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United Arab Emirates and Osama bin Laden

At the March 23, 2004, hearings of the September 11 Commission, the Commission's executive director, Dr. Philip Zelikow, presented a staff statement which included the following:

The Desert Camp, February 1999. During the winter of 1998-99, intelligence reported that Bin Ladin frequently visited a camp in the desert, adjacent to a larger hunting camp in Helmand Province of Afghanistan, used by visitors from a Gulf state. Public sources have stated that these visitors were from the United Arab Emirates. At the beginning of February, Bin Ladin was reportedly located there, and apparently remained for more than a week. This was not in an urban area, so the risk of collateral damage was minimal. Intelligence provided a detailed description of the camps. National technical intelligence confirmed the description of the larger camp, and showed the nearby presence of an official aircraft of the UAE. The CIA received reports that Bin Ladin regularly went from his adjacent camp to the larger camp where he visited with Emiratis. The location of this larger camp was confirmed by February 9, but the location of Bin Ladin's quarters could not be pinned down so precisely.

Preparations were made for a possible strike, against the larger camp, perhaps to target Bin Ladin during one of his visits. No strike was launched.

According to CIA officials, policymakers were concerned about the danger that a strike might kill an Emirati prince or other senior officials who might be with Bin Ladin or close by. The lead CIA official in the field felt the intelligence reporting in this case was very reliable. The UBL unit chief at the time agrees. The field official believes today that this was a lost opportunity to kill Bin Ladin before 9/11.

Clarke told us the strike was called off because the intelligence was dubious, and it seemed to him as if the CIA was presenting an option to attack America's best counterterrorism ally in the Gulf. Documentary evidence at the time shows that on February 10th Clarke detailed to Deputy National Security Advisor Donald Kerrick the intelligence placing UBL in the camp, informed him that DOD might be in a position to fire the next morning, and added that General Shelton was looking at other options that might be ready the following week. Clarke had just returned from a visit to the UAE, working on counterterrorism cooperation and following up on a May 1998 UAE agreement to buy F-16 aircraft from the United States.

On February 10th, Clarke reported that a top UAE official had vehemently denied that high-level UAE officials were in Afghanistan. Evidence subsequently confirmed that high-level UAE officials had been there.

The indispensible Middle East Media Research Institute reported in a two-part series in 2003 on the Zayed International Centre for Coordination and Follow-up, a UAE think tank whose patron was the second son of the President of the UAE, and which was a source of vile anti-American, pro-Hitler, anti-Jewish propaganda. The introduction to the MEMRI report explains that UAE officials privately acknowledged that the government-funded Zayed Center was a problem, but reining it in was difficult. The think tank was later closed.

Although many of the leaders of the UAE dictatorship may indeed support the U.S. in the war on terror, it seems clear that, at the least, there is a notable portion of the UAE, including some powerful and/or influential people, who do not. As James Lileks points out (in an article which Eugene linked to earlier today), the risks of a bin Laden sympathizer from the UAE supplying critical US port information to terrorists seems unacceptably high.

One of the talking points raised by defenders of the Bush decision on Dubai Ports has been to point out that many ports in the Los Angeles area are run by the Chinese. During the 2d Clinton term, Congress blocked Administration efforts to give the former Long Beach Naval Station to COSCO (Chinese Ocean Shipping Company), a front for the Chinese military. The COSCO issue garned almost no attention in the traditional media, but public opposition grew overwhelming as a result of New Media attention to the issue.

But, obviously, the temporary victory at Long Beach did not prevent the Chinese dictatorship from taking control of many California ports.

Congressional opposition to the Dubai Ports deal currently appears to far exceed the margin necessary to over-ride a presidential veto. Congress could improve American national security, and also scuttle claims that opposition to Dubai Ports is based on prejudice against Arabs or Muslims, by using the Dubai Ports prevention bill to also provide for the termination of Chinese control of American ports. As a general rule, it would make sense to prohibit operation of any U.S. port, or other critical national infrastructure, by a company which is not from a democratic nation or from a nation with a formal alliance requiring the nation to defend the U.S. if the U.S. is attacked.

