Commentary

Where Are The Watchdogs?

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By Joyce Hale

How can foreign interests continue to purchase natural gas leases and majority holdings in U.S. companies that are specifically identified as critical to national security? In 1975, President Gerald Ford established by executive order a watchdog committee within the Department of the Treasury. This interagency organization was charged with the responsibility of monitoring national security implications of foreign investments within the economy.

The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States is charged with advising the president and Congress of foreign transactions that could impact critical infrastructure, including telecommunications, energy, financial services, water and transportation sectors.

The proposed acquisition of major operations in six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World, a company of the United Arab Emirates, sparked Congressional interest on foreign transactions in 2006. Seeing the threat of foreign involvement in such a security challenged industry prompted legislation expanding CFIUS’s watchdog duties.

The resulting attention brought the withdrawal of this foreign proposal.

Why haven’t foreign purchases of a significant portion of our energy reserves brought this same level of scrutiny?

In typical short-term thinking, some claim the multibillion dollar sales are favorable adjustments to our negative balance of trade.

With many in Congress benefiting directly from oil and gas industry contributions, the sound of a watchdog barking may fall on deaf ears. These payments also influence efforts to pass the FRAC Act — Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act — which would require compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, as all other industries must do.

Media watchdogs acting independently from political or corporate influence have been kept busy searching out the details industry and political interests work to hide. Sources providing well-researched articles, complete with references, are available at ProPublica (Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat) http://www.propublica.org/series/fracking, Truthout (Gas Rush: Fracking in Depth) http://truth-out.org/news/item/8740-gas-rush-fracking-in-depth and New York Times (Drilling Down Series) http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/us/DRILLING_DOWN_SERIES.html.

One might wonder if those benefiting from these sales are throwing the watchdogs a steak to stay silent. We let sleeping dogs lie at the risk of our national security.

 

REFERENCES:

Foreign Investment, CFIUS and Homeland Security: An Overview (Congressional Research Service) http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RS22863.pdf

The Exon-Florio National Security Test for Foreign Investment (International Trade Reports) http://international-trade-reports.blogspot.com/2010/08/exon-florio-national-security-test-for.html

Silence is Golden: Is CFIUS Promoting FDI in Shale Gas Deals? (Association of Corporate Council) http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=fc842e7f-e79b-464a-be30-7684ca4e2f1e

Opponents to Fracking Disclosure Take Big Money from Industry (ProPublica) http://www.propublica.org/article/opponents-to-fracking-disclosure-take-big-money-from-industry#naturalgascaucus

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