Furthermore, the plan by the multinational air industry is to push foreign ownership limits of US airlines, from 25% to 49%, effectively allowing full foreign control of US airlines. Congress should also deny this action, for numerous reasons including 9-11 and US environmental issues as outlined above. Under this treaty, imagine a future where China owns our airlines, without any allegiance to "buying US products" and thus putting our last major aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, out of business.

Imagine further, noise, air, climate, and, other pollution problems generated by foreign (and US) aircraft being totally out of the control of US citizens, for profit, by multinationals. Finally, imagine major airport control being handed over to foreign operators, as our federal administration is attempting to do with our sea-ports (and which Chicago's Mayor Daley did with the Chicago Skyway recently). Such a future for America is totally unacceptable.

Washington needs to protect its citizens, not the multi-national air transportation industry.

Action: Click here for a petition to Senator John McCain. Or call the Senator in Washington at (202) 224-2235).
Contact: Jack Saporito, (847) 506-0670

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