Skip to comments.U.S. Hiring Hong Kong Co. To Scan Nukes
Posted on 03/23/2006 2:49:54 PM PST by My Favorite Headache
U.S. Hiring Chinese Co. to Scan Nukes By TED BRIDIS and JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writers 27 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - In the aftermath of the Dubai ports dispute, the Bush administration is hiring a Hong Kong conglomerate to help detect nuclear materials inside cargo passing through the Bahamas to the United States and elsewhere.
The administration acknowledges the no-bid contract with Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. represents the first time a foreign company will be involved in running a sophisticated U.S. radiation detector at an overseas port without American customs agents present.
Freeport in the Bahamas is 65 miles from the U.S. coast, where cargo would be likely to be inspected again. The contract is currently being finalized.
The administration is negotiating a second no-bid contract for a Philippine company to install radiation detectors in its home country, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. At dozens of other overseas ports, foreign governments are primarily responsible for scanning cargo.
While President Bush recently reassured Congress that foreigners would not manage security at U.S. ports, the Hutchison deal in the Bahamas illustrates how the administration is relying on foreign companies at overseas ports to safeguard cargo headed to the United States.
Hutchison Whampoa is the world's largest ports operator and among the industry's most-respected companies. It was an early adopter of U.S. anti-terror measures. But its billionaire chairman, Li Ka-Shing, also has substantial business ties to China's government that have raised U.S. concerns over the years.
"Li Ka-Shing is pretty close to a lot of senior leaders of the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party," said Larry M. Wortzel, head of a U.S. government commission that studies China security and economic issues. But Wortzel said Hutchison operates independently from Beijing, and he described Li as "a very legitimate international businessman."
"One can conceive legitimate security concerns and would hope either the Homeland Security Department or the intelligence services of the United States work very hard to satisfy those concerns," Wortzel said.
Three years ago, the Bush administration effectively blocked a Hutchison subsidiary from buying part of a bankrupt U.S. telecommunications company, Global Crossing Ltd., on national security grounds.
And a U.S. military intelligence report, once marked "secret," cited Hutchison in 1999 as a potential risk for smuggling arms and other prohibited materials into the United States from the Bahamas.
Hutchison's port operations in the Bahamas and Panama "could provide a conduit for illegal shipments of technology or prohibited items from the West to the PRC (People's Republic of China), or facilitate the movement of arms and other prohibited items into the Americas," the now-declassified assessment said.
The CIA currently has no security concerns about Hutchison's port operations, and the administration believes the pending deal with the foreign company would be safe, officials said.
Supervised by Bahamian customs officials, Hutchison employees will drive the towering, truck-like radiation scanner that moves slowly over large cargo containers and scans them for radiation that might be emitted by plutonium or a radiological weapon.
Any positive reading would set off alarms monitored simultaneously by Bahamian customs inspectors at Freeport and by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials working at an anti-terrorism center 800 miles away in northern Virginia. Any alarm would prompt a closer inspection of the cargo, and there are multiple layers of security to prevent tampering, officials said.
"The equipment operates itself," said Bryan Wilkes, a spokesman for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency negotiating the contract. "It's not going to be someone standing at the controls pressing buttons and flipping switches."
A lawmaker who helped lead the opposition to the Dubai ports deal isn't so confident. Neither are some security experts. They question whether the U.S. should pay a foreign company with ties to China to keep radioactive material out of the United States.
"Giving a no-bid contract to a foreign company to carry out the most sensitive security screening for radioactive materials at ports abroad raises many questions," said Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y.
A low-paid employee with access to the screening equipment could frustrate international security by studying how the equipment works and which materials set off its alarms, warned a retired U.S. Customs investigator who specialized in smuggling cases.
"Money buys a lot of things," Robert Sheridan said. "The fact that foreign workers would have access to how the United States screens various containers for nuclear material and how this technology scrutinizes the containers all those things allow someone with a nefarious intention to thwart the screening."
Other experts discounted concerns. They cited Hutchison's reputation as a leading ports company and said the United States inevitably must rely for some security on large commercial operators in the global maritime industry.
"We must not allow an unwarranted fear of foreign ownership or involvement in offshore operations to impair our ability to protect against nuclear weapons being smuggled into this country," said Sen. Norm Coleman (news, bio, voting record), R-Minn., a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. "We must work with these foreign companies."
A former Coast Guard commander, Stephen Flynn, said foreign companies sometimes prove more trustworthy and susceptible to U.S. influence than governments.
"It's a very fragile system," Flynn said. Foreign companies "recognize the U.S. has the capacity and willingness to exercise a kill switch if something goes wrong."
A spokesman for Hutchison's ports subsidiary, Anthony Tam, said the company "is a strong supporter in port security initiatives."
