Citing terrorism concerns, U.S. lawmakers are urging the Bush administration to review the security implications of a $6 billion deal that granted an Arab company control over key ports in six American cities. Those include New York, Baltimore, and Miami.
The Department of Homeland Security says the company, P&O by Dubai Ports Inc., has a solid security record and poses no risk . But not everyone is so certain, Congressman Peter King, a Republican of New York, who‘s also the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Congressman King joined Tucker Carlson to discuss his concerns.
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, 'THE SITUATION: This just seems like such an obviously bad idea, giving a company based in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, the city where a lot of the 9/11 hijackers essentially, had their home bases, control over six U.S. ports. Whose idea was this and is this going to happen?
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: Well, the contract was originally held by a British company, and then this United Arab Emirates company has bought them out. And now under a law that was passed back in 1988, it goes to a committee run by the Treasury Department to determine whether or not it affects America‘s national security.
The problem was this law was passed in a time when they were trying to encourage foreign investment. There‘s really not near enough vetting or investigation that goes on as far as the company itself.
For instance, they have 20, 25 days to make the decision. You can‘t possibly do a thorough investigation during that period of time. My understanding of what happens is they ask the intelligence committee, is there anything on file against this group. Are you asking them for any particular reason and they say no.
But the fact is, that doesn‘t go into who‘s in the management, who‘s in the middle-management. What all the hiring practices are? I‘ve heard from a number of people, for instance, in that port in Dubai itself, there‘s been corruption there. There‘s been parts sent to Iran. There‘s been a large al Qaeda presence in the United Arab Emirates, even though they are working with us in the war against terrorism.
CARLSON: Right. There‘s no question. There‘s no question that‘s true. In fact nuclear components from the Pakistani nuclear society, A.Q. Khan, moved through Dubai on their way to Iran and North Korea. Dubai is a wonderful city, one of my favorite cities, but it‘s not a secure city, and everybody knows that.
KING: And this company also had jurisdiction over that port. So if that was allowed to go on when they had control of that port, what are they doing over in the United States?
I just found out earlier today, for instance, that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wasn‘t even told about this until the last several days.
Which again, my point is they did not fully investigate it. They did not fully vet it. Because this is not geared toward a homeland security or counterterrorism type of investigation. What they look at mainly is the financing end of it, and if there‘s nothing outrageously wrong or nothing that waves a bright red flag they go ahead with the deal.
And again, this is a post—this is a pre-9/11 law they‘re adapting to—we live in the post-9/11 world. We can‘t let this to go forward. We can‘t allow the major ports in our country to be under the control of a company which comes out of Dubai, which comes out of the United Arab Emirates and which has not been fully investigated and fully vetted.
CARLSON: Well, then why—everything you‘ve said makes complete and obvious sense. Why would the Bush administration, which I think for all its faults does take terrorism seriously, why would they sign off on this? Why would they endorse this? It doesn‘t make sense.
KING: I think it was too far along. I think what happened was it was done, again, under the control of the Treasury Department, which these people meant well, but I don‘t think they were looking at it from the security point of view to the extent they should have.
It‘s now become almost a fait accompli. And because this is a government-owned company the administration probably feels that this could create a diplomatic incident with the United Arab Emirates.
Having said that, I‘ve spoken to people in the White House. I spoke to them yesterday. And I told them I was going to raise these issues and I told them how important it was that this go forward. So I don‘t know—I don‘t know if the president has been made fully aware of this yet. I think this is still at a middle level. It‘s in the White House itself now, but I don‘t think this has reached the top levels. I don‘t think they‘re fully aware of the implications of this.
And I can tell you, on Capitol Hill, very responsible people from the right and the left and the center from both parties are very concerned over this, especially those of us who come from New York. We saw what happened on September 11.
No one ever wants to go through that again. And to me, this is just one of those things. How would you explain to a future 9/11 Commission how you allowed this company coming out of this country with this background to get this contract over our ports, which are always going to be vulnerable, no matter how...?
CARLSON: You could not explain that. And for that reason I predict you will be able to stop this. I predict this will not happen. They can‘t stand the political heat, and they shouldn‘t. So good for you, Congressman Pete King of New York. Thanks for doing this.
KING: Tucker, thank you.
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