Mar 06 2006
I am absolutely stunned I am saying this, but Wolf Blitzer went to Dubai to do the Situation Room from there and he did some really amazing, balanced reporting tonight. I watched him interview our military commanders who gave The UAE and DPW an A+ for their efforts in protecting our naval ships in port. I watched as a colonel in country (along with a staggering 25,000 others who have families in The UAE apparently) slice up Rep Peter King who had nothing but ghost stories to this man’s real world experience. Peter King has supposedly proposed DPW give up US terminal operations and subcontract those to a US company. I wonder if it is the same one donating money to all those congressional coffers?
Way to go Wolf Blitzer and CNN. They decided to be journalists and find out the facts. Amazing. Links when they become available.
Some of the interview information are here at The Business Of America Is Business.
As promised, the transcripts. The first segment was background on Dubai and The UAE basically. Some excerpts. First, scare monger Rep Harold Ford, running for Tennessee Senate (Bill Frist’s seat) runs to Baltimore to shamelessly mislead the gullible on the port deal:
REP. HAROLD FORD JR. (D), TENNESSEE: President Bush wants to sell this port and five others to the United Arab Emirates, a country that had diplomatic ties with the Taliban, the home of two 9/11 hijackers, whose banks wired money to the terrorists. I’m running for the Senate because we shouldn’t outsource our national security to anyone. I will fight to protect America and keep your family safe and that’s why I approve this message.
I emphasized on the erroneaous items in that one short statement. Bush doesn’t want to sell anything. P&O is selling a controlling interest to DPW and we are simply reviewing the deal to see if it conflicts with any of our trade laws and security. P&O doesn’t do port security so we cannot be outsourcing. I would have had to bold the entire lame statement to point out DPW not have ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. And I keep reminding folks at one point we had diplomatic relations with Saddam Hussein and armed him. Glass houses everywhere.
Here is the part I came in on. Blitzer was getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the port and its security:
Blitzer: Meanwhile the Pentagon says more U.S. warships are serviced here in Dubai than any other port outside of the United States. Local customs authorities say their security is extremely tight and technologically advanced. They took me behind the scenes today for an exclusive tour.
I made the point many times that DPW and The UAE guard our backs now because they monitor shipments of goods coming to us here through the Port of Dubai. In other words, they already know about port security:
BLITZER: Ahmed Butti is in charge of Dubai Customs. During an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour, he proudly showed off the technology, the hardware and the software that are already used in Dubai. And he spoke of the even more sophisticated equipment now on the way that could detect a dirty bomb.
BUTTI: We’re in the process right now in working together with Department of Energy of establishing all our gates to — radiation machine to detect that and we have a team from our inspectors, already they are on the stairs (ph) right now to be trained how to operate these machines.
BLITZER: This multi-million dollar mobile scanner can literally see inside the containers. Highly-trained operators can focus in on even the smallest details. The same can be done inside the structure. Here in Dubai, when it comes to security and checking what’s inside containers, they say they are not worried about politically incorrect ethnic profiling.
And the myth about only 5% of containers ‘inspected’ is just that. Simple minds would come up with that simple approach (I guess they relate it to passenger screening). But the reality is basically profiling of goods and those shipping them:
(Blitzer on camera): What percentage would you say, are actually physically inspected?
BUTTI: Some, from certain countries, 100 percent sometimes.
BLITZER: Oh, really?
BUTTI: Some countries, no, 30, some countries 20. It depends where it’s coming from. It depends the companies.
BLITZER: How suspicious you are.
BLITZER (voice-over): He won’t say which countries have everything inspected, though presumably this Iranian ship loaded with Iranian cargo, which we drove by, would be a prime target for a thorough inspection.
No surprise there. Again, DPW and The UAE know security – they are not some backwater town with camels tied up outside the tents:
BLITZER: Some 1,600 people work for Dubai Customs. Ahmed Butti says every one of them undergoes a thorough background check.
Blitzer then goes on to illustrate how thoroughly modern The UAE is. Folks can read that section for themselves. They do a lot of news on this segment before getting back to Dubai and an interview with an adviser to the crowned Prince of The Emirates. The most important aspect of this interview is the history we, the United States, have had with The UAE fighting terrorism:
AL OTAIBA: Let me put some facts on the table. And I know there’s been questions raised regarding the UAE’s position on the war on terror, especially after 9/11. Now, the UAE has had a long, extensive history of cooperating with the U.S. on issues dealing with military intelligence cooperation, terrorism issues, and so on, since well before 9/11.
In 1991, the UAE contributed forces to Operation Desert Storm. And we allowed U.S. forces to base in the United Arab Emirates. In 1993, we contributed forces to operations in Somalia. In 1998, we sent as many as 9,000 troops to conduct peacekeeping operations under the NATO alliance. We operated in Kosovo for over three and a half years.
These are all facts that perhaps some people may or may not be aware of, but our cooperation and our history in dealing with the U.S., the U.N., and various other allies and friends have been steadfast and absolutely unambiguous.