More narrowly, Congress could forbid U.S. port operation by companies (including government-controlled companies) of any nation which: 1. Has nuclear missiles aimed at the United States, or 2. Has provided nuclear technology to any nation on the U.S. State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. United Arab Emirates and Osama bin Laden
  2. Lileks on the Port Controversy:
Starlight (mail):
Why not simply prohibit operation of US ports by companies that aren't 67% (or 51%) owned by US citizens (actual beneficial owners). Surely there is at least one US company capable of doing the job. If not, let spend some "foreign aid" dollars training a US company in this essential skill. Some thing we must do for ourselves even in a global economy.
2.23.2006 12:01am
Lev:
Mansoor Ijaz had an interesting idea...am I allowed to post a link, I wonder...

http://www.nationalreview.com/ijaz/ijaz200602221412.asp
February 22, 2006, 2:12 p.m.


...Simple corporate restructuring of the deal could also address concerns over how foreign-government-owned businesses are allowed to exert control in operating U.S. ports. DP World's operations could be conducted under a U.S.-limited liability company framework with two classes of shares — voting and non-voting. DP World would own 100 percent of the non-voting shares, which in turn would accrue 99 percent of the deal's economic benefits. The voting-rights shares would be 100 percent owned by U.S. citizens with one percent of the economic benefits. The voting shares would have sole authority to set port operations policies, and importantly, to change any policy promulgated by DP World deemed a threat to national security.

Under such a proposal, the U.S. shareholders could be, for example, the chief-executive officeholders of the port authorities that DP World proposes to manage, along with a few presidential appointees, such as former law-enforcement officials, to provide oversight. Such arrangements already serve to channel important investment into private U.S. companies engaged in sensitive technology development that are regulated by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Port security, as opposed to a port's commercial activities that DP World would be responsible for, will remain the task of the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs Service....


In any event, it seems to me there are two issues:

1. With Dubai Ports controlling both ends of container shipping, the foreign shipping end and the US receiving end, how much more likely is it that Dubai Ports, as opposed to other port management companies, would "mistakenly allow" something really bad to be put into a container that arrives in the US and blows up significantly.

2. What is the likelihood that US port security procedures policies, practices, strategies, technology etc. would be available inside Dubai Ports in general such that they could be..."made available by 'a friendly brother' employee"...for target examination by Al Queda planners.
2.23.2006 12:22am
Lev:
Re the Koppel post, a question: there are several emirates in the United Emirates. How independent of each other are they, and which one's princes met with bin laden et al.


[The UAE is a pretty complex entity, but, pursuant to the Lileks post I linked to, if Dubai Ports hires employees from the UAE as a whole, then bin Laden sympathy in even a single emirate translates into grave danger for the US.]
2.23.2006 12:24am
llamasex (mail) (www):
If UAE wanted to help an attack on America for whatever paranoid reason du jour, wouldn't they be able to find a much more cost effective way than spending $6.8 BILLION to buy port ownership?


[DK: Read the Lileks essay I linked to. The point isn't that UAE might have some formal plan to use Dubai Ports against the US. Rather, the risk is that, because the UAE has a significant population of bin Laden sympathizers, including high-ranking one, there is too great a chance that Dubai Ports could be infiltrated by employees who would pass critical information to al Qaeda.]
2.23.2006 12:27am
Lev:
Re: llamasex 2.23.2006 12:27am

You are making the unwarranted assumption that Dubai Ports The Company, or Dubai The State, are the only ones might want to attack the US through the ports, and through using information about the ports and their security and operating procedures.

You might want to consider that an employee of Dubai Ports in Dubai, or detailed from Dubai to the US entity, might be sympathetic to an attack on the US and make available what information he could to facilitate such an attack.

