Hearings, debate continue amid port deal

| Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Just as the furor seemed about to die down, another round of dissonant voices rose on Capitol Hill as hearings regarding the deal for the foreign operation of six major U.S. ports continued on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Bipartisan opponents of the deal – which would give a company owned by the country of the United Arab Emirates control over some operations at six U.S. ports – pounced on the news that the U.S. Coast Guard had raised concerns about the deal weeks ago.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, released the information at a Senate Homeland Security Committee meeting. The Associated Press reported the Coast Guard had stated that, because of U.S. intelligence gaps, it could not determine whether the company – Dubai Ports World – might support terrorist allegations.

“I am more convinced than ever that the process was truly flawed,” Collins said. “I can only conclude that there was a rush to judgment.”

Officials from the Coast Guard and the Treasury Department, however, testified that those concerns had since been addressed.

Meanwhile, John Negroponte, national director of intelligence, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that the security threat posed by the company is low.

CNN reported that Negroponte told the committee the U.S. “did not see any red flags come up” in the course of its inquiry.

Some critics seemed to be satisfied with new information coming forward. Reuters reported that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, said more information had made him more comfortable with the deal. Frist said he does not want any legislation on the matter moved forward until the 45-day review is complete.

Other critics, however, would not be silenced.

CNN reported that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, demanded that Congress be allowed to see the report and review the deal.

“You can’t do the report in secret,” he said. “You can’t just give it to the president, who has said he supported this deal. You have to show the Congress the full report.”

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