"In the case of the Bahamas, our local personnel are working alongside with U.S. customs officials to identify and inspect U.S.-bound containers that could be carrying radioactive materials," Tam said.
However, there are no U.S. customs agents checking any cargo containers at the Hutchison port in Freeport. Under the contract, no U.S. officials would be stationed permanently in the Bahamas with the radiation scanner.
The administration is finalizing the contract amid a national debate over maritime security sparked by the furor over now-abandoned plans by Dubai-owned DP World to take over significant operations at major U.S. ports.
Hutchison operates the sprawling Freeport Container Port on Grand Bahama Island. Its subsidiary, Hutchison Port Holdings, has operations in more than 20 countries but none in the United States.
Contract documents, obtained by The Associated Press, indicate Hutchison will be paid roughly $6 million. The contract is for one year with options for three years.
The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration is negotiating the Bahamas contract under a $121 million security program it calls the "second line of defense." Wilkes, the NNSA spokesman, said the Bahamian government dictated that the U.S. give the contract to Hutchison.
"It's their country, their port. The driver of the mobile carrier is the contractor selected by their government. We had no say or no choice," he said. "We are fortunate to have allies who are signing these agreements with us."
Some security experts said that is a weak explanation in the Bahamas, with its close reliance on the United States. The administration could insist that the Bahamas permit U.S. Customs agents to operate at the port, said Albert Santoli, an expert on national security issues in Asia and the Pacific.
"Why would they not accept that?" said Santoli, a former national security aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (news, bio, voting record), R-Calif. "There is an interest in the Bahamas and every other country in the region to make sure the U.S. stays safe and strong. That's how this should be negotiated."
Flynn, the former Coast Guard commander, agreed the Bahamas would readily accept such a proposal but said the U.S. is short of trained customs agents to send overseas.
Contract documents obtained by the AP show at least one other foreign company is involved in the U.S. radiation-detection program.
A separate, no-bid $4 million contract the Bush administration is negotiating would pay a Manila-based company, International Container Terminal Services Inc., to install radiation detectors at the Philippines' largest port.
The U.S. says the Manila company is not being paid to operate the radiation monitors once they are installed. But two International Container executives and a senior official at the government's Philippine Nuclear Research Institute said the company will run the detectors on behalf of the institute and the country's customs bureau. U.S. officials said they will investigate further how the Filipinos plan to use the equipment.
Associated Press writers Bill Foreman in Hong Kong and Jim Gomez in Manila contributed to this story.
We shouldn't even BOTHER with the expenditure at the foreign port. Just scan them at sea with our own forces.
But they make wonderful rum.
After the Dubai nonsense (which I fell for, grrr), I read anything that the MSM says that contains the words "Bush" and "security" with extreme skepticism.
What do they want us to do anyways? Invade any country where ships have a port of call before entering the US and install our own security forces?
How quickly time flies.. more slack being taken out of the rope?
Hutchison Port Holdings
Red China: New Gatekeeper Of Our Canal
October 20, 1999
Jimmy Carter never would have been able to ram through his two treaties giving away our Panama Canal if the Senate in 1978 could have looked into the future and known that, when the U.S. Flag is lowered on December 31, 1999, Red China would become its gatekeeper. But that's what's scheduled to happen unless Congress takes immediate action to prevent it.
Don't expect the Clinton Administration to interfere with China's stunning beachhead in the Western Hemisphere. Clinton is hopelessly indebted to the Chinese and their allies in Indonesia for financing his presidential elections in 1992 and 1996.
China didn't need to send an invading army. Because of what is euphemistically called "free trade," China has plenty of cash to buy and bribe its way into our domain.
Communist China is the greatest national security threat to America today and in the foreseeable future. At a major meeting in Beijing in 1994, China designated the United States as its primary global rival.
China is rapidly building a modern war machine with 18 long-range and 140 intermediate and medium range missiles. It's based on espionage, theft, trade deals that include technology transfers, and cash provided by a $60 billion-a-year favorable balance of trade.
Every month, China collects up to $6 billion in U.S. cash by selling its slave-labor products to Americans, but China buys only $1 billion worth of U.S. goods. The Chinese pocket the $5 billion a month difference and use it to build their military-industrial complex.
In order to cash in on the cash-rich Chinese, Panama manipulated the bidding process, holding repeated rounds of bids, for leases for the U.S.-built ports of Cristobal on the Atlantic end of the canal and Balboa on the Pacific end. The 50-year leases were awarded to a Chinese Hong Kong corporation named Hutchison Whampoa operating under the name Hutchison Port Holdings.
