Wednesday, February 22, 2006

UAE PORT DEAL is more Than Meets The Eye...

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has LONG had ties with terrorism:

(CLICK HERE, and start at the top of the page)

----Rumsfeld is on the board of the committee that approved the port deal he claims he's never heard of---- (story link)

Posted by Judd February 21, 2006 2:39 pm

{In a press briefing today, Secretary Rumsfeld revealed that he was not consulted about the decision to transfer operations of six key U.S. ports to the United Arab Emirates, a country with troubling ties to international terrorism.

QUESTION: Are you confident that any problems with security — from what you know, are you confident that any problems with security would not be greater with a UAE company running this than an American company?

RUMSFELD: I am reluctant to make judgments based on the minimal amount of information I have because I just heard about this over the weekend.

Rumsfeld’s statement was particularly troubling because Dubai Ports World, owned and operated by the UAE government, will also take over a major contract managing the
movement of military equipment for the U.S. Army. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace, who was at the briefing, also said he found out about the deal over the weekend. The deal was approved on February 13.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan claimed the Defense Department was part of “a rigorous review…for national security concerns.” If so, why were two of the Department’s top officials not even informed, much less consulted?

UPDATE: Donald Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, is a member of Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. As such, he was one of the people who, according to the Treasury Department, unanimously approved the sale on February 13. How could do that when he didn’t even find out about the sale until last weekend? }

----Bush Shrugs Off Objections to Port Deal ----

(story link)

By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer

Brushing aside objections from Republicans and Democrats alike, President Bush endorsed the takeover of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports by a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates. He pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement.

The president on Tuesday defended his administration's earlier approval of the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to Dubai Ports World, despite concerns in Congress it could increase the possibility of terrorism at American ports.

The sale — expected to be finalized in early March — would put Dubai Ports in charge of major shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. "If there was any chance that this transaction would jeopardize the security of the United States, it would not go forward," Bush said.

"It sends a terrible signal to friends around the world that it's OK for a company from one country to manage the port, but not a country that plays by the rules and has got a good track record from another part of the world," Bush said.

To assuage concerns, the administration disclosed some assurances it had negotiated with Dubai Ports. It required mandatory participation in U.S. security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials; roughly 33 other port companies participate in these voluntarily. The Coast Guard also said Tuesday it was nearly finished inspecting Dubai Ports' facilities in the United States.

A senior Homeland Security official, Stewart Baker, said this was the first-ever sale involving U.S. port operations to a state-owned company. "In that sense this is a new layer of controls," he said. Baker added that U.S. intelligence agencies were consulted "very early on to actually look at vulnerabilities and threats."

Bush sought to quiet a political storm that has united Republican governors and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee with liberal Democrats, including New York's two senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer.

Frist said Tuesday, before Bush's comments, that he would introduce legislation to put the sale on hold if the White House did not delay the takeover. He said the deal raised "serious questions regarding the safety and security of our homeland.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., asked the president for a moratorium on the sale until it could be studied further. "We must not allow the possibility of compromising our national security due to lack of review or oversight by the federal government," Hastert said.
Maryland's Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, during a tour of Baltimore's port on Tuesday, called the deal an "overly secretive process at the federal level."

Bush took the rare step of calling reporters to his conference room on Air Force One after returning from a speech in Colorado. He also stopped to talk before television cameras after he returned to the White House.

"I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction," the president said. "But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully."

A senior executive from Dubai Ports World pledged the company would agree to whatever security precautions the U.S. government demanded to salvage the deal. Chief operating officer Edward "Ted" H. Bilkey promised Dubai Ports "will fully cooperate in putting into place whatever is necessary to protect the terminals."

Bilkey traveled to Washington in an effort to defuse the growing controversy.

Bush said that protesting lawmakers should understand his approval of the deal was final.
"They ought to listen to what I have to say about this," the president said. "They'll look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it with a veto."

Bush, who has never vetoed a bill as president, said on the White House South Lawn, "This is a company that has played by the rules, has been cooperative with the United States, from a country that's an ally on the war on terror, and it would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through."

Lawmakers from both parties have noted that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers used the United Arab Emirates as an operational and financial base. In addition, critics contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

They say a port operator complicit in smuggling or terrorism could manipulate manifests and other records to frustrate Homeland Security's already limited scrutiny of shipping containers and slip contraband past U.S. Customs inspectors.

