Feel Safer?

Yeah I stole the photo from the Sun-Times website. What are they gonna do- call Securitas on me?

The international row over who will manage U.S. ports takes on a local flavor: “Are Metra’s sniffers up to snuff?”

(As a bonus, if you visit the Sun-Times they have a companion story entitled “Nothing found in search of Metra station,” which is ironic if you read the first article. But I digress.)

What’s fascinating is that this article and this incident bring the controversy over the Dubai ports home to Chicago in a real way. How?

Because the same issues at play in the Dubai deal are at play in some form or another in the Metra/Securitas flap.

It’s all there:
– Outsourcing security via private companies vs. the government providing security via state and federal law enforcement agencies.
– Foreign involvement in security matters (Securitas is based in Sweden).
– The ridiculous state of security of American ports, public transit, etc. that has not gotten one iota better since 9.11, despite many millions of dollars spent and much political posturing.
– Miscommunication between the government, companies like Metra and third-party security vendors such as Securitas.
– Disagreement amongst security officials as to what the benchmarks for security should be.
– Poor vetting of even American-based security companies led to wasted funds and security services which were subpar.
– Metra turning down the government’s offer to provide bomb-sniffing dogs.

All that’s missing is charges of racism.

Speaking of which, how “American” must a company be before we consider it “American?” Securitas is based in Sweden yet its American division appears to be semi-autonomous. The UAE-based Dubai Ports Worldwide would, presumably, not staff its offices with kaffiyeh-wearing members of Hamas or Hezbolla, as some pundits seem to fear. If all or most of the stateside employees are American, is the company “American” enough? Is it racist to insist that critical infrastructure like ports be managed by Americans? Is it racist to feel comfortable outsourcing security to a company based in, say, Sweden, but to feel uncomfortable outsourcing port operations to a company based in, say, the UAE?

1 Comment so far

  1. Dave! (unregistered) on February 28th, 2006 @ 10:59 am

    Actually, I don’t have a problem with Dubai Ports World managing our ports; as many have noted, security is still under our control.

    However, I think this is getting deserved attention for two reasons: (1) it’s another example of the administration doing an end-run around pretty clear Congressional regulation (requiring the 45-day investigation) in favor of “back-room” deals; (2) I still don’t see any reason why any company owning and managing such a vital part of our infrastructure shouldn’t be required to keep business records *in the US* where they could be more readily accessed for investigations and would be subject to American court jurisdiction. That exception in the deal might be “routine” but it makes no sense to me at all.

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