Hutchison Whampoa had come in only fourth in the bidding, after the Japanese firm Kawasaki/I.T.S., the U.S. firm Bechtel, and the Panamanian American company M.I.T. For exclusive control of the two ports, Hutchison Whampoa agreed to pay $22.5 million a year plus what one Panamanian called "bucket loads of money" under the table, and Panama's Law No. 5 was passed on January 16, 1997 to confirm the deal.
Law No. 5 blatantly violates the Panama Canal Neutrality Treaty, Article V, which stipulated that only Panama is allowed in defense sites. By giving Hutchison "priority" for its business operations, Law No. 5, Art. 2.11d, also violates the treaty's Article VI, which guaranteed "expedited" and "head of line" passage for U.S. warships.
Art. 2.10c of Law No. 5 gives Hutchison Whampoa the "right" to operate piloting services, tugs and work boats, which translates into control of all the Canal's pilots. Art. 2.10e grants the "right" to control the roads to strategic areas of the Canal, and Art. 2.12a grants priority to all piers, including private piers.
Art. 2.8 gives Hutchison Whampoa the right to "transfer contract rights" to any third party "registered" in Panama. Those rights could be transferred to China, or even Iraq, Iran or Libya.
The Hutchison leases even violate Panama's own constitution, Art. 274, which requires a plebiscite on Canal matters. None was held.
Law No. 5, Art. 2.1, also grants "first option" to Hutchison Whampoa to take over the U.S. Rodman Naval Station, the Pacific port facility capable of handling any warship. The Chinese will then have the power to exclude U.S. warships while admitting Communist warships.
The billionaire chairman of Hutchison Whampoa, Li Ka-shing, was a business and political buddy of the late Deng Xiaoping and now has the same close relationship with both Jiang Zemin and the Riady financial empire of Indonesia. No doubt that's why he controls most of China's commercial ports and seaborne trade as well as most of the dock space in Hong Kong.
Li was China's chief agent in facilitating China's smooth takeover of Hong Kong in 1997. Hutchison Whampoa partnered in several enterprises with China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), which is directly controlled by the People's Liberation Army, and served as a middleman in China's deals with the U.S. firms Hughes and Loral.
The Carter-Torrijos Treaties, bad as they were, gave the United States the right to defend the Panama Canal militarily. The Chinese leases, however, will make it impossible to do this without directly confronting the Chinese Communist regime.
In 1996, when China was "testing" missiles to scare Taiwan before its election, the United States sent warships to the area and China responded by impudently threatening to "rain down fire" on Los Angeles from its China-based ICBMs. Would Communist China do the same if it bases its shorter-range missiles in Panama?
China will be able to ship its shorter-range missiles across the Pacific, unload them at Balboa, and conceal them in warehouses until the time is ripe. If Congress doesn't act immediately, we are heading for a Panama Missile Crisis like the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Fighting the battle against the Panama giveaway treaties in 1978 helped Ronald Reagan and a dozen Republican Senators to be elected in 1980. Saving us from Red China as the Panama Canal gatekeeper could elect other Republicans in 2000. Who will step up to the plate?
The whole concept is nonsense. What's to prevent any flight into the US (whether a foreign carrier or even an American one) from transporting a radioactive device?
It wouldn't have to come by boat, and probably wouldn't in any event.
Shall we demand that Americans screen all onloaded baggage and cargo coming into America at each airport overseas?
And last month's "Arabs are running our ports!" fairy tale worked like a charm.
Heck, we don't even use Americans to search the baggage in airports on American soil.
And yet people here are reading the headline and going nuts.
I'm convinced at least a third of the responses on any given thread are to the headline only.
They can't bother to read much, if any, of the article, and certainly none of the thread before offering their informed opinion.
I am begining to believe that our government should legalise the use of drugs because some of the decisions they have made lately Involving national Security sure make them appear as though they were using them at the time.
What's going on with the Bush Administration?
Expect more of it . . . it works, plus it is an election year. If it hasn't happened already, every Dem member with an ACU rating of less than 20 will soon be faxing national security updates to the press.
world goverment,sharing are military and technology with the world,its call socialism
There. Minor repair. Whole lotta noise, not much signal.
Another Dubai Deal Under Scrutiny
By Chad Groening March 20, 2006
(AgapePress) - One of the nation's prominent military analysts says he is concerned that the United Arab Emirates is trying to purchase a British manufacturing company that makes engine components for U.S. military aircraft and main battle tanks.
Lt. Col. (Ret., U.S. Army) Bob Maginnis says due to security concerns, there is a U.S. law that limits the amount of military equipment that can be produced overseas. Now he says the Bush administration has informed Congress about a deal involving the U.A.E. company Dubai International Capital, which describes itself as a world leader in manufacturing highly complex castings for the aerospace, gas turbine, and petrochemical industries.
