Monday, March 13, 2006

Ports Round Up - Port of Miami troubled security past and more

There's some stellar research being done by many a blogger out there. And I for one am happy to see there are less of us out there willing to be spoonfed all the BS our manipulative Congress and puppet press dish out.

Robin Mullins Boyd over at Chickenhawk Express has jumped on possible ties between Schumer and Eller & Co, the Miami firm that filed the first lawsuit to stop the P&O to DP World sale. She does a great job of recapping events that lead up to Eller & Co's lawsuit against P&O in the UK and US. Their attempts to first convey their dismay to Republicans John Warner and Kay Bailey-Hutchison, before finally resorting to the Chuck Schumer show. And, as we all know, getting Chuck's blood boiling was the beginning of the fiasco.

I think Robin's attempt to search out Schumer kickbacks from Eller & Co. may be difficult. I did a fast
search for any campaign funds from Eller CEOs in the recent past, and only came up with a modest $500 from VP Charles Arocha, Eller Ito Stevedoring (owned by Eller & Co) to the NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE in April of 2004. But as we all know - and in fact, is central to the ports deal - allies can change over events and time. UAE to US ally, and perhaps Eller switching sides to Schumer's cooperative Dem buds.


But Robin's train of thought did lead me in another direction myself. Apparently the Port of Miami has had it's problem with port security in the past.
In March of 2004, Florida authorities were investigating corruption at the port that led to the sale of 130 illegal port IDs.
MIRAMAR, Fla. -- To work at the Port of Miami, you need a port ID card. To get one, you have to pass a criminal background check.

But officials tell NBC 6 they're concerned that some of these identification cards may have been improperly issued or even sold.

"It appears to be that there was a corruption at the port," said James McDonough, director of the Florida Office of Drug Control.

Despite an increase in security measures after Sept. 11, 2001, NBC 6 has learned that officials are investigating whether identity cards -- required to access the Port of Miami --were improperly issued to port workers.

According to law enforcement sources, about 130 IDs were allegedly handed out without the necessary fingerprint checks, and perhaps a dozen or more IDs were given to people with active felony warrants.

"If access to the port was sold through a matter of corruption, it is egregious, it is heinous, it's disgusting," McDonough told NBC 6.

McDonough said he is concerned the ID cards may have been sold for profit, threatening security at the port.

"It looks to me that we have the high possibility that people who were trusted with the law, who were trusted with the ability to secure our ports, sold that trust for profit," said McDonough, who oversees port security statewide. "If that pass, in fact, allows a terrorist to get onto the port, that is a repulsive outcome. We shouldn't allow such things." snip

As a result of the investigation, a Miami-Dade veteran officer, Glenda Wingard, was removed from her post at the port ID unit.

The last of the investigative series by NBC6 was dated May 24,2004, and documented that "Soyica Mincy resigned from her job as a port administration secretary after officials learned she failed to notify her bosses about her 2000 arrest and probation for trying to set-up a drug scam while working at the Miami Police Department." At the time, there were two other port workers under investigation as well - but nothing on the internet radar about it's conclusion.

Below is from an NBC6 airdate dated only six days earlier - May 18, 2004 - describing Ms. Mincy (still a port employee at the writing) as only one of the many who should not have had port access IDs. She resigned days later.
Then there’s Soyica Mincy, who we found was fired from the Miami Police Department and later was on probation for unlawful compensation -- trying to lure a police officer into helping set-up a drug rip-off.

Yet we learned that she got clearance and continues to work right in the port administration building as a secretary.

“You brought this to my attention. This is the first time I have seen this information,” Oramas told NBC 6.

Oramas says Mincy's background check did not uncover this crime.

“If she excluded this information from her original application, that will be grounds for some further action,” Oramas said.

Ironically, six months after the illegal IDs problem, the Port of Miami received it's tenth grant from DHS for security...
a $425K grant that brought the total cash received from the feds to over $17.6 million post 911.

The connection between this event, all that gov't cash for security investment, Eller and DP World?

The Port of Miami, the port which is the subject of this 2004 ID investigation and port corruption, has four terminal port ops, POMTOC, Seaboard Marine, Chaquita Banana and AP Moller. POMTOC is 50% owned by P&O, which also is a 50/50 partner with Eller & Co thru the joint venture of Eller-ITO.

Per a CBS News story last Friday, one of the American companies considering buying out the Miami assets of P&O was Eller and Co.