Rep. Peter King (news, bio, voting record), R-N.Y., and Democrat Schumer said Tuesday they will introduce emergency legislation to suspend the ports deal. King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said the government "cannot consider approving this contract until a much more thorough investigation takes place on this security matter."

Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, and Rep. Jane Harman (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., said they would introduce a "joint resolution of disapproval" when they returned to Washington next week. Collins heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Harman is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Bush's veto threat didn't stop local efforts to block the deal. New Jersey's governor, Jon S. Corzine, said Tuesday the state will file lawsuits in federal and state courts opposing the agreement. Corzine, a Democrat, cited a "deep, deep feeling that this is the wrong direction for our nation to take."

A company at the Port of Miami, a subsidiary of Eller & Company Inc., sued last week to block the deal in a Florida state court. It said that under the sale, it will become an "involuntary partner" with Dubai's government and it may seek more than $10 million in damages.

Frist said Congress should have veto authority over such foreign sales, which are reviewed by a secretive U.S. panel that considers security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in American industry. The panel includes representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense, Justice, Commerce, State and Homeland Security.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld described the United Arab Emirates as a close ally. "It's a country that's been involved in the global war on terror with us," Rumsfeld said. He added that the United States and the UAE "have very close military-to-miltary relations, as well as political and economic relations."

Separately, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said port security would not be threatened. "This is not a question about port security," Gonzales said. "This is a question about port operation."

Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc.

----Rumsfeld: Planting Stories Under Review----(story link)

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military WriterTue Feb 21, 9:13 PM ET

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday that the Pentagon is reviewing its practice of paying to plant stories in the Iraqi news media, withdrawing his earlier claim that it had been stopped.

Rumsfeld told reporters he was mistaken in the earlier assertion.

"I don't have knowledge as to whether it's been stopped. I do have knowledge it was put under review. I was correctly informed. And I just misstated the facts," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news briefing.

Rumsfeld had said in a speech in New York last Friday and in a television interview the same day that the controversial practice had been stopped.

He said that Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, was reviewing the practice. Previously, Casey has said he saw no reason to stop it.

Rumsfeld saluted members of the U.S. military participating in relief efforts in devastating mudslides in the Philippines.

"These efforts are an indication of the organizational talents of the United States military," Rumsfeld said.

Some 5,000 U.S. military members were in the Philippines at the time, most of them on training exercises, said Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Rumsfeld also addressed mixed signals coming from Iraqi leaders over the type of government they'd like to eventually see take shape in Iraq.

"Iraqis are going through a political process," Rumsfeld said. "Until they agree on who their new leadership should be, you're going to see a lot of public statements by a lot of people ... reflecting a lot of different views."

Iraqi political parties have run into major obstacles in talks on a new national unity government. Any major delay would be a setback to U.S. hopes for a significant reduction in troop levels this year.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said earlier Tuesday in Baghdad that the results of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections showed the Iraqi people want a "broad government of national unity" to bring together "all the different elements" of Iraqi society.

He spoke after meeting with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and other Iraqi leaders.
Al-Jaafari has said formation of the government was more complicated "because this time the Arab Sunnis are participating in the political process."

Rumsfeld also said he had no problems with a deal permitting a United Arab Emirates company to take over operations at six major U.S. seaports, a plan that has encountered stiff political opposition in Congress.

He called the UAE a good military partner in the war on terror.

"Nothing changes with respect to security under the contract. The Coast Guard is in charge of security, not the corporation," Rumsfeld said.

Earlier Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Rumsfeld had been incorrect in saying on Friday that the practice of paying for positive stories in the Iraqi media had been halted in the wake of negative publicity in the United States.

An official inquiry into the program by Navy Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk has been completed but its results have not been publicly released.

In his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, a foreign-policy think tank, Rumsfeld raised the issue as an example of the U.S. military command in Baghdad seeking "nontraditional means" to get its message to the Iraqi people in the face of a disinformation campaign by the insurgents.

"Yet this has been portrayed as inappropriate — for example, the allegations of someone in the military hiring a contractor and the contractor allegedly paying someone to print a story — a true story — but paying to print a story," he said during his speech.

"The resulting explosion of critical press stories then causes everything — all activity, all initiative — to stop, just frozen," he added.