Of course, upon considering your comment further, one must agree with you that we are in equal danger from Dubai Ports as we were from the UK company they are buying. After all the British did invade us and burn DC.
2.23.2006 12:42am
Lev:
Hmm....llamasex 2.23.2006 12:27am

In view of your parenthetical, where did this come from


If UAE wanted to help an attack on America for whatever paranoid reason du jour, wouldn't they be able to find a much more cost effective way than spending $6.8 BILLION to buy port ownership?


I feel like Emily Litello.
2.23.2006 12:46am
llamasex (mail) (www):
There are $6.8 Billion reasons why the UAE would keep anyone in their country who hated us from harming the ports. If anything wouldn't giving UAE a financial stake in America's security make them more likely to make sure nothing happened to those ports. Hell maybe we might be selling an ally in the war on terror instead of buying one.

Lileks, is right about the political aspect, but that is about it. The rest of it rings of truthiness,

It just doesn't sit well. Period.
If his gut tells him, it must be true.
2.23.2006 1:07am
Steve:
You are assuming that UAE's interests are entirely unitary, which they aren't.

I wonder what legal issues, if any, would be involved in terminating existing foreign ownership. If done to a domestic owner, it could well be a Contract Clause violation. But does any concept of vested interest apply to foreign governments or corporations, or do they do continued business here at their peril? (Obviously, there are very serious diplomatic issues either way.)
2.23.2006 1:17am
Jon Swift (mail) (www):
2.23.2006 2:38am
ed in texas (mail):
The mirror assumption about the UAE presence near OBL is that a third party who has contact with your opposition can be quite useful.
2.23.2006 7:40am
JohnG:
I read that the US Navy (and USCG) regularly docks its ships at Dubai receiving equipment and supplies, maintenance and shore leave for the crews. So, too, the USAF has landing rights at bases within the country. Many UAE citizens are employed in support roles by the US military at these bases.

I've not found any evidence of security problems related to the ships or issues regarding personal safety of service members while in UAE (I'll admit my research was not exhaustive). At least, I don't recall any news stories listing such incidents.

If the UAE were intent on causing harm to US interests, either directly through state sponsored actions or clandestine support of bin Laden and his agents, would it not seem easier and more likely that terrorist activity would be triggered/allowed while a warship was in port (e.g. USS Cole in Yemen) or a plane was on the ground within the country. Why spend billions to gain dubious access in a US port when several hundred million dollars of military equipment are within arm's length in its home port?

Sure, there'd be an impact to another attack on US shores that would be greater than an attack in Dubai, but is it reasonable to assume the UAE would spend billions to acquire the possibility that it might succeed in such plan?

Something appears to be missing in the arguments against allowing the port deal to go forward. I always seem to bump up against the seeming illogic analysis pointing to a nefarious purpose behind UAE's bid. I just don't get it.
2.23.2006 10:18am
John Thacker (mail):
As a general rule, it would make sense to prohibit operation of any U.S. port, or other critical national infrastructure, by a company which is not from a democratic nation or from a nation with a formal alliance requiring the nation to defend the U.S. if the U.S. is attacked.

Rather ridiculous. The real danger is in the loading end, not the receiving end. Someone could load a bomb into a shipping container at the sending end, and no matter who was running the port we wouldn't be able to stop it on arrival. The additional danger from having someone else run the receiving end is minimal. The "critical national infrastructure" is the sending ports. Therefore, I have to assume that you want to ban trade with unfriendly countries.
2.23.2006 11:06am
Jeek:
Surely there is at least one US company capable of doing the job.

There is - it's called Halliburton.

Imagine the screaming if they'd gotten a sole source contract, heh heh heh.

There are $6.8 Billion reasons why the UAE would keep anyone in their country who hated us from harming the ports.