"This Dubai International company ... has acquired London-based Doncasters Group, which produces engine components and blade turbines for military platforms," he observes. "That, of course, is the type of thing that we monitor -- and that's what the purpose of that law is."
This is the second U.A.E.-based company that has been in the news lately. The first involved the potential operations management of six major U.S. ports by an Arab-owned group that had purchased another British firm. In that case, Dubai Ports World had to agree to sell its interest in the U.S. ports.
According to Maginnis, this more recent deal is also being examined. "Apparently it's been reviewed by the same people who looked at the six-port controversy with Dubai Port World, the organization that of course has been much in the news," he says.
Maginnis admits he is concerned about the number of foreign companies involved in purchasing U.S. resources. He points out that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. has greatly reduced its oversight of foreign transactions of this kind.
"The security review of those purchases has declined dramatically from 204 such investigations in 1989 to only 65 last year," he states. "And yet the international trade and the acquisition of multinational conglomerates has radically increased across the world."
Maginnis says he is pleased that a Treasury Department official has announced there will be an additional review of the Dubai parts manufacturer because of "unresolved security concerns." Bloomberg.com reports that Dubai International Capital and Doncasters have agreed to delay the $1.2 billion transaction for up to two months from March 31 while an investigation takes place
U.S. finances China nukes Taxpayers provide $5 billion in loans to close $8 billion Westinghouse deal
WASHINGTON Here's one that tops the Dubai Ports World deal but, so far, no one is complaining.
U.S. taxpayers are lending Westinghouse Electric Co. almost $5 billion to build nuclear power plants in China even though the company, based in Pennsylvania, is about to be sold to Japan's Toshiba Corp., and even though the company is currently owned by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.
And, so far, no one in the U.S. government is showing any interest in scrutinizing the sale over the transfer of nuclear-power technology or in halting the loan from the Export-Import Bank.
The saga began just over a year ago when the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., a federal agency whose board members are appointed by the president, approved a request from Westinghouse for a combination of guaranteed and direct loans of up to almost $5 billion to support export sales to construct four nuclear power plants at two sites in China.
The Ex-Im Bank, as it is known, boasts of assisting in financing U.S. goods and services to developing markets around the world. It typically finances around $15 billion in U.S. exports annually.
While that deal got almost no notice at the time despite China's record of spreading nuclear technology throughout the world last month the British parent company that owns Westinghouse agreed to sell it off to Toshiba, a Japanese conglomerate, for $5.4 billion in cash, a deal that is expected to close later this year.
Undersecretary for Export Administration David McCormick said Wednesday in a speech in Pennsylvania he had no plans to review the bid on the basis of the nuclear-transfer issue.
"The deal is not being formally reviewed," said McCormick, who heads the Commerce Department agency. "It's unclear if this deal required (U.S. government) review or not. Scrutiny would be justified, he said, if "there's a perceived or actual threat to national security."
Congress has not opposed the Westinghouse sale. In fact, the only member to call for scrutiny, Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, recently dropped his concerns. In a letter to Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pennsylvania, whose district includes Monroeville, where Westinghouse is based, Hall called Japan "one of our finest allies."
Meanwhile, Westinghouse, armed with the $5 billion in loans from U.S. taxpayers, may have a better shot at the $8 billion in nuclear contracts bid by China. Its chief competitor for the project, the state-controlled French company Areva SA is considering dropping its bid because of concerns about nuclear-technology transfers to the Chinese. Areva SA has reportedly refused to match the offer from Westinghouse.
Another puzzling aspect of the deal is the fact that China has run massive trade surpluses with the U.S. for many years. In fact, trade statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau demonstrate that China has built up over $1 trillion in surpluses with the U.S. since 1993.
In the last five years, here is the trend on China trade surpluses with the U.S.:
2001 $83 billion
2002 $103 billion
2003 $124 billion
2004 $162 billion
2005 $201 billion
In U.S.-China trade, that's a total of $673 billion in trade surpluses for the Chinese (or trade deficits for America) in just the last five years.
Not only is the U.S. government not questioning the deal to build nuclear reactors in China, it is actively financing it and using political influence at the highest levels to consummate the arrangement.
"The U.S. government has been very supportive of overall China-U.S. nuclear cooperation,'' says Gavin Liu, Westinghouse's representative in Beijing. "It's a very, very critical market for Westinghouse.''
China's nuclear-power market is growing faster than any other in the world. The four planned reactors are the first of more than 20 in a $54 billion push to quadruple Chinese nuclear-power capacity by 2020 an effort to ease power shortages in an economy that grew 9.5 percent last year.
Worry wart. What could go wrong?
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