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ABC "Good Morning America" - Transcript

Interview

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MS. SAWYER: Tell me your position. Is it the fox getting in the chicken coop?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, it's more than that. It's really a lack of confidence in the administration. You're hearing from both sides. Here's an outfit that didn't consult with any members of the Congress on this, which indicates they're kind of tone deaf. And the UAE is not -- they're not bad guys. But let's point this out: that's the place where, through their port of Dubai, nuclear materials have transited from Pakistan and into Iran and into other places -- nuclear materials.

You also have a place where -- this is an administration who has gotten a failing grade from the 9/11 commission for port security and two years in a row tried to cut money for port security. So it really is -- when they say trust us, don't worry about the security, the truth is we don't trust them based upon their record.

MS. SAWYER: But let me try to sort through some of this here, because the administration says England has been running some of these ports. And England, as we know it, had terrorists that had tried to come to the United States, too. Would you ban England, or is it just Arab countries?

SEN. BIDEN: No, well -- I think the UAE has a hurdle to get over here. Number one, they have, in fact -- in their own port -- had transited nuclear materials, number one. Number two, they, in fact, have -- in the period of time that they've run their own port, have had difficulty with -- they're one of only three governments in the world that recognizes the Taliban as an official government.

This is not England. It doesn't mean that they can't run the ports. It means we have to know a whole lot more than the administration is telling us -- by the way, trust us, we know the security will be all right.

MS. SAWYER: But the administration said that they would run security as they always have, and that you have to make distinctions --

SEN. BIDEN: That's part of the problem.

MS. SAWYER: -- among the Arab nations. Let me play you what White House communications director Dan Bartlett said to me earlier about making a distinction with the UAE.

DAN BARTLETT (counselor to the president): (From videotape.) What is critically important is that the UAE is a strong partner in the war on terror. They're helping us cut off terrorist financing. They're working closely with our military. They're sharing intelligence. And I think in this -- if we're going to win this war on terror, Diane, we need more people in the Middle East partnering with the United States of America, not isolating themselves from us. And I think if we were to reject this transaction just based on the fact that it's an Arab company, I think we'd be sending a dangerous signal to people overseas that America plays favorites.

MS. SAWYER: So what about this, Senator Biden? Is there an element of some kind of stereotyping and prejudice here? And also, do we have to start linking up with some of our friends in the Arab world or risk an even greater crisis?

SEN. BIDEN: Sure we have to link up with our Arab friends, but this is a show-me game. We want to see and those of us in Congress want to know what is it, in fact, that the UAE is doing -- what safeguards are built in, what kind of vetting process they have for the workers they're going to have there, what is their record. The idea that we're just going to turn over this port to an outfit that, as I -- may be cooperating with us, but also, as I said, recognizes the Taliban, also has had serious problems with their own port security in Dubai.

Also with an administration that, in fact, has not -- look, the 9/11 commission as recently as December 5th gave this administration a failing grade on port security. It's one thing to have those failing grades coupled with England, who you know is in the fight full board; another thing to have it coupled with a country that we, in fact, don't know enough about what they, in fact, are doing.

MS. SAWYER: All right. Well, Senator Biden, the battle continues in Washington, and thanks a lot for joining us early this morning.


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