In an appearance Friday on PBS' "The Charlie Rose Show," Rumsfeld said he had not known about the practice of paying for news stories before it became a subject of critical publicity in the United States.

"When we heard about it we said, 'Gee, that's not what we ought to be doing,' and told the people down there," he said.

Although "it wasn't anything terrible that happened," Pentagon officials ordered a halt to the practice and "they stopped doing it," he added, according to a transcript provided by the show.

Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Republican's are also against it!!!!

Frist to Offer Bill Halting U.S. Port Deal (story link)


Associated Press WriterTue Feb 21, 3:01 PM ET

Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist called Tuesday for the Bush administration to stop a deal permitting a United Arab Emirates company to take over six major U.S. seaports, upping the ante on a fight that several congressmen, governors and mayors are waging with the White House.

"The decision to finalize this deal should be put on hold until the administration conducts a more extensive review of this matter," said Frist. "If the administration cannot delay this process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review."

"I'm not against foreign ownership," said Frist, "but my main concern is national security." He was speaking to reporters in Long Beach, Calif., where Frist was doing a fact-finding tour on port security and immigration issues.

At the Pentagon, the UAE was praised as an important strategic military partner by both Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Rumsfeld told that a process was in place and "the process worked."

"Nothing changes with respect to security under the contract. The Coast Guard is in charge of security, not the corporation," Rumsfeld said.

"We all deal with the U.A.E. on a regular basis," he added. "It's a country that's been involved in the global war on terror...a country (with which) we have very close military relations."
Pace said that "military cooperation is superb" with the U.A.E.

In Los Angeles, Sen. Susan Collins, who heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said she and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff asking that the committee be fully briefed on the ports deal with the UAE company.

Collins, R-Maine, and Rep. Jane Harman , D-Calif., a ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said they are going to introduce a "joint resolution of disapproval" when they return to Washington next week.

The goal of the resolution will be to put the deal on hold until Congress can be fully briefed.

In the uneasy climate after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration decision to allow the transaction is threatening to develop a major political headache for the White House.

The administration, however, insisted that national security issues had received a full airing before the interagency panel that reviews such transactions gave the go-ahead for the deal.

Frist, R-Tenn., spoke as other lawmakers, including Rep. Peter King , R-N.Y., and Sen. Charles Schumer , D-N.Y., said they would offer emergency legislation next week to block the deal ahead of a planned March 2 takeover.

Frist's move comes a day after two Republican governors, New York's George Pataki and Maryland's Robert Ehrlich, voiced doubts about the acquisition of a British company that has been running six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates.

The British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., runs major commercial operations at ports in Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.
Both governors indicated they may try to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their states because of the DP World takeover.

"Ensuring the security of New York's port operations is paramount and I am very concerned with the purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam by Dubai Ports World," Pataki said in a statement. "I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them."

Ehrlich, concerned about security at the Port of Baltimore, said Monday he was "very troubled" that Maryland officials got no advance notice before the Bush administration approved the Arab company's takeover of the operations at the six ports.

"We needed to know before this was a done deal, given the state of where we are concerning security," Ehrlich told reporters in the State House rotunda in Annapolis.

The arrangement brought protests from both political parties in Congress and a lawsuit in Florida from a company affected by the takeover.

Public fears that the nation's ports are not properly protected, combined with the news of an Arab country's takeover of six major ports, proved a combustible mix.

Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said on Fox News Sunday that the administration approval was "unbelievably tone deaf politically," and at least one Senate oversight hearing was planned for later this month.

Critics have noted that some of the 9/11 hijackers used the UAE as an operational and financial base. In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.
Associated Press writers Devlin Barrett in Washington, Matthew Verrinder in Newark, N.J., and Tom Stuckey in Annapolis, Md., contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.



Blogger Walking Contradiction said...

ON Tomorrow's post:

U.S. Watches Dubai Banks for WMD Proliferation Ties.....

"WASHINGTON — U.S. Treasury Department representatives are monitoring the possibility that money flowing through banks in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, could be supporting WMD proliferation by countries such as Iran, a Treasury official told a House of Representatives subcommittee today ..."

Wed Feb 22, 08:23:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have other countries' companies at our ports as well. That would mean Bush is discriminating.

You think Bush is that stupid? Wait, let me take that back.

Wed Feb 22, 06:06:00 PM EST  

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