CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees - Transcript

By:  Pete King
Date: Feb. 22, 2006
Location: Unknown


CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees - Transcript

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COOPER: Well, the president put himself on a collision course with Republicans in Congress the other day with his threat to veto legislation blocking the deal to sell control of American ports to a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates.

And Republican Congressman Peter King, fair to say, might be on the other side of that collision. He chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security. And he joins me now from Long Island.

Congressman, thanks for being with us.

You may have just heard John Roberts reporting that the Bush administration got this Dubai company to agree to extraordinary measures, including cooperating with any future investigations and surrendering internal documents, whenever requested. Does that matter to you? Does that allay any of your concerns?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Only partly.

It actually raises more concerns. It shows that the committee looking at it did have concerns about this company, you know, enough concerns to put these conditions on them. And, yet, they conducted no real investigation of the company. They -- they -- all they did was ask John Negroponte what the intelligence community had on them.

So, to me, if they had concerns, that was all the more reason to conduct a full 45-day investigation. And that's really where the ball was dropped. Also, on these conditions, I know they have to make their records available. My understanding is that those records will not be maintained in the United States.

If that's true, you know, that -- you know, that's a little troubling. But, really, the key thing here is, you know, the conditions only mean something if you can trust the company. And the only way you can find out if there's a level of trust with the company is to carry out the investigation, which they never did.

COOPER: Well, you -- as you know, the White House has been putting out these talking points. And -- and I don't like to -- to go on talking points, but one of the -- the points that they do raise is that, you know, United Arab Emirates, the -- this company, which oversees ports there, see more U.S. warships docking at those ports, and they haven't had any problems.

P. KING: Oh, but, again, we don't know who all the personnel are with the company. We don't know what their hiring practices are. We don't know, for instance, whether or not those in the Dubai and Emirates government which brought about the recognition of the Taliban back in 1996, and was one of the only -- you know, one of only three governments in the world to recognize the Taliban, how much of an influence they still have in the government.

And how much influence does the government actually have on this company, since they are the principal owner of it? So, these are all real issues that should have been looked in to. And, under the statute -- you know, everything in the statute, as Pat Mulloy said before, cried out for a full 45-day investigation. What was the rush to judgment here? There's 24 years left on the lease.

COOPER: Well, the other two governments...

P. KING: There's no reason why they couldn't have done another...

COOPER: The other two governments...

P. KING: I'm sorry.

COOPER: ... who supported the Taliban were Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, both of whom are, allegedly, our very close allies in the war on terror.

P. KING: Right. Right.

But, even on that point, Anderson -- on that point, for instance, I think Pakistan has been a very good ally. I would not want a Pakistani company, though, working on our ports, because I know -- and all of us know -- there is still a large Taliban influence in the Pakistan government, in the Pakistan intelligence agencies.

President Musharraf is a good ally, but his government is still infiltrated by Taliban and al Qaeda supporters.

COOPER: Supporters of this deal will say, look, if union -- American union longshoremen are still the folks working in these ports, as they're going to be, and the Coast Guard, and the Customs, and the Border Patrol are still in charge of security, why does it matter who actually manages the port?

P. KING: Because you would have -- assume that there is a problem with this company. And that's what we have to investigate to find out.

You would, then, have an enemy, you know, within our own defense perimeter. They would know what all the operations are, as far as security. They would know what all the machinations and mechanisms are within our ports. So, you would be giving them access to the ports, which they wouldn't have otherwise. That's the real danger here.

COOPER: But I don't think most Americans realize that just about all major American ports are run by foreign companies. I mean, you have got Chinese -- I mean, even here in New York, you have got, you know, a Chinese company running some of the terminals in the New York ports, or running, you know, terminals out there in L.A. You have got Dutch companies. You have got British companies.

P. KING: Mmm-hmm.

COOPER: Do you have any concerns about Chinese companies being in charge of -- of the ports? I mean, they have Muslim terrorists there, too.

P. KING: Yes, I think there could be concerns about China, you know, for other reasons.

But, as far as a al Qaeda terrorist threat, United Arab Emirates is unique from all the others you mentioned. It's certainly different from Denmark, different from Great Britain, different from Taiwan, because of the fact that they were a pro-Taliban government, the fact that, as we all know, about the different contacts that al Qaeda had within UAE, within Dubai.

And, so, that -- that is what makes it different. This is, potentially, having an enemy within our perimeter. Now, again, a full investigation may show the company can be trusted -- all the more reason why I would suggest that the company should do is voluntarily now offer to step aside for 45 days, say: We have nothing to worry ability, nothing to hide. We welcome a full investigation.

And Congress should be made aware of the results of that investigation, as it goes forward, because we're in the post-9/11 era. The law that is on the books now is pre-9/11. It's geared toward encouraging foreign investment. It's not geared towards stopping terrorism, again, proven by the fact that there was no real in -- investigation at all of possible terrorists connections with this firm.

COOPER: We will continue to follow it.

Congressman Peter King, appreciate you joining us tonight. Thanks.

P. KING: Anderson -- Anderson, thank you very much.

COOPER: Good night.

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