18 February 2006

Bush hires Arabs with terrorist ties to manage U.S. port security

Yes, you read that headline right. While Bush is spying on Americans suspected of having possible ties to terrorism, he turns over our port security operations to the United Arab Emirates, which certainly does have a history of supporting anti-U.S. terrorists.

From the Associated Press via The Washington Post:
The Bush administration on Thursday rebuffed criticism about potential security risks of a $6.8 billion sale that gives a company in the United Arab Emirates control over significant operations at six major American ports.

Lawmakers asked the White House to reconsider its earlier approval of the deal.

The sale to state-owned Dubai Ports World was "rigorously reviewed" by a US committee that considers security threats when foreign companies seek to buy or invest in American industry, National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, run by the Treasury Department, reviewed an assessment from US intelligence agencies. The committee's 12 members agreed unanimously the sale did not present any problems, the department said.

"We wanted to look at this one quite closely because it relates to ports," Stewart Baker, an assistant secretary in the Homeland Security Department, told The Associated Press. "It is important to focus on this partner as opposed to just what part of the world they come from. We came to the conclusion that the transaction should not be halted."

The unusual defense of the secretive committee, which reviews hundreds of such deals each year, came in response to criticism about the purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

The world's fourth-largest ports company runs commercial operations at shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Four senators and three House members asked the administration Thursday to reconsider its approval. The lawmakers contended the UAE is not consistent in its support of US terrorism-fighting efforts.

"The potential threat to our country is not imagined, it is real," Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., said in a House speech.

The Homeland Security Department said it was legally impossible under the committee's rules to reconsider its approval without evidence DP World gave false information or withheld vital details from US officials. The 30-day window for the committee to voice objections has ended.


US lawmakers said the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan. They also said the UAE was one of only three countries to recognize the now-toppled Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government.


Critics also have cited the UAE's history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
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