Dear MoveOn member,
Like us, you've probably watched the unfolding port security scandal and wondered how all the pieces fit together. Why would President Bush enrage Republicans and Democrats alike by secretly transferring control of 6 major US ports to a foreign government with recent ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban without the national security review required by law?
Well, it turns out the answer is a familiar one: major corporations stand to make billions of dollars, and senior administration officials have a personal connection to the deal.
This week, Senator Chuck Schumer introduced an emergency bill requiring Bush to report on the national security implications of this ports deal and giving Congress the final say.1 Five Republicans have already signed on2 almost enough to clinch victory and if we raise our voice now we can givet this bill the extra push it needs to pass.
We're aiming to collect a quarter million signatures this week. Can you help get us there?
The proposal to turn over port operations in New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans to the United Arab Emirates is problematic for a number of reasons. And let's be clear: the mere fact that UAE is an Arab country is not one of them.
Here are just a few of the concerns:
The UAE government repeatedly met with Osama Bin Laden after his attacks on United States embassies.3
The UAE government maintained relations with the Taliban even after 9/11.4
Last year, the Coast Guard investigated the proposed ports transfer and reported that massive intelligence gaps left open the possibility that the deal might "support terrorist operations."5
At the very least, the deal merits some real scrutiny. In fact, a 1992 law mandates that contracts like this one must receive a thorough 45 day review of potential threats to national security. But last month, when a secretive executive branch committee approved the deal, they ignored the law and refused to conduct the review.6
Why were they in such a hurry?
Well, it turns out the administration is also currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the UAE7 and some of the largest American corporations stand to make a huge profit if the deal goes through. That's why the top lobbyists from the largest corporate associations, (like the American Manufacturers Association and the National Foreign Trade Council) have pushed hard publicly and privately for the port deal and why they're so concerned about upsetting the UAE emirs.8
And there's another twist: Bush's Treasury Secretary, John Snow, chairs the committee that waived the requirement for a security review.9 And Secretary Snow has deep professional and financial ties to the Dubai Ports World corporation.10
This week, public outrage forced Bush to agree to implement the required 45 day review but he wants to keep it secret, have John Snow run it, and make the final decision himself. And Snow has already publicly stated that he sees this review as a campaign to soothe Congress, not a real investigation.11
The only way out of this corrupt and dangerous mess is to require the administration to report to Congress, and ensure that Congress has the final say over whether the deal passes national security muster.
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