You know the old line: find me a one-handed expert. The kind that doesn't say 'on the one hand, but on the other hand.' The Today show found one this morning. Terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey was single-handedly unequivocal in his support of the UAE port deal when interviewed by Matt Lauer.
Lauer: "Take the politics out of it. Will this really damage national security especially at these ports?"
Cressey: "The simple answer is that it won't. We've had foreign ownership of the ports . . . for a number of years now. The American security apparatus is still going to have responsibility for how security is dealt with. So it won't."
Lauer seemed to second the notion: "So there is nothing in this deal, this operations deal with this Arab-owned company, that gives them any control of security: it's still going to be Treasury, Homeland Security, Defense Department, Customs dealing with security at those ports?"
Cressey: "That's exactly right. You have the Coast Guard worrying about what's going on on the seas, you have Customs and border protection dealing with it as it comes into the actual ports, we have other steps in place, a layered security approach so that even in the [foreign] ports themselves where the containers are being put on ships they're being looked at."
Cressey then deflected Lauer's suggestion that the US be given absolute veto power over any employee of the UAE company. Cressey:
"The concern everyone has is one of an insider threat. That somehow a Dubai-owned company would be able to put a terrorist or other insider into the process who could somehow do something to us. And the answer is, no, not in and of itself."
Lauer: "What about for valuable information, security-type information to be transferred from ranking individuals of this company on the ground at the ports to people at home that we don't want to have that information?"
Cressey saw no unusual concern: "data security is always an issue regardless of what country that owns the company. This is an issue for Western European countries and Asian countries as well. Data security, data integrity is always important."
Lauer: "So you don't have a fear that this company based in the UAE could serve as a scouting tool for some terrorist organization?"
Cressey: "Let's keep in mind Richard Reid [the shoe bomber] was from Great Britain, we've had several attacks inside Great Britain by home-grown terrorists. Great Britain has a terrorist threat, a problem. Are we worried about that, because they were controlling US ports before this? No we weren't. Everyone's hyperventilating a little bit back home."
Lauer gave it one last shot: "But just to restate: you don't think if this sale goes through that the ports will be less safe and that as a result the rest of our country will be less safe?"
Cressey was emphatic: "This sale will have no discernible effect on the security of the United States. We still have a responsibility at home to secure the ports. That doesn't change anything with this sale."
Perhaps the Bush administration should bring Cressey back into the NSC. They certainly couldn't have had a more adamant advocate this morning. Don't look for Roger to be sipping Sonoma Chardonnay anytime soon with Barbara Boxer or Hillary Clinton.
Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY where he hosts the award-winning public access show 'Right Angle.' Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org