Saudi Arabia has billions of reasons not to let their nationals from harming the US - but 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi.
2.23.2006 12:46pm
Unnamed Co-Conspirator:
I don't suppose anyone who thinks that port security is accomplished by US control of our ports has considered even for a moment the fact that the containers that arrive in US ports are loaded elsewhere, so, for example, if a dirty bomb explodes in a US port, it will necessarily have been placed on a ship in a port that is beyond the reach of your xenophobia. Dubai Ports World happens to run the commercial operations at many of those foreign ports, including some it acquired from USX in January 2005. And I don't suppose that any of the xenophobes demanding that the ports deal be killed have considered the fact that UAE is a major partner of the US in the international effort to ensure shipping container security (one of the first nations to join the US in this effort). A maritime nation such as ours whose economy depends on international trade should be the last to offer a xenophobic response that will tend to reduce, rather than enhance, international cooperation on critical security arrangements. Oh, and in case you haven't bothered to pay attention, the commercial operation of a port has nothing to do with security operations. Don't take my word for that, just listen to what those involved in port security (such as Coast Guard Admiral Craig Bone) are saying.
2.23.2006 1:00pm
Unnamed Co-Conspirator:
John, was writing as you were sending, apparently.
2.23.2006 1:03pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I find another assumption being made by David Kopel that is not supported by the evidence provided.

The 911 Commission cites a report that the CIA didn't take out UBL because he was meeting with Emirate officials.

Take that as true.

The assumption, however, is that they were meeting for nefarious purposes. The report doesn't say that, nor does the CIA.

Emirati officials--as well as Saudi and Pakistani officials--met with UBL frequently. While they may have been plotting evil deeds, they may equally have been trying to get him to tone down his verbal or physical attacks, warning him against taking certain actions, or telling him personally what they were doing with his assets that they had seized. We simply do not have evidence to support either conclusion. Clearly, some of his interlocutors were up to no good. But some were doing exactly what the USG would expect of them.

The CIA's calculus was that taking out senior members of the Emirati government was more expensive (as it seemed at the time) than whacking UBL.

In hindsight, we can say that was the wrong answer. At the time, though, it certainly looked different.
2.23.2006 2:33pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
The CIA's calculus was that taking out senior members of the Emirati government was more expensive (as it seemed at the time) than whacking UBL.

Not to mention the risk that you might miss him and get them. Now THAT would have been a messy situation.
2.23.2006 3:00pm
asdf:
John Burgess writes:

The 911 Commission cites a report that the CIA didn't take out UBL because he was meeting with Emirate officials.

Take that as true.

The assumption, however, is that they were meeting for nefarious purposes. The report doesn't say that, nor does the CIA.


True. But I'm guessing that Osama isn't the type of guy takes kindly to guests who want to lecture him. Also keep in mind that the UAE was one of only three countries who recognized the Taliban. The other 184 countries in the world decided against it. Combine that with the government funded Zayed Center. And apparent protection for illegal arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Oh, and those Danish cartoons? Cultural Terrorism.

Is is so unreasonable to be skeptical of the idea that those UAE princes weren't sympathizers?
2.23.2006 4:26pm
Josh_Jasper (mail):
Not give our port management to the lowest bidder? It *has* to be an American?!?

That's practicellay Anti Libertarian! You've insulted the spirit of Ayn Rand! Objectivist Jihad!!!
2.23.2006 10:42pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Until 2001, the UAE was one of the countries that had diplomatically recognized the Taliban. That opens the door, at least, to the possibility that the UAE officials cited were conducting diplomatic discourse with UBL to get him to back off, to break his relations with the Taliban, to lecture him.

Their simple presence is not an indicator of collusion, nor it is an argument against. It's a matter of speculation.
2.24.2006 11:14am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
The brouhaha about the Dubai ports sale is misplaced?

Tell that to the citizens of Tampa, in the area of the Central Command at McDill, and a MAJOR ports city now approving a contract for the Dubai ports management here -- where Federal District Court Judge James D. Whittemore and the Bush Administration FBI have allowed an admitted confessed perjurer who masqueraded as an Ocean Unlimited Master licensed in four different Countries who claimed to be a "Cruise Ship Captain" authorized to operate "any vessel on any seas" to pose a signficant threat to the National Security of America's ports and waterways.

