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'Emergency' Bill Would Suspend UAE Port Deal

Susan Jones | Senior Editor | Tuesday, February 21, 2006

'Emergency' Bill Would Suspend UAE Port Deal

(CNSNews.com) - With the issue gaining political traction in this election year, lawmakers in both parties are scrambling to criticize -- and now to block -- a deal that would give the United Arab Emirates control of major U.S. ports.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) will announce "emergency legislation" to block the $6.8 billion deal.

Dubai Ports World, a company that is owned and operated by the United Arab Emirates, is buying a British company that currently controls most operations at six ports on the East Coast, including New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans.

The Department of Homeland Security screens a small percentage of the cargo coming in and out of those ports. But the port operator is responsible for the rest of the cargo, the port facility itself, and it also hires security personnel, Schumer and King noted.

They are among a growing number of lawmakers who object to having such critical functions being transferred to an Arab country, given concerns about terrorist infiltration.

The Bush administration considers the United Arab Emirates to be a key ally in the war on terror, but al Qaeda used its banking system to finance the 9/11 attacks, press reports said, and two of the 9/11 hijackers came from the U.A.E.

The port deal, which is supposed to be final on March 2, was approved by a U.S. government panel led by Treasury Secretary John Snow. The panel in question -- the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. -- includes representatives from 11 other federal agencies.

Such deals do not require congressional approval.

Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (N.J.) plan to introduce legislation barring the sale of port operations to foreign governments, the Washington Times reported on Tuesday.

"We wouldn't turn over our customs service or our border patrol to a foreign government," Menendez said on Monday. "We shouldn't turn over the ports of the United States, either."

The New York Daily News reported that the UAE-owned company, Dubai Ports World, has at least two ties to the White House.

One is Treasury Secretary John Snow, the report said. Snow is the former chairman of the CSX rail firm, and CSX sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports World in 2004, the year after Snow joined President Bush's cabinet.

The other connection, the New York Daily News said, is David Sanborn, who runs DP World's European and Latin American operations. Last month, President Bush asked Sanborn to head the U.S. Maritime Administration.

The Republican governors of New York and Maryland on Monday said they are looking into the legal options available to them to block the UAE company from controlling ports in their states.

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