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Feb 15, 2006
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The federal bureaucracy has made a strategic mistake that threatens to cost the President dearly. The question is not whether the ill-advised decision taken last week by the secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (known by its acronym, CFIUS, pronounced syphius) will be undone. Rather, the question is: By whom — and at what political cost to Mr. Bush?

In the latest of a series of approvals of questionable foreign takeovers of American interests, CFIUS has given the green light to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to acquire contracts to manage port facilities in New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans. The company, Dubai Ports World, would do so by purchasing a British concern, Peninsula and Oriental Steam Navigation Company ("P and O").

Experts have long identified America's sea ports as weak links in the chain of our homeland security. With their proximity to major U.S. population centers, expensive infrastructure vital to the regional and, in many cases, national economy and their throughput of large quantities of poorly monitored cargo, they are prime targets for terror.

As a result, a case can be made that it is a mistake to have foreign entities responsible for any aspect of such ports, including the management of their docks, stevedore operations and terminals. After all, that duty affords abundant opportunities to insinuate personnel and/or shipping containers that can pose a threat to this country. Even though the company in question may not be directly responsible for port security, at least some of their employees have to be read in on the relevant plans, potentially compromising the latter irreparably.

At least the previous foreign contractors were from Britain, a country that was on our side before September 11, 2001. The same cannot be said of the United Arab Emirates, whose territory was used for most of the planning and financing of the 9/11 attacks. While the UAE's government is currently depicted as a friend and ally in the so-called war on terror, its country remains awash with Islamofascist recruiters and adherents — people all too willing to exploit any new opportunity to do us harm.

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