Port Security: My Take

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the ports security issue, here's a brief update on the campaign. Last week, Ambassador Joe Wilson and Senator John Edwards visited New Mexico to campaign for Attorney General Madrid.

Ambassador Wilson gave U.S. Rep Heather Wilson (absolutely no relation!) a lesson in national security. He told it like it was, "She sits on (the) Intelligence Committee and was privy to the extent that the intelligence didn't merit going to war. And yet she stood by and watched as her fellow erstwhile Air Force colleagues were sent out to kill and die in the name of the American people in a military action that was the antithesis of the way that we conducted the first Gulf War."

As usual, Senator Edwards was a big hit in Albuquerque and Belen!  He talked about President Bush's prescription drug plan and how it's failing our seniors.

Despite all the problems with the pharmaceutical companies' benefit, Republicans like Heather Wilson are sadly silent. That's why AG Madrid's decided to take the lead. She's launched a petition drive to try and extend the signup for our seniors. I know you see a lot of petitions -- but, this one is important, we're going to use it to accent AG Madrid's leadership on the issue and call Heather Wilson out for her silence!

http://www.madridforcongress.com/action/ medicarepetition

Last week, AG Madrid penned the following op-ed on another issue vital to our national security, America's ports. Take a gander. As always, you can stay up-to-date on the campaign on our blog:

http://www.madridforcongress/blog

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by Patricia Madrid

The Bush Administration's deal to hand over control of six key U.S. ports to a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates demands a thorough investigation -- not simply a perfunctory delay. However, the real issue is the relative ease with which governments with ties to terrorism are gaining access to - and control of - strategic U.S. holdings, including our ports.

It is unacceptable to me that under the current system the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is little more than a rubber stamp for foreign governments - some of which have direct links to terrorism.

The UAE, for example, which the Bush Administration has signed off on to run the ports, was one of three countries that officially recognized the Taliban, and two of the 9/11 hijackers were form the UAE. In fact the Wall Street Journal reported that the 9/11 Commission classified the UAE as "a persistent counterterrorism problem."

Now this "persistent counterterrorism problem" is going to be running our ports. We are practically inviting terrorists into the country and giving them every means necessary to smuggle weapons and dirty bombs into our cities and again terrorize us on our on soil. More than 9 million containers come off cargo ships each year in U.S. ports. Some of those containers make their way to New Mexico on freight trains and trucks. Without tough port security, it may only be a matter of time before a dirty bomb ends up in Albuquerque.

I have to wonder, then, where were the Republican Congress and Rep. Heather Wilson when this decision was being made? Are they not as worried about protecting national security as New Mexicans are? Why were the Republicans not asking questions about this deal until it was publicized in the media?

The fact is that instead of working to keep our ports safe, Rep. Wilson and the Republican Congress has consistently voted against toughening security at our nation's vulnerable ports. In 2003, for example, Wilson voted lock-step with Tom DeLay and other House Republicans to kill legislation that would have added $250 million in funding for port security. Again last year Wilson stood with the Republican Congress to kill another proposal that would have increased port security funding by $400 million.

Yes, Rep. Wilson, after the fact, has called for Congressional hearings into the Dubai deal. But those hearings are yet to happen. Meanwhile President Bush has agreed to a 45-day delay for a probe - a probe that is, in fact, required by law whenever a foreign investment under review by CFIUS is determined to have national security implications. Certainly selling ports to the UAE meets the criteria.

I can understand, though, why Rep. Wilson may be confused about how to effectively stand up to a deal that threatens national security. She's never done it. But I have.

As New Mexico Attorney General, I stood with three other state attorneys general to fight the China National Off-shore Oil Corporation (a business owned by the Chinese government) from buying U.S. oil giant UNOCAL. In the end, we won.

As a result of that intervention, I know how important it is to stand up and take action when strategic U.S. assets - be it oil production or key ports - are poised to fall under the control of foreign governments.

That is why I believe that the U.S. Senate should not only act to override President Bush's port deal at their hearings today, but Senators should also take steps to make the CFIUS process more open and accountable.

I propose public and transparent hearings for all investments considered by CFIUS. I also believe that Congress - a duly elected body - should have the final say in approving such foreign investments. And I believe that no company should be allowed control over strategic U.S. assets if that government has connections to terrorism or terrorist organizations.

In a post-9/11 world, national security should be every American's top priority. Clearly the Bush Administration and Rep. Wilson are willing to let too-little-too-late hearings and probes take the place of a meaningful policy that truly protects Americans and promotes national security. I hope the Senate, at least, will take action today, instead of the Bush-Wilson delay tactics continue.

(cross posted at Daily Kos)

Tags: Heather Wilson, NM-01, Patricia Madrid (all tags)

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