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A Ports Deal News Tracker and the Need for a Team B

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The online edition of the Wall Street Journal is easily the most innovative of all the online papers. Now it has added a “Ports Deal News Tracker,” similar to the Avian Flu News Tracker –a news silo devoted to a single story that has many facets.

From the Ports Deal News Tracker comes a link to the CFIUS press release on the expanded security review. Note that the release is a perfect example of non-transparency. Perhaps the CFIUS flak could give us the names and titles of the participants on the committee?

In the 1970s, then CIA Director George Bush created Team B to second guess the CIA’s estimates of some areas of Soviet military strength. From Wikipedia’s excellent overview of the “experiment”:

Team B was approved by the Director of Central Intelligence George H. W. Bush. A team of 16 “outside experts” were to take independent looks at the highly classified data used by the intelligence community to assess Soviet strategic forces in the yearly National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) (the U.S. intelligence community’s most authoritative, top-of-the-line written judgment on a specific national security issue).

What the new Ports Deal review needs –in fact what CFIUS needs on an ongoing basis– is a Team B. Asking the same group of officials to check their own work isn’t inviting the sort of scrutiny necessary to satisfy the deal’s critics from across the spectrum. Adding a Team B to the process will assure that the Cabinet heads and of course the White House will get a thorough review of the transaction, not just a report from CFIUS asserting that CFIUS was correct in its initial assessment.

There are plenty of folks around D.C. who could sit on such a committee of review, including former CIA head James Woolsey, everybody’s favorite retired Democratic senator and defense expert Sam Nunn, longtime NSC staffer Daniel Poneman, Center for Security Policy head Frank Gaffney etc.

Resolving this issue would be greatly assisted by the certainty of critical review. And then the Congress and the White House should take a long look at a coimprehensive overhaul of the CFIUS process, and also a searching inquiry at port operations generally. As everyone has been quick to point out, quite a few foreign companies conduct port operations in the United States. A systematic look at what should be allowed and what ought to be curtailed is overdue.


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