This perjurer (named Theron Hutto) never possessed any such licenses and to this day is allowed to walk free of a criminal conviction for his perjury masquerade to enable his unfettered access to our ports.

This perjurer could readily have taken his Court papers to a foreign terrorist organization and, with Federal Court and FBI approval of his perjury, used them absent US Coast Guard licensing to aid an enemy organization to bring in nuclear materials by passing off the licenses he did not have (i.e, that are falsely stated in Court papers) to pass thru all security measures. He also claimed to have ties to the Middle East.

See, The Vessel Mistress, M.D. Fla. 05-cv-2534 on PACER.

And Americans should not be extremey concerned?

And when the perjury threatening America's ports and waterways was revealed, Judge Whittemore stated the perjury was of no consequence.

When will it be of consequence? After a terrorist attack on Tampa by masqueraders allowed to slip through Federal Government oversight with false maritime credentials?

Why is the Bush Administration FBI not doing anything to prosecute the false maritime licensing perjurer and remove the National security threat he poses from streets?
2.24.2006 1:10pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
This is a stupid controversy, the more one looks into it. Port security is handled by US Customs and, secondarily, the US Coast Guard. The ports were owned by an Englished-based company, and are now being sold to a Dubai owned company. As for Dubai, it strikes me as a free-wheeling, capitalistic, money-laundering tolerant kind of place, much like Switzerland. Indeed, I would posit that there is more Bin Laden money in Switzerland than there is in Dubai, yet I doubt that a Swiss firm's takeover of our ports would create such a fuss. The trouble for Bush is that all of the anti-Arab xenophobia that his own administration and its Foxs-News feed supporters have fomented is now coming back to bite him. Boo hoo.

However, it gives me
2.24.2006 1:58pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
It is also important to remember while America's ports are so insecure, appx. only 5% of all cargo can be inspected by the USCG. And, as suggested above, the FBI once again knows of a National security threat (false maritime licensing claims) just as it knew of 9-11 hijackers before 3000 Americans died.

And how many times does history have to repeat itself before these kinds of individuals posing National security breaches are prosecuted before a disaster happens?
2.24.2006 3:33pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"The Vessel Mistress, M.D. Fla. 05-cv-2534 on PACER"=The Vessel Mistress, M.D. Fla. 04-cv-2534 on PACER.
2.24.2006 3:55pm
minnie:
Yikes! It's 21 ports, not six as originally reported. Between them and the Chinese, a communist regime, they are taking over a good hunk of our country's most vital security points:

By PAMELA HESS
UPI Pentagon Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A United Arab Emirates government-owned company is poised to take over port terminal operations in 21 American ports, far more than the six widely reported.

The Bush administration has approved the takeover of British-owned Peninsular &Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to DP World, a deal set to go forward March 2 unless Congress intervenes.

P&O is the parent company of P&O Ports North America, which leases terminals for the import and export and loading and unloading and security of cargo in 21 ports, 11 on the East Coast, ranging from Portland, Maine to Miami, Florida, and 10 on the Gulf Coast, from Gulfport, Miss., to Corpus Christi, Texas, according to the company's Web site.
2.24.2006 5:01pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Minnie,

I think the Bush Administration is being very deceiving in the method of counting the ports involved. If you are finding more than the six, I would surmise many are, like Tampa's port authority, in the process of approving the agreements to go with Dubai. I thought there were only seven ports, but clearly you have doen the good deed to altert Americans of the extent of the foreign ports takeover.
2.24.2006 6:47pm
Barry P. (mail):
The Zayed Center was in Abu Dhabi. DPW is based in Dubai. That'a bit like indicting Ohio for something that was based in Pennsylvania. (DPW is not "controlled by the UAE government.)
2.25.2006 12:47am
minnie:
"That's practicellay Anti Libertarian! You've insulted the spirit of Ayn Rand! Objectivist Jihad!!!"

