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Rear Admiral Craig E. Bone on Port Security

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Just concluded an interview with U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Craig E. Bone, who is the Director of Port Security in the Maritime Safety, Security, and Environmental Protection Directorate at U.S. Coast Guard Headquaretrs, and in the past the Captain of the Port New York/New Jersey.

As I expected, Admiral Bone is an impressive expert on port security and confident of the ability of the Coast Guard to maintain port security no matter which company runs the ports. He was a candid and obviously informed expert on the operations that Dubai World Ports will assume if the deal goes through.

But he does not allay my concerns that the ovverall burden on the security forces has to increase when a foreign company based in an Arab country with a significant history of al Qaeda operations takes over a port. The Admiral correctly points out that American security depends on extending our borders out far beyond our geographical borders in terms of intelligence collection and cooperation with friendly allies like the UAE.

But that reliance doesn’t mean we should ignore the location of the Dubai World Ports home office. here, for example, is the “job opportunities” page from the company’s web site. The company is presently seeking an “Information Systems & Technology Manager for a Container terminal,” numerous other employees, and an undisclosed number of “UAE National Trainees,” just as one would expect from a state owned company concerned with the economic development of its land and people.

But if you are al Qaeda, or some related jihadist operation, wouldn’t placement of your best people in that training program become a priority if DWP takes over the operation of the six American ports? Isn’t it obvious that traffic and materials information that is central to the company’s operations would be invaluable to terorists and theoretically more easily accessed if a UAE company has it all on terminals located in the UAE?

Of course the DWP has its own security programs, and probably very tight ones. But isn’t it obvious that the opportunities for penetration or blackmail increase exponentially the moment that DWP takes over?

Rear Admiral Bone is a great witness on behalf of the Coast Guard, and a confidence builder, but I simply don’t see the need to increase the risk associated with port operations by any significant measure. But listen to the interview or read the transcript later at Radioblogger.com and let me know if he has persuaded you.

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