Tracing the port security debate...

The initial port security debacle has evolved into a hunt to find the heart of the issue. The $6.8 billion deal to give a Dubai-based company management of six American ports has elicited an outcry from across the political spectrum.

The initial response was a rare convergence: Democrats and Republicans were both vocal in their opposition of the deal. Hillary Clinton cited national security concerns as her motivation for trying to block the deal. Lindsey Graham said the same.

Thankfully, there were a few journalists out there that were willing to call a spade a spade. Josh Holland's piece yesterday pointed out that this "national security concern" was nothing but a pseudonym for xenophobia. Holland and David Sirota both point to the true issue of concern for Americans: the corporatization of our national security. Companies are fighting our wars, interrogating detainees in Abu Ghraib and other military bases, and managing our ports.

So, when hired guns shoot civilians in Iraq, and hired interrogators torture detainees at Abu Ghraib, and contracting companies steal money from the U.S. government, or are otherwise simply negligent in their duties -- whose authority are they subject to? From past episodes, we've learned that the worst punishment these companies and employees face is simply a cancellation of their contract or termination of their employment. The U.S. government, in the case of previous contracting fraud, has refused to get involved.

It's an issue of responsibility, and when only one of the six ports involved in the current Dubai deal has the necessary equipment to detect dangerous cargo content, it's only a matter of time before security is breached. Who is responsible then?

As the current head of the subsidiary running port operations, Michael Seymour, notes, it should be the federal government.

But members of the administration, so willing to break laws in the name of American security, find business to be an exception to the common "security trumps all" rule. Sirota points out in his recent blog post, "Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said about the UAE deal that 'We have to balance the paramount urgency of security against the fact that we still want to have a robust global trading system.'"

Which leads us to the multi-billion dollar question that is the root of the issue: Why is this administration, in a time of war, consistently putting our country's security and reputation second to business interests?


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