As a Senate committee began looking into a deal that will give
operating control of six key U.S. ports to a company owned by a Middle Eastern
government, President Bush went on the defensive, saying that “people don’t
need to worry” about the security of the ports.
“The deal wouldn’t go forward if we were concerned about the security
for the United States of America,” he told reporters during a press conference.
But some say the administration may not have been concerned enough
about security when it approved the deal.
The Associated Press reported new allegations that the White House had made a secret deal with Dubai
Ports World – the United Arab Emirates-owned company at the center of the storm
– before approving its takeover of operations at six American ports.
The AP claimed to
have obtained documents showing that the Bush administration required the
company to pledge its cooperation in future U.S. investigations, but it did not
require the company to commit to other, more routine restrictions.
While the company did agree to reveal upon demand documents related to
the “foreign occupational direction” of its business at U.S. ports, the
documents do not require it to keep copies of its business records on U.S.
soil, The AP reported.
The AP also
reported that Dubai Ports World’s COO, Edward Bilkey, said the company would do
whatever the Bush administration wants to enhance shipping security. Bilkey said
he plans to work in Washington to persuade skeptical lawmakers to approve the
Meanwhile, other groups were voicing their own concerns. The North Jersey Herald & News, a
Passaic, NJ, newspaper, reported that truckers and longshoremen at the Port
Newark Container Terminal were nervous about the deal.
Monte Pryor, a trucker from Elizabeth, NJ, told the Herald & News that he feared for his
safety at the port because of U.A.E.’s ties to the September 11 terrorist
“Anything can come into this port now,” he said. “I’ll be hauling it
around and it could blow me away.”
Supporters of the deal claim that those types of fears are unfounded
and are signs of bigotry toward the Middle East.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that foreign government ownership of port companies is not as unusual
as it seems.
APL, which manages terminals in Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle and
Alaska, is owned by the NOL Group, which is in turned owned by the Singapore
And Cosco Container Lines, which operates a terminal at the Port of
Long Beach, is partly owned by the Chinese government.