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Hullabaloo


Thursday, February 23, 2006

 
Shipping News

by digby


CNN just reported that Condoleeza Rice called for Syria to cooperate in the investigation of the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister. She really ought to keep that issue quiet for the moment.

Check out this report from Robert Parry:

The Bush administration is letting the United Arab Emirates take control of six key U.S. ports despite its own port’s reputation as a smuggling center used by arms traffickers, drug dealers and terrorists, apparently including the assassins of Lebanon’s ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Press accounts have noted that the UAE’s port of Dubai served as the main transshipment point for Pakistani nuclear engineer Abdul Q. Khan’s illicit transfers of materiel for building atomic bombs as well as the location of the money-laundering operations used by the Sept. 11 hijackers, two of whom came from the UAE.

But the year-old mystery of the truck-bomb assassination of Hariri also has wound its way through the UAE’s port facilities. United Nations investigators tracked the assassins’ white Mitsubishi Canter Van from Japan, where it had been stolen, to the UAE, according to a Dec. 10, 2005, U.N. report.

At that time, UAE officials had been unable to track what happened to the van after its arrival in Dubai. Presumably the van was loaded onto another freighter and shipped by sea through the Suez Canal to Lebanon, but the trail had gone cold in the UAE.

While not spelling out the precise status of the investigation in the UAE, the Dec. 10 report said U.N. investigators had sought help from “UAE authorities to trace the movements of this vehicle, including reviewing shipping documents from the UAE and, with the assistance of the UAE authorities, attempting to locate and interview the consignees of the container in which the vehicle or its parts is believed to have been shipped.”

The UAE’s competence – or lack of it – in identifying the “consignees” or the freighter used to transport the van to Lebanon could be the key to solving the Hariri murder. This tracking ability also might demonstrate whether UAE port supervisors have the requisite skills for protecting U.S. ports from terrorist penetration.


The Bush administration anticipated this and made sure this was addressed in the secret agreement:

Under the deal, the government asked Dubai Ports to operate American seaports with existing U.S. managers "to the extent possible." It promised to take "all reasonable steps" to assist the Homeland Security Department, and it pledged to continue participating in security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials.


That "reviewing shipping documents" thing might be a little problem though. There is this:

The administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to court orders. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate U.S. government requests. Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.


Let's just hope that DHS doesn't need to look at any "business records" in order to trace terrorist activity in the US. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.


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