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February 22, 2006

WSJ Editorial In Favor Of UAE Port Deal

Fair and balanced, I am.

I disagree, though, that simply because this company will not be taking over port security (that remains in the hands of US Customs, Homeland Security, etc.) therefore this deal poses no national security risk.

Think about it: Would it be easier for you to break into your place of work, or your home for that matter, than a random building you know nothing about? Knowing how things work, and knowing the inevitable holes in security, gives someone a great advantage in defeating security. Thieves and terrorists may spend months collecting information surreptitiously about the workings of a targeted operation before going forward; if this deal goes through, there are going to be a lot of people, not all of them anti-terrorist, with an amazing scouting report on all of our major east coast ports simply because they're involved in the day-to-day management of them.

I don't necessarily think the UAE is the problem. People smarter than me keep saying they're one of the good guys in the War on Terror, and I guess I believe them. But... undoubtedly, there will be some UAE people, possibly high-ranking in the Dubai Ports company, with terrorist sympathies. Can we run the risk of them passing on blueprints, guard rotation schedules, and full security run-downs for our nation's ports to Al Qaeda?

The US Military controls the security at every one of its bases, obviously. But would we allow suspected Al Qaeda sympathizers to work at these bases, even in a non-security position, observing all security routines? Of course we wouldn't; detailed knowledge of the battlefield is half the battle.

More: Unauthorized Access and Terrorism. The UAE port deal will be "purely commercial" in their control of the ports. I assume, however, that that means the company can hire people. Not dockworkers, of course, who are unionized, and therefore less subject to pressure than even the US Government. And not security folks, either, who are hired and managed by the DHS.

But that allows a lot of people to be hired who will nevertheless have keys, security badges, and access to all the non-public areas of the ports.

It's hard to get into the non-public areas of an airport or port, but once you're in there, you're in there. The back halls and access hallways and such are lightly travelled and without significant security.

It doesn't take a powerful imagination to envision an Al Qaeda operative, hired on the say-so of a ranking Dubai executive with terrorist sympathies, yanking a deadly parcel out of a shipping container before it's inspected and then using his security clearances to avoid all the front-line (public-area) security of the port and then repose the package in his private employee locker, for later removal out of the port.

True enough, Britain used to control the ports, and, supporters of the deal point out, Britain has fundamentalist Muslims as well. However, Britain is not itself a Mulsim country and, while there may be terrorists therein, they have not permeated the highest levels of the financial community, as they almost certainly have in the UAE. The 7/7 terrorists were, we're told, angered at being locked out of "normal" British society; it does not seem likely, then, that Britiain will be producing many Muslim fundamentalists with the educational and social background to achieve high-level management or executive positions in a ports management company. The possibility is there, of course. It's just not very likely.

On the other hand... we know for a fact that some of the most rabid Al Qaeda supporters in Arab lands are Western educated, wealthy elites. The same sort of folks who just might find themselves making hiring decisions at a large Dubai-based ports management company.

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posted by Ace at 01:06 PM

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