Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How much more do we have to learn about Portgate to realize it was a bad idea?

By Aussiegirl

Sally Vee just sent me this link to Counterterrorism Blog and an article that describes how a visa procedure connected with Dubai Ports World could allow terrorists into the country. Another reason to reconsider this engendered-in-secret deal and bring it before Congress.

The Counterterrorism Blog: US Ports, the UAE and US visas

If foreign nationals, aliens, are to be brought into the United States, what process will be employed for that purpose? These, perhaps, are all very legitimate issues the Congressional and other critics of this program may want to have resolved...if there is time for such resolution.

And since the topic of importation of aliens relative to this DPW port operation deal has now surfaced, please allow me to explain how that might easily happen. There is something called the "L-1" Intracompany Transferee nonimmigrant visa. It allows foreign companies with US-based operations...as DPW would be...to temporarily transfer managers or "skilled workers with specialized knowledge" into the United States to work at the US branch of the parent company. The L-1 aliens can stay, with extensions, for up to seven years in certain cases.

The visa application process for L-1 status does provide for the usual layered background check system to kick-in. However, as we have seen in many previous cases, terrorist alien suspects who are not yet on the radar screens of any Intelligence or law enforcement agencies or who utilize a solid false identity, slipping past those watch lists can and will happen. The L-1 visa process in connection with what would be a very large DPW port management operation could provide yet another avenue of entry into the US, perhaps without the culpable participation of DPW personnel, of terrorist aliens. Minimally, this should be another issue subject to very close and continuous review, particularly if the DPW deal goes forward. Hopefully, our Government knows more than we do and is here to protect us.

This article about the visa procedure was posted on February 22. Earlier, on February 20, someone posted an article about the recent and rapid expansion of Dubai Ports World and how this might be another source of concern. And this statement particularly troubles me: DP World’s senior management, they point out, draws mostly from a small circle of UAE nationals close to UAE’s traditional rulers.Well, who is it who refuses to recognize Israel? Who is it who considers the Taliban the legitimate government in Afghanistan? The "traditional rulers", of course. Does anyone wonder why we are concerned?

With the backing of the UAE government, DP World has grown rapidly from a small local port operation into an international conglomerate. In fact, DP World’s rapid expansion into the world’s third largest port operator raises some questions about its ability to oversee and administer its vast holdings, especially in the light of worldwide security requirements. The P&O acquisition brings an additional 29 container terminals, many in Europe as well as the United States, and the logistic operations of more than 100 ports under DP World’s control. It also gives DP World operational control over ferries running between the UK and France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and Spain. Much of this expansion has been supported by the UAE Government and the huge inflow of petro-dollars. But, DP World’s acquisition of P&O is reportedly being financed mostly through a (syndicated) term loan facility through Barclays Capital and Deutsche Bank.

[...] DP World and senior UAE government officials pressed hard for, and got, quick UK and US government approval for the P&O takeover. The transaction was reportedly vetted and approved by the US Department of Homeland Security and TRANSEC, the UK’s Department for Transport's Security Division. It was also approved by the US Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment. Nevertheless, security experts in both the UK and US remain dubious. They question the wisdom of turning over control of so many major ports around the world, and particularly in the US, UK and Europe to this relatively new UAE based company. DP World’s senior management, they point out, draws mostly from a small circle of UAE nationals close to UAE’s traditional rulers. The concerns they express range from possible relaxation of security measures to potential infiltration into DP World’s administrative cadre by Al Qaeda supporters. Al Qaeda operatives working inside DP World might have access to sensitive port information including layout, vulnerabilities, and cargo and container movements. After-all, they point out, the UAE has a less than stellar record when it comes to dealing with terrorism. Critics note that the UAE was one of three countries that recognized the Taliban. And, UAE based charities and financial facilities have been implicated knowingly, or unwittingly in financing various Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups. The UAE was used as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks. The critics also point out that lax controls at UAE ports made them a convenient transfer point for shipments of nuclear components smuggled to Iran, North Korea and Libya.


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