You might try reading Ayn Rand some time, instead of just launching your ridiculously off the mark attacks on her philosophy.

She would no more be in favor of Dubai having anything to do with our ports than she would of China being involved.

Ayn Rand was morally opposed to sitting down at the negotiating table with the Mafia.

The ruling class in the UAE is composed of a bunch of morally depraved thugs who happened to be sitting on some oil. They do business through bribery, influence peddling, and oppression. They preside over a morally bankrupt nation which, among other atrocities, has a thriving trade in human trafficking. They are the farthest thing from capitalists imaginable.

She wouldn't spit on them, much less argue we should allow them to manage our ports.

Nor would she be in favor of British control of our ports. American ports should be in the hands of Americans. There are numerous American companies who would bid fair market value for the contract. Any foreign entity which bids more than fair market value has other tricks up its sleeve.
2.25.2006 6:12am
Barry P. (mail):
Minnie:

Ever been the the UAE?
2.25.2006 6:35am
Barry P. (mail):
D'oh. That should be "ever been to the UAE"
2.25.2006 6:38am
Anomolous (www):
Barry P. wrote:

The Zayed Center was in Abu Dhabi. DPW is based in Dubai. That'a bit like indicting Ohio for something that was based in Pennsylvania.


Yeah, 'cause its not like...


It was principally funded by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). His son, H.H. Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed al Nahayan, the deputy prime-minister of the UAE, was the founder and became its first chairman.


...oh, wait.
2.25.2006 11:27am
Barry P. (mail):
Anomolous:

Thank you for bolstering my claim that the ZCCF was not affiliated in any way with Dubai.

Do you understand that the people you name are from the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi, the al Nahayns, whereas DPW is ultimately controlled by the Royal familiy of Dubai, the al Makhtoums.

The notion that the existence of a few nutbar anti-zionists in a think tank in Abu Dhabi somehow indicts a ports company in a separate state is guilt-by-association at its flimsiest.

And I'll remind you that Shaikh Zayed shut down the whole thing when he discovered what they were doing - he didn't just clesn house.
2.25.2006 1:44pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"The notion that the existence of a few nutbar anti-zionists in a think tank in Abu Dhabi somehow indicts a ports company in a separate state is guilt-by-association at its flimsiest."

It is not solely the fact it is an Arabic Country that has former al Qaeda terrorist ties.

More significant, is, like pre 9-11, Bush Administration's FBI and a Federal Judge in Tampa have known of a verifiable false maritime licensing masquerader for MORE THAN A YEAR, and abdicated doing anything whatsoever to stop this threat (the Federal Judge has sat without making a decision on the merits for almost a YEAR after the Magistrate found the false testimony at the core of the security threat). I really do not understand how we can have anything less than a Zero-Tolerance policy towards even the mere fact of impostering maritime licensing credentials in this War of Terrorism.

And this is an AMERICAN, so to say Dubai is okay because it would be American workers unloading at the docks or in the coastal waters of the U.S. is really not satisfactory terrorist threat prevention. What do we do -- say, Oooops, we made another preventable error and a nuke went off and wiped out half a State and some major American cities, vaporized hundreds of thousands of people and left an entire part of America radioactive?

What IS the issue, is that if there is EVEN ONE National Security ports threat such as has existed in Tampa for MORE THAN A YEAR with the FBI and a Federal Judge refusing to arrest, lock up, and prosecute the individual who masqueraded with the false maritime licensing credentials (to the effect he was licensed to even operate a military aircraft carrier) -- then there is at least ONE KNOWN threat of National ports security infiltration AND MAYBE MANY MORE NOT YET KNOWN.

The real problem is the Bush Administration DOES NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT SAFEGUARGDS IN PLACE so long as there is even one known threat still at large. And THAT bis why the Dubai ports deal should be rejected.

The FBI identified some of the 9-11 hijackers before 9-11. We cannot afford to make another of teh same mistake putting so many American lives at stake.
2.25.2006 9:04pm