Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ports, Politics and Transparency


Bruce Schneier provides some needed perspective on the political firestorm erupting over port security.
There are those who don't trust the Bush administration and believe its motivations are political. There are those who don't trust the UAE because of its terrorist ties -- two of the 9/11 terrorists and some of the funding for the attack came out of that country -- and those who don't trust it because of racial prejudices. There are those who don't trust security at our nation's ports generally and see this as just another example of the problem.

The solution is openness. The Bush administration needs to better explain how port security works, and the decision process by which the sale of P&O was approved. If this deal doesn't compromise security, voters -- at least the particular lawmakers we trust -- need to understand that.

Regardless of the outcome of the Dubai deal, we need more transparency in how our government approaches counter-terrorism in general. Secrecy simply isn't serving our nation well in this case. It's not making us safer, and it's properly reducing faith in our government.|Wired|


The Christian Science Monitor indicates that the original news stories are misleading and the new management will not have significant power over the entire port.
[The subsidiary company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O)] will not be "managing" the ports, as many news organizations have reported. Instead, the company is one of many that leases terminals at the port.

"I've never quite seen a story so distorted so quickly," says Esther de Ipolyi, a public-relations executive who works with the port of Houston. "It's like I go to an apartment building that has 50 apartments, and I rent an apartment. This does not mean I took over the management of the whole building."

Security is a top priority at the ports, but there's concern the Bush administration has not provided enough funds to properly pay for it. Earlier this month, the president of the American Association of Port Authorities complained that the $708 million allotted for maritime security over the past four years amounted to only one-fifth of what the port authorities had identified as needed to properly secure the ports. |CSM|
If this is the case, why hasn't the Administration been able to effectively communicate that message?

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