Bush and the Ports: The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Wall Street Journal has editorialized in favor of approving the sale of the ports. Among other arguments, the editorial says:

Besides, the notion that the Bush Administration is farming out port “security” to hostile Arab nations is alarmist nonsense. Dubai Ports World would be managing the commercial activities of these U.S. ports, not securing them. There’s a difference. Port security falls to Coast Guard and U.S. Customs officials. “Nothing changes with respect to security under the contract,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday. “The Coast Guard is in charge of security, not the corporation.”

In a telephone interview yesterday, Kristie Clemens of U.S. Customs and Border Protection elaborated that “Customs and Border Protection has the sole responsibility for the cargo processing and cargo security, incoming and outgoing. The port authority sets the guidelines for the entire port, and port operators have to follow those guidelines.” Again, nothing in the pending deal would affect that arrangement.

Perhaps the editorial is right that security fears stemming from the impending takeover of the ports are unfounded. But as this Forbes article points out, the Bush Administration has done a lousy job of securing our ports in general. So even if the Dubai takeover itself poses no real security threat, Bush’s lax port security policies will now receive more scrutiny. John Kerry tried unsuccessfully to exploit the issue in 2004, but this Dubai deal gives Democrats something to sink their teeth into.