Strong Bipartisan Group Urges Senate Leaders to Help Implement Goals of Dubai Ports Deal Bill and Ensure That Follow-Up Investigation Answers Security Concerns
Republicans and Democrats Continue to Push for Vigorous Congressional Oversight of National and Homeland Security Aspects of Dubai Ports Deal
Today, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Jack Reed (D-RI), Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) sent a letter to Senate Leaders Bill Frist and Harry Reid urging them to cooperate in efforts to make sure that the security investigation of the Dubai ports deal meets the highest standards for protecting our national security. While a 45-day investigation has finally been requested, there are other safeguards the lawmakers are pushing as part of their bi-partisan legislation to protect our national security. Namely, they are insisting that Congress is kept fully informed as the 45-day review progresses, and notified how security concerns are being investigated and addressed; that Congress is provided 30 days to review the results of the report, including reasoning for the decision to either approve or disapprove of the deal; and finally after the 45-day investigation is completed, Congress reserves the ability to vote to disapprove the deal if the security concerns have not been adequately addressed. The Senators agreed that if they need to press for a vote on their legislation or have to introduce further legislation to achieve the goals outlined, they are hoping for cooperation from Leaders Frist and Reid.
Schumer said, "The more we learn about the CFIUS process, the more questions are raised. Why did they do a 45 day review for tank engines in a box, but not for potential nuclear weapons in a ship's container? This is not a Democrat or Republican issue - this is about making sure that the American people are safe and secure. Our goal should be to increase port security dramatically, not chip away at it more by allowing a company owned by a country at a nexus with terrorism runs them."
"I'm proud to join the effort with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to urge for transparency and a thorough review regarding the Dubai Port World's takeover of American ports," said Coleman. "In a post 9-11 world, the process of ensuring America's safety and the integrity of our national security infrastructure is as important as ever. Clearly, this letter shows that America's safety is not a partisan issue, but rather a priority that the Senate has the duty to act on."
Menendez stated, "While I am pleased the administration is finally undertaking the investigation it should have done in the first place, there are serious questions about both its willingness and its ability to act on the results. With the president prejudging the outcome of the investigation before it even began, it is clearer than ever that Congress will need to take an up or down vote on this sale."
Snowe stated, "Today a bipartisan group of Senators asked our leadership on both sides of the political aisle to ensure that Congress plays a key role in reviewing the 45 investigation into the Dubai Ports World deal. This is a time-sensitive process, and I am hopeful we can work to ensure that the legislative branch has a voice in the final outcome. What is clear is that there are potential national security implications at stake."
"Security must be our top priority in the post 9/11 world. This 45 day investigation was mandatory under the law and we expect this review to be independent, rigorous, and thorough and that the results of this investigation be shared with the Congress. Congress should take any necessary steps to ensure the Bush Administration does not compromise security at our ports," said Clinton.
Collins stated, "We have long acknowledged the vulnerability of our ports - both as a potential target and as a conduit through which terrorists, their weapons or other contraband may enter the U.S. Coming from a state with three international cargo ports, I am keenly aware of the importance of our seaports to our national economy and to the communities in which they are located. In addition to our ports' economic significance, the link between maritime security and our national security is evident. It is critical that all of the national security concerns raised in discussions related to the purchase of P&O Ports by DPW are addressed and that Congress is kept fully engaged in the process."
Reed said, "I remain deeply concerned with the Administration's seemingly quick decision to approve this contract to manage several of our most important ports. On an issue as sensitive to our national security as this is, I was shocked that the President did not subject this decision to the highest level of scrutiny," Reed stated. "I was pleased to cosponsor legislation to give Congress proper oversight of this situation, and it is my hope that the Administration considers all of our concerns highlighted in this legislation."
"The 45-day investigation provides a critical opportunity to learn more about this transaction. Our primary goal is to protect the American people while preserving our economic vitality; therefore, it is my hope that the investigation will provide a thorough and effective review of the Dubai Ports acquisition. The ports directly affected by this transaction, including the Port of Philadelphia in my state, play a vital role in our nation's commercial and homeland security activities," Santorum said.
"The President's 45-day review is really too little too late. Dubai's troublesome record on terrorism should disqualify them from owning major operations at our ports. A nation that recognized the Taliban, boycotts Israel, had relations with Osama Bin Laden and allowed nuclear components to go through their own ports should not be minding the store within our borders," said Lautenberg.
Dubai Ports World, a Dubai Company that is owned and operated by the United Arab Emirates is about to complete a $6.8 billion deal, which was briskly approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) last month. The approval allows the UAE's government-owned company to take control of significant operations at six U.S. ports including: New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. Except for cargo screening functions performed by the Department of Homeland Security, the port operator is responsible for securing cargo coming in and out of the port, the port facility itself, and the hiring of security personnel.
Earlier this week the same bipartisan group of senators introduced emergency legislation to suspend the Dubai port deal immediately. Schumer initially announced the legislation with House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King last week. The bill has broad support in the Senate with 21 co-sponsors and the House version has over 60 co-sponsors.
Over the last two weeks since Schumer first criticized this deal, a litany of homeland security professionals have also come out questioning the deal including former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, former DHS Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin, Republican and Democratic senators and representatives, and governors and mayors around the nation.
The letter the Senators sent today is below:
Dear Senators Frist and Reid: As you know, we recently joined together to introduce S. 2333, The Foreign Investment Security Act of 2006, a bill to require a 45-day CFIUS investigation and a Presidential determination regarding the national security implications of Dubai Port World's takeover of Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Navigation Company. This bill stemmed from our joint concern that allowing the takeover of U.S. terminal operations after only a cursory review raised serious national security concerns. The President and the companies have now moved voluntarily to provide for such a 45-day investigation, and we are encouraged by that decision. Though some of us remain troubled about how this new review will proceed given the Administration's continued support of the deal, we have decided not to press for a vote on our bill at this time in the hope that this new investigation will be thorough, fair, and independent. Nevertheless, several key components of our legislation have yet to be addressed - namely, the notification to Congress and the ability of Congress to disapprove the deal within thirty days if security concerns are not met. As a result, we write to ask for your assistance in guaranteeing that: (a) the Congress is kept fully informed as the 45-day review progresses, and notified how security concerns are being investigated and addressed; (b) the Congress is provided 30 days to review the results of the report, including reasoning for the decision to either approve or disapprove of the deal; and (c) once this 45-day review period is over, Congress reserves the ability to vote to disapprove the deal if the security concerns have not been adequately addressed. We hope you will work with us and with the Administration to ensure that this review is a thorough, effective look at whether this deal truly poses a threat to our national security. If we need to press for a vote on our legislation or to introduce further legislation to achieve the goals outlined above, we hope you will work with us in the coming weeks. The Administration must know that we stand united to examine and review this deal independently, and that Congress must have a role in determining whether it should go forward or be stopped as a result of national security concerns.
Sincerely, Senator Charles E. Schumer
Senator Norm Coleman
Senator Robert Menendez
Senator Olympia Snowe
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Senator Susan Collins
Senator Jack Reed
Dr. Tom Coburn, M.D.
Senator Frank Lautenberg
Senator Rick Santorum