July 20, 2007

Dubai Ports Weird

Hatched by Dafydd

Matt Drudge linked a story with a fairly cryptic one-liner that I simply couldn't resist: "White House Backed Dubai Ports Deal In Exchange For Intel." The "story" turned out to be the "Inside the Ring" column by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times; Gertz discussed a passage in a book by Rowan Scarborough, the crux of which is that there was a deeper, secret reason why President George W. Bush approved the deal for Dubai Ports World -- a shipping company owned by the United Arab Emirates -- to take over cargo operations at major American ports.

During the insane donnybrook that erupted on both right and left about that deal, many covert motives were suggested by its most energetic opponents: that Bush had sold out to al-Qaeda, that he had been duped by the jihadist UAE, that liberal cells at Treasury and DHS had tricked the political appointees, and in general that the deal would be terrible for American security (some used the phrase "outsourcing port-security operations," but that argument was so specious that it was quickly dropped).

But now, if we can believe Scarborough, there really was a covert reason; but it wasn't what anybody (including myself) imagined: Evidently, in exchange for okaying the deal, DPW was going to allow us to plant CIA agents in DPW-run ports all around the world... including those in some of our most dangerous enemies and challenging allies in the Middle East, in Asia, and even in South America:

Former Inside the Ring co-author Rowan Scarborough has written a new book revealing a key reason the Bush administration pressed hard for the 2006 deal for the United Arab Emirates-based Dubai Ports World to take over management of several U.S. ports.

According to Mr. Scarborough, the administration wanted the deal to go through because the UAE government had agreed to let the United States post agents inside its global port network who could report on world shipping.

Dubai Ports currently runs port facilities at key U.S. intelligence targets, including Venezuela, China, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.

"Dubai Ports, in essence, was going to become an agent of CIA," Mr. Scarborough said in an interview. "The arrangement is helping us detect whether any kind of terror contraband was being moved around."

(The book Gertz refers to is Sabotage: America's Enemies Within the CIA, by Rowan Scarborough.)

Let's assume for the moment that Scarborough's claim is true; after all, if we assume it's false, then this entire blogpost is as worthless and useless as the rest of Big Lizards. But if so, three points of interest immediately become apparent:

  1. Clearly, President Bush could not have publicly announced such an offer; he could, however, have privately briefed Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence.

Did he? Did any members of the Intelligence committees oppose the deal? I cannot find any that I clearly remember voicing an opposing view; former senator and Intel-committee member Jon Corzine (D-NJ), a deal opponent, had already left the Senate by the time the controversy erupted in February 2006 and would not have received any classified briefing).

(In the 109th Congress, the memberships of the relevant committees can be found here for the Senate, and here for the House.)

In any event, there is no way most opponents could have known about the alleged offer.

  1. Equally clearly, Bush had a very strong reason to push for the deal, even if he could not, for obvious reasons, enunciate it. He was not simply being "PC" or "multi-culti," not trying to appease the Arabs, and not being bribed or tricked.

Folks may differ on whether the offer was substantial enough to overcome whatever danger they see by replacing British management of cargo ops with UAE management of cargo ops (given that only the management hats would change, while the actual cargo handlers would have remained American longshoremen). But if one believes Scarborough, it's no longer possible to say there was "no good reason" for the deal, or that Bush got "rolled" by the UAE.

  1. Finally, Bush has probably been trying to find a way to get those embeds anyway... but whether he has or has not, those "key intelligence targets" will go crazy trying to find them.

Especially Oogo; I'm convinced that as soon as he hears about this claim, he'll begin raiding the management offices at DPW's cargo terminal at Puerto Cabello -- the largest seaport in Venezuela, whence the country's vast oil production flows out of Venezuela and into the world market. If Chavez acts true to the racing form, he will seize personnel and use fairly violent means to find the "spies," "assassins," and "saboteurs" he just knows are lurking within.

I hope their cover is deep and wide; and if they're not really there, then I hope DPW gets so angry it simply pulls out, bringing Venezuela's oil industry to a standstill. My, but we live in interesting times!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 20, 2007, at the time of 5:06 PM

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The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard

Absolutely fascinating, Dafydd, but what would be the point of Rowan Scarborough, who has just written a book denouncing CIA traitors for their treasonous leaks of classified info, making this story public? Was this somehow already known to our enemies, just not considered newsworthy over here? Or might this be a DELIBERATELY SPREAD cover story, intended to drive our enemies crazy looking for agents who DON'T exist? Might it also be intended as a punishment for Dubai for whatever reneging or retaliation THEY targeted at US after the deal fell through?

The above hissed in response by: FredTownWard [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2007 5:23 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I remember Duncan Hunter acting stupid about all this. My guess is Bush did not tell certain people, because he did not trust certain people to keep their mouths shut.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2007 4:13 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Duncan Hunter wasn't on the I-com. I doubt Bush would have told any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, other than those on the committee.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2007 1:31 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

If anyone here recalls, I was for the Ports deal, and still am. It made sense economically, strategically, and was very much in line with decades of US port management traditions.
It was also instructional to me that Schumer was for wrecking the deal. His track record in hurting America is nearly perfect. This deal was no exception. Additionally, he and Savage and many others lied about the deal, making false claims that the deal was a sale of American assets. It was categorically not.
That we had serious intel interests in the deal was totally unknown to me, but is not surprising.
So the score is:
Reactionary radio and extreme leftists - 1
Strategic and intel interests of USA - 0
The lesson on this should be to really really question one's self if they find themselves on the same side of any issue of people who are always angry or whose name is 'Sen. Schumer'.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 22, 2007 6:58 PM

The following hissed in response by: lsusportsfan

THe Port Deal was when segments of the right got flakey. I think something important and tragic happened then. It was a trial run for other over the top nonsense.

I would love to know who got those leases in the end

The above hissed in response by: lsusportsfan [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 22, 2007 9:27 PM

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