AL OTAIBA: Well, let me put some more facts on the table. The U.S. Navy sends ships up to 572 U.S. Naval vessels to port and ports in the UAE, whether it’s (inaudible). We’re reaching vessels up to the size of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. BLITZER: They come into this port here.
AL OTAIBA: They come into this port, and Fajera (ph) port. Now, the U.S. Navy feels that it trusts the UAE enough to put in vessels of that size and of that level of technology in our port. And throughout history, he we have had a flawless track record in the UAE, whether it comes to terrorism in general and supporting our allies and our friends in the region.
The next segment has a discussion of the Container Security Initiative (CSI), an initiative The UAE signed up to early on:
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, that’s right, it is called the Container Security Initiative, and it currently operates in 42 countries around the world. One of those ports is, in fact, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
The idea that U.S. Custom officials work in conjunction with local Dubai officials to identify what they call high-risk containers. They then use those non-invasive techniques to scan them, those things like high-tech radiation devices.
Now, is this working? That is the big question. The idea is to get to these things before they ever leave the foreign country and head to U.S. ports.
Well, the GAO, the Government Accountability Office, did a study, and they found two major problems with the program. One is that there’s not enough staffing and a lot of those containers are not being identified. The other problem being that the devices they use have no technological standard, so you can’t tell whether or not the radiation technology, those sorts of things, are actually working.
But Wolf, CSI tells us that they are actually taking these changes under advisement and they are making the appropriate adjustments.
Well, technology is where it is and they are using the best out there – that is not the fault of DPW or The UAE. Neither is it their fault we do not have the people. But as we saw before The UAE is taking security serious and doing plenty more all by themselves. So while naysayers can point to these ‘facts’, they have no bearing on DPW’s ability to safely operate terminals in our ports.
This segment also has the debate between Rep King (isn’t he shilling for a US port management company?) and a Kevin Massengill, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel workingh in Dubai. Again, I will leave most of this to the reader to digest. One snippet:
MASSENGILL: Absolutely. They’re very good questions.
Wolf, the answer to that is, none of us want to be judged by the way we acted prior to 9/11. That was the watershed event. And all of us recognize now, in hindsight, that there was more we could have done, better ways we could have been prepared.
Very true. Glasses houses all around. The end of this transcript deals with Wolf’s interview with “U.S. Navy Captain Thomas Goodwin. He’s a top Navy commodore here in the Persian Gulf region.”
GOODWIN: If you look at [federal government] fiscal year 2005, and you start counting from 1 October of 2004, and you stop with September 30 of 2005, we have had — the U.S. government’s had U.S. ships in port on 203 different — excuse me — 203 ship visits, for a total of 502 port visits.
That is a lot of opportunities for a repeat of the USS Cole folks. And that was just the last GYF. And the US Navy deals directly with Dubai Ports World:
BLITZER: Now, who provides the services? When a U.S. Navy vessel comes in here, Dubai Ports World, I take it, helps you guys, or is the — is the port operator.
GOODWIN: In fact, it is.
United Arab Emirates — it’s Dubai Ports World — they own the territory. This is their home territory. We work hand in glove with Dubai Ports World for services, and to provide fuel, logistics, and everything that a warship or another logistics ship would need here, absolutely.
BLITZER: And how do they do? How is the receptivity? What do you — what do you — what — what kind of grade would you give them when you come here to Dubai?
GOODWIN: If I put them on a grading scale, like you’re back in college or something like that, I would have to give them at least an A-plus.
Hard to argue with people who have direct knowledge of a subject. And it is hard for me to weigh speculation (especially wild speculation) more factual or real than first hand experience. And that experience is hard to argue with, as Wolf found out as he ended his interview:
BLITZER: Because a lot of us remember the USS Cole.
GOODWIN: That is correct.
BLITZER: And, so, you — you — you — that’s very much on your mind?
GOODWIN: Very much on our mind, absolutely, everybody.
BLITZER: And, so, you — you — you work together with the UAE to make sure that could never happen?
GOODWIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLITZER: So, it’s a pretty good operation? I — I guess it’s a good story to tell.
GOODWIN: It’s absolutely a good story to tell.
And I think, again, for the people back home, again, just — just think about this for one moment here. And it’s a foreign port for us in America, all right? But you’re here. And, every day, every day, there is a U.S. ship in a port in the UAE, either here in Jebel Ali, or in Dubai, or in Fujairah, which is on the open ocean side of the Straits of Hormuz.
BLITZER: And the same receptivity you get here in — as in Dubai, you get in the other ports?
GOODWIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Dubai Ports World runs the — the port in Fujairah. They run the port here in Jebel Ali, and, obviously, in Dubai.
BLITZER: No problems with Dubai Ports World?
GOODWIN: None at all. They have been a master partner in this effort.
For those serious about a serious issue, please look at all the transcripts (one more here) and the give and take. CNN did an excellent job. I think Tony Snow would be proud (he has been doing top notch reporting on this subject)!