Statement of Frank Gaffney, Jr.: Oversight Hearing to examine the "United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea". (March 24, 2004)
What might such decisions entail? Thanks to the regulatory powers granted by the Law of the Sea Treaty, the ISA could decide, for example, to issue permits for deep-sea oil or gas exploration and exploitation just beyond our 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone – without regard for the views of members of this Committee, the Congress more generally or the American people who may consider such activities to be environmentally unsound.
Not only could those concerns be shunted aside as the United States would be, at best, outvoted. An international tribunal created to adjudicate and enforce ISA decisions could levy penalties for any efforts to impede such activities once authorized by the International Seabed Authority – even if we had reason to be fearful that such activities posed an environmental hazard to our coastal areas. Worse yet, the ISA and its tribunal are authorized to ask member states to enforce its judgments, possibly leading to conflict.
Environmental implications could be exacerbated by the ISA’s authority to apportion drilling and mining rights to other nations who may be less scrupulous than American companies in complying with environmental standards and practices this country holds dear. Such apportioning could occur even in situations where this country’s companies provide the research, seed investment and fees – the first a UN agency has ever been allowed to levy – associated with securing the required ISA permits.
Worries about the sorts of decisions UN bureaucrats might make that could harm American environmental and other equities have only been heightened by recent press accounts. According to successive investigative reports in the Wall Street Journal, there is evidence of systemic corruption and malfeasance on the part of senior UN personnel – and, in the case of the Secretary General, one of his relatives – in connection with the Iraq Oil-for-Food programs. The House International Relations Committee has announced its intention to investigate this evidence. The Senate would be well-advised to conduct its own inquiry.
At the very least, I would respectfully submit that Senators cannot responsibly act on the Law of the Sea Treaty until they can satisfy their constituents that turning over to a new UN bureaucracy the authority to make decisions about and generate revenues from what could be billions of dollars worth of ocean-related commerce will not amount – literally – to a license to steal on an unprecedented scale.
Yet another “environmental impact” could arise from limitations the treaty imposes on measures we might take to assure our national security and homeland defense. If, for instance, foreign vessels operating on the high seas do not fit into one of three categories (i.e., they are engaged in piracy, flying no flag or transmitting radio broadcasts), LOST would prohibit U.S. Navy or Coast Guard vessels from intercepting, searching or seizing them.
As you know Mr. Chairman, such constraints would preclude President Bush’s most important recent counterproliferation measure – the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). The same would be true, however, if the crew of the foreign ship was engaged not in the sort of activity the PSI is meant to interrupt (namely, the covert transfer of weapons of mass destruction and/or related equipment), but in the shipment of heavy crude oil or other toxic materials that could cause an environmental disaster were the vessel to be blown up or scuttled in or near our waters.