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Port Deal Blocked

Congress's latest bad move has been to block Dubai Ports World from operating several American ports:

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted 62-2 to insert an amendment into a $68 billion emergency supplemental funding bill for military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This was a clever move designed to defeat President Bush's threatened veto of legislation that would block this deal. This is the sort of politics that makes my blood boil — a funding bill for military action abroad should not be a vehicle for a domestic agenda. The two are unrelated; it's inappropriate to bundle them.

National security matters at ports are properly the responsibility of government agencies. (Navy and Coast Guard, please — the Department of Homeland Security is a joke.) To whatever extent private companies (foreign or domestic) are running security, the government should have adequate oversight to ensure good systems are in place. If they're not satisfied with the system and its results — as judged against objective criteria! — they should kick the bums out and find someone else. Or do it themselves.

Obviously, I prefer that they'd find someone else. The government shouldn't be running security unless it's absolutely necessary because I don't trust them to do a good job.

Port operators have additional information about the security procedures, sure, but so what? There probably isn't much that a little ordinary espionage wouldn't reveal. And the really sensitive stuff, assuming there is any, shouldn't be available without a security clearance to begin with! People who obtain the clearance are presumably trustworthy.

If there really were national security problems with this deal — and I don't believe it — that's evidence that the security system is broken and needs to be fixed, not that we should be protectionists.

I appreciated President Bush's veto threat. I wish he had gotten to exercise it. Congress has made damn fools of themselves throughout this brouhaha. They've made national security an excuse for racism and xenophobia.


Tiny Island