NPR’s Adam Davidson reports tonight (audio) that many U.S. ports lease terminals to foreign companies and that some of these companies are in turn owned by their respective governments. In addition, he points out that the New York Container Terminal at Howland Hook in Staten Island is operated by a Chinese company owned by a Chinese family closely allied to the Chinese government. The Container Terminal is “part of the U.S. military deployment process.” Which means that twice in the last year the Army’s 10th Mountain Division used the facility to load and transport its equipment to Iraq. Davidson says:
When used for military deployment, the terminal is still operated by the company that has the management contract. In this case, that company is owned by the Orient Overseas International Group, which in turn is owned by the family of C.H. Tung. Steve Orleans of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations says Tung is tightly linked to the Chinese government.
This means that the U.S. Army and the Pentagon entrust such a vital transport function to a company controlled by a government whose military and security interests are often hostile to our own. If our military has confidence in such a company, then why can’t we? Or do we (those opposed to the ports deal) know something about this matter that it doesn’t?? Why do some of us think we’re more knowledgable on this subject than military experts whose profession this is?
Davidson continues his story:
Several other [U.S.] terminal [operators] are directly government owned. A company owned by U.S. ally Singapore, whose government manages terminals in Los Angeles. The Venezuelan government owns oil company CITGO, which operates ten marine terminals in the U.S.
Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez hasn’t exactly been a friend of the U.S. or our foreign policy. In fact, one could argue that his hostility toward the U.S. might make him suspect as a potential U.S. port operator.
Certainly, if you think about challenges to American national security China would have to be at the top of the list and Venezuela not too far from the top of the list. Dubai, a country that’s host to a lot of American military activities, would have to be pretty close to the bottom of the list.
NPR’s Davidson notes that Pike:
“does not see a threat in foreign ownership of terminal management contracts. He says Dubai Ports World, just like the Chinese and Venezuelan companies pose little to no risk. China expert Orleans agrees. He says all of these companies are well-respected international business concerns that would never use terminal management to attack the U.S.
Orleans concludes the discussion with this assessment of the risk of a terrorist attack abetted by a foreign port operator:
I think you’d have to make such wild assumptions to get there that it’s ludicrous.
So let’s get this straight–the 70% of Americans who believe that Dubai Ports World poses a U.S. security threat know this how? Well, it’s just common sense, isn’t it? UAE sent two of the 9/11 hijackers and pumped them full of dough to do the deed. And besides the UAE loves Osama. They’re just bad dudes & not to be trusted.
And they feel confident that they understand the threat better than security analysts who’ve spent their entire lives becoming experts in precisely this field. Do you detect a note of presumtuousness and dare we say, willful ignorance from those opposed to the deal?