"This wasn't on our agenda and not something we had considered," lawyer Michael Kreitzer said Thursday. "But as Congress started to speak out and say there was a dearth of American companies doing this, we started talking to our board of directors about putting a proposal together.

"We could move very quickly, and we're certainly reaching out to see if there is an opportunity for us."

Yet Eller & Co, as represented via Connecticut attorney, Alan Neigher, based their hot and heavy lobbying efforts and, in part, their lawsuit on the argument that the sale to DP World represented a security risk for the port.

In light of the 2004 illegal port ID investigation, it can certainly be said all the federal funds thrown at the Port of Miami-Dade for security could not, and did not prevent the illegal ID cards from being sold.

But even more evident, despite American/British port ops in charge of terminals there, the security was still compromised. Inevitably it comes down to individuals doing background checks at the American port itself, and little to do with the port ops.


In the meantime, the UAE has invited Oprah to broadcast her show from the country, in the effort to further educate the propaganda soaked American public to the modern Muslim State.

Bill Frist admits the possibility of the acquisition's resurrection.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress will closely watch a Dubai-owned company to be sure it transfers its U.S. port operations to an American company, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Sunday.

But Frist, R-Tenn., acknowledged that if an American buyer is not found, and the Bush administration determines there are no security risks, a deal for DP World to manage and operate major U.S. ports still could go through.

''If everything that the president, the administration has said, and that is that there is absolutely no threatening or jeopardy to our security and safety of the American people ... I don't see how the deal would have to be canceled,'' Frist said on ABC's ''This Week.''

"The American side that opposed the deal mixed economic and investment matters with issues of security and politics and this is the wrong approach and it will hurt free trade and international investment," Sultan bin Nasser al-Suwaidi said in remarks published Monday in several UAE-based Arabic papers.

In a country that avoids controversy, Suwaidi's comments were the most critical made by any high-ranking UAE official since the DPW row erupted nearly one month ago.

"Trade and investment relations with the United States must now be viewed from a new perspective," Suwaidi was quoted as telling a conference in Abu Dhabi on the local bond market.

Another UAE paper criticized the US and politicians for not doing their homework.

"Few politicians, or even the public, seem to have bothered to pay attention to the truth that DP World does not have control over security issues in the port as they are handled by US Coast Guards", said Dubai-based Gulf News.

"American politicians are riding for a fall. If only they knew it. Instead they are so immersed in scoring political points off each other that they have failed to do their research. But then, why should facts come in the way of a good that is, popular issue in an election year?.", wrote the paper in its today's editorial comment.

WHOA nellie... don't put ME in that category if you please! Of course the paper also tried to blame the Bush WH, stating that he's encouraged fear of the Middle East since 911. Can't say as I agree to that.

add Bahrain economic execs to those appalled at the US Congress "racist" attitude.

One of Bahrain's top politicians has warned that the US row surrounding DP World's takeover of P&O has taken on a worryingly racist tenor.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al-Khalifa, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, said that the events surrounding the Dubai company's £3.9bn takeover of the UK ports group had also caused great consternation in the Gulf.

Sheikh Mohammed, who heads up Bahrain's economic investment authority, and is a key member of the island's government, said Arab countries could do little if the negative attitude towards the area persisted in the US.

Asked whether it was fair that many were describing the US reaction as racist, he said: "Absolutely, but it's something we can't speak about. I think it was a shame. The DP World deal was a good deal. But this is politics".

In a completely different viewpoint on the DP World sale fail, Lebanon's Daily Star has an op-ed that contributes the failure to lack of Arab interests lobbyists in DC. In an odd turn of events, the op-ed places the blame on the Arab world itself by examining the success efforts of the Israeli lobby group, AIPAC, and suggesting that Arabs get off the bench and start playing the Washington political game with the big dogs on the porch.

It is easy to imagine how the Dubai Ports World deal could have turned out differently if Arabs had a strong lobby to protect their interests. Although there are a few worthwhile fledgling organizations trying to fill this void, the reality on the ground in Washington is that Arabs, through their absence, have failed to protect their interests and have given other groups a free hand in influencing U.S. lawmaking. The result, as we have seen, has often been unfair or unbalanced policy.

Nobody said that the rules that govern the game of politics in Washington are fair. But Arabs do have a choice: either continue to sit on the bench, or go out and compete with the players who are currently dominating the game.

Well, that ought to cinch their westernization, eh? Becoming proficient in the art of lobbying the halls of Congress.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting overview. I didn't know there were so many complex parts.