05-13-2006, 03:28 PM
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Schumer's Dubai Deal
Schumer's Dubai deal
May 11, 2006
Nearly three months ago, Sen. Chuck Schumer led the charge against Dubai Ports World. We shared his worries that a Dubai firm running U.S. ports might be more easily infiltrated by al Qaeda or other terrorists. But now Mr. Schumer wants to outsource cargo screening to the very same company.
Mr. Schumer might not even fully know what he has proposed. In a failed amendment to the emergency-spending bill, Mr. Schumer tried to force all ports participating in the Container Security Initiative -- that's more than 40 of the world's busiest ports including Singapore, Rotterdam and Tokyo, among others -- to model their cargo-screening systems after Hong Kong's if they want to keep sending cargo to the United States. Beyond its bullying unilateralism, this would have ended up handing much of the country's foreign-cargo screening records to Dubai Ports World.
Hong Kong's new system -- though innovative and worthy of study -- is criticized by industry insiders as "vendor-driven." That means that private firms handle the screening records. And it happens that the emerging private "vendor" on the world scene is Dubai Ports World. Since its recent acquisition of CSX Corp.'s terminals businesses in China, Australia, Germany and elsewhere, Dubai Ports World has literally expanded all over the world.
So if Mr. Schumer had his way, the same company that he helped bounce from American ports would be handling our cargo-screening records just about everywhere else. How ironic.
It's not just Dubai Ports World, either. Mr. Schumer's proposal would also have made Hutchison Whampoa -- a Chinese firm with close ties to Beijing -- eligible for the same function. Hutchison, the CIA once worried, "could provide a conduit for illegal shipments of technology or prohibited items from the West to the [People's Republic of China], or facilitate the movement of arms and other prohibited items into the Americas."
Some Republicans worry that Mr. Schumer might try to insert this language into other legislation. Key targets might be the Senate's port-security bills, including the one spearheaded by Sens. Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye. The other possibility is that Mr. Schumer might try to insert it into an unrelated bill, as he did recently.
For Republicans, this is a case where security and good politics align perfectly. Security requires lawmakers to stop the furtive and potentially damaging insertion of a terrible idea into coming legislation. Politics requires that conservatives thwart a liberal demagogue like Mr. Schumer who could well be trying to blow up the heretofore successful Container Security Initiative. At minimum, Mr. Schumer is trying to make Republicans look weak on port security. So in this case, good policy and good politics coincide nicely. It's time to put an end to Schuma-goguery.