The Dubai port story was actually written about in late October, but until Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York started talking about it, no one actually noticed (press included) until a bit over a week ago. Then all hell broke loose.
But here's the real problem: No one knew about it. Not the president, not his chief of staff, and certainly not Congress. I spoke with the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Susan Collins, who was outraged. On the surface, she said, the decision was hard to understand. But if the White House had at least informed Congress, the administration might have saved itself some trouble.
"I think one reason there has been such an uproar is the decision seems to be a very strange one, and we don't have any information to suggest otherwise," the senator told me.
Yet because the White House wasn't in the loop, no one in Congress could be, either. But members of Congress also believe they would not have been in the loop anyway, because this administration values secrecy above all else.
Whether it's the NSA wiretaps, the Katrina E-mails, or Dick Cheney's energy task force, this is an administration not known for sharing. On the one hand, they do have a point: As soon as something is shared with a member of Congress, it tends to get leaked. On the other hand, this is a post-9/11 world, and the lack of congressional oversight on national security matters was one of the items specifically criticized in the 9/11 commission report. So, here we go again.
This is a flawed process. It needs to change. As the president is fond of saying, we are at war. And a presidential statement that says "trust me, I wouldn't do anything to harm national security" just isn't good enough anymore. Honest people can disagree whether any foreign operatives ought to be running American ports. But they ought to be allowed to share their thoughts and have input into administration decisions that affect our national security.
That's what Congress is supposed to do for a living. And it ought to be allowed to do it.