Nothing ironic here. While I don't agree with allowing foreign state controlled companies to run anything here, I find it amusing that one of the more outspoken opponents is named Levin! :jude


Senator Challenges Ports Deal Procedure

By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 27 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - The senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee" name="c1" /> News | News Photos | Images | Web
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Senate Armed Services Committee angrily accused the Bush administration Thursday of ignoring the law by refusing to extend an investigation of a United Arab Emirates company's takeover of significant U.S. port operations.


Bush, talking to reporters at the conclusion of a Cabinet meeting earlier Thursday, said that "people don't need to worry about security."
"The more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by my government," Bush said, "the more they'll be comforted that our ports will be secure."
Clashing with a Treasury Department" name="c1" /> News | News Photos | Images | Web
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Treasury Department official on a mission to calm a political uproar, Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record) said the law has language specifically requiring a longer review than the one that an interagency committee conducted, if a business deal could affect national security.
"Is there not one agency in this government that believes this takeover could affect the national security of the United States?" the Michigan Democrat asked at a committee briefing. Chairman John Warner, R-Va., in a very unusual procedure on Capitol Hill, allowed reporters to question the administration witnesses.
The Treasury official, Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmitt, and officials from other agencies said a multiagency group spent three months reviewing the port deal and said that all concerns about security were satisfied.
"We're not aware of a single national security concern raised recently that was not part of" the three-month review, Kimmitt said.
Levin insisted that the law that established the multiagency panel specifically said that any such review should be lengthened by 45 days if it could have an impact on national security.
Levin, raising his voice at the briefing, told Kimmitt, "If you want the law changed, come to Congress and change it but don't ignore it."
Kimmitt responded, "We didn't ignore the law. Concerns were raised. They were resolved."
Warner then jumped in to assure Levin that he would ask Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to prepare a memorandum on the administration's interpretation of the law.
Levin also questioned the UAE's past record on terrorism matters, saying the country backed the Taliban and allowed financial support for al-Qaida. He said the UAE has an "uneven history" as "one of only a handful of countries in the world to recognize the Taliban regime in Afghanistan" name="c1" /> News | News Photos | Images | Web
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Afghanistan." He added that millions of dollars in al-Qaida funds went through UAE financial institutions.
Levin at one point noted that a special commission that investigated the terror attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 concluded that "there's a persistent counterterrorism problem represented by the United Arab Emirates."
"Just raise your hand if anybody (at the witness table) talked to the 9-11 commission," commanded Levin. There was no response among the handful of administration representatives.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton" name="c1" /> News | News Photos | Images | Web
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Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., also was critical, calling the approval process "a failure of judgment" because officials "did not alert the president, the secretary of the treasury and the secretary of defense" that several of our critical ports would be turned over to foreign country.
Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., and chairman of the committee, emphasized UAE's cooperation in the war on terrorism, noting that it allows a large number of port calls by U.S. military and commercial ships and that it had made its airfields available to the U.S. military.
But when a round of questioning began, Warner sharply asked Kimmitt whether the reviewing agencies considered UAE's role's in the transfer of money to al-Qaida and of nuclear components to rogue nations.
Kimmitt said those factors were taken into account.
Under secret conditions of the agreement with the administration, the Dubai company promised to cooperate with U.S. investigations as a condition of the $6.8 billion deal, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The U.S. government chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.
The president said he was struck by the fact that people were not concerned about port security when a British company was running the port operation, but they felt differently about an Arab company at the helm. He said the United Arab Emirates was a valuable partner in the war in terror.
Critics in Congress, even before Thursday's hearing, had noted that the London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which previously operated at those ports, is a publicly traded company while Dubai Ports World is effectively controlled by the government there. Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Clinton have said they will introduce legislation to prohibit companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from running port operations in the United States.
Bush said his administration would continue talks with members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats alike — who have rebelled against the takeover. He said the briefings were "bringing a sense of calm to this issue."
"This wouldn't be going forward if we weren't certain our ports would be secure," Bush said.
In approving the purchase, the administration chose not to require Dubai Ports to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to orders by American courts. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate requests by the government.
Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.
Dubai Ports agreed to give up records on demand about "foreign operational direction" of its business at the U.S. ports, according to the documents. Those records broadly include details about the design, maintenance or operation of ports and equipment. It also pledged to continue participating in programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials.
"They're not lax but they're not draconian," said James Lewis, a former U.S. official who worked on such agreements. If White House officials negotiating the deal had predicted the firestorm of criticism over it, "they might have made them sound harder."
The conditions over the sale were detailed in U.S. documents marked "confidential." Such records are regularly guarded as trade secrets, and it is highly unusual for them to be made public.
Rep. Peter King (news, bio, voting record) of New York, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security" name="c1" /> News | News Photos | Images | Web
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Homeland Security Committee, said the conditions are evidence the administration was concerned about security. "There is a very serious question as to why the records are not going to be maintained on American soil subject to American jurisdiction," King said.
Another critic, Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., added: "These new revelations ask more questions than they answer."
In Lebanon, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice" name="c1" /> News | News Photos | Images | Web
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Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that the agreement was thoroughly vetted in a review process that took approximately three months. "This is supposed to be a process that raises security concerns, if they are there, but does not presume that a country in the Middle East should not be capable of doing a deal like this." She described the United Arab Emirates as "a very good ally" and said "if more details need to be made available then I'm sure they will be."