MSNBC Scarborough Country - Transcript

By:  Pete King
Date: Feb. 20, 2006
Location: Unknown

MSNBC Scarborough Country - Transcript


SCARBOROUGH: Hey, thanks so much for being with me tonight. We're going to have all those stories in a minute.

Plus, he was one of the best pilots in World War II, but now students at a major public university are refusing to honor this hero because he was a Marine and because he fought in a war. Now, this comes from the same state college that erected a memorial for communist soldiers. We'll talk to you about that in a SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown later on.

And new information tonight on why the French government may be blocking the explosive information regarding the death of Princess Diana. We'll tell you what's behind this potential cover-up also later in the show.

But first, why is American security apparently for sale? There is outrage tonight over the news that a country connected to 9/11 is taking over six ports here in the United States. These ports include New York City's port, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Miami, and New Orleans.

The United Arab Emirates was connected to two of the September 11th hijackers, including this terrorist who piloted the plane that slammed into the south tower of the World Trade Center.

Now, according to the Associated Press, this country was also the hijackers' operational base and also the transfer point for smuggled nuclear parts sent to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

With me now to try to explain why our government would ever allow this to happen is former CIA Director James Woolsey. We also have Congressman Peter King and Arsalan Iftikhar of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Congressman, let me start with you. We've turned over five of our most important ports, including the ports of New York City and New Jersey, to a company that's out of the UAE, which means basically the UAE is going to be running these operations.

What is going on? How did this ever happen?

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: Joe, this was a serious mistake. The way it happened was, under a 1988 law, whenever a foreign company takes ownership of a company which could have an impact on national security, it goes before a special secret committee set up with the Treasury Department.

The reason it was kept secret is they wanted to encourage foreign investment and foreign companies didn't want their secrets made known. So the whole purpose of this committee, though, basically is to encourage investment.

And this was done business as usual, basically at a midlevel bureaucratic agenda. And it went through, and they barely looked. Despite what Secretary Chertoff said, they did not look very carefully at the national security issues at all. In fact, the way the limitations...

SCARBOROUGH: Peter, how could this happen, though? We're talking about New York City. We're talking about New jersey. We're talking about two ports that on 9/11 saw the World Trade Center come crumbling down.

And you let midlevel bureaucrats turn the safety of these ports, which I believe are the most vulnerable entry point into America, over to a country, again, with connections to 9/11? How does that happen? How do you let midlevel bureaucrats make that decision?

KING: Well, first of all, it was kept secret from the Congress by the law. And that's why I'm opposed to it. This was a terrible mistake that was made. There was no full investigation. There was only the barest, cursory investigation.

I'm opposed to the deal. What I'm saying is the president has to put a hold on this. He has to freeze it. And there has to be a full and thorough investigation, because you're talking about a country which did have two of the Islamic terrorist hijackers that attacked us on September 11th. It also was a stopping-off point for the transmission of nuclear materials.

There was a ticket agencies in Dubai who were selling tickets, multiple sets of tickets, to the hijackers. They did not cooperate with us for a while after September 11th.

And also, prior to September 11th, they were only one of only three countries in the world that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. So there's very, very real questions here.

SCARBOROUGH: Let me bring in former CIA Director James Woolsey. Director Woolsey, again, I hate to keep saying the same thing. I don't understand how our system would allow this to happen. Please explain.


IFTIKHAR: Well, I mean, we have to clarify a few things here. First of all, none of these port security operations are being given over to this country. The Department of Homeland Security is still going to have full autonomy when it comes to security at the ports.

This company is going to basically hire the longshoremen, many of whom are card-carrying members of the AFL-CIO, basically just to run a business. I mean, so essentially, you know, what these politicians are saying, with their knee-jerk responses, I mean, if they were really concerned about national security, you could walk up to the speaker of the House—you know, Congress has been in session five days since January 1st—saying we need to vote on this because our national security is threatened.

SCARBOROUGH: All right, Congressman King, that sounds like a challenge to you, sounds like a challenge to the speaker. Are you just playing fast and truth with the loose?

KING: Joe, I have said that I would hold hearings on this. Having said that, under the law, as Director Woolsey said, this is a relic from the Cold War age, and it's a secret process, which Congress is not even made aware of until the entire process is over. That's the problem we're facing.

And what I'm doing is calling on the president, though, is to set in motion a 45-day extension so that there can be a full investigation. But I do intend to hold hearings and do intend to go after this.

But the fact is, you know, the 9/11 Commission said that the government failed to show imagination. They have to show some imagination here in working with this existing statute until we can change it to prevent countries and companies from taking this over.

And I agree with Director Woolsey. This isn't just because they happen to be from an Arab country. This would be true if it came from any dictatorial country. And there's the danger, because then you have—you know, if one dictator falls, another one comes in, and the second one may not be so friendly, and even though they are not handling security per se, they will have to interface with the people who do do security for the United States at the ports, which means they will learn all about our security measures and procedures.

And if you have somebody working for Al Qaeda in that company, you are giving them the keys to our security. And that, to me, is too dangerous a price to pay after what happened to us on 9/11.


IFTIKHAR: Well, I think it's in our best interest to have an American company protect the ports. I mean, I think that, you know, if you want to change this archaic law, as Director Woolsey would like us to do, then we should revisit whether or not we will outsource any of our ports to any foreign country, regardless of who they are.

You know, keep it domestic. I'm sure we have American shipping magnates here. We have the Coast Guard here, whose mission it is to protect our ports. I think that it's important that it...


SCARBOROUGH: I mean, why does it have to be all or nothing though? I mean, again, I think you and I both know that Great Britain would be a much safer bet for this type of job than UAE, or China, or Libya?

KING: Well, actually, Joe, if I can interject for a second on that, Joe, the fact is that it was a British company that had this contract for the last five years, and at that British company was taken over by the UAE company. So it was working, and it worked very well under the British company for the last five years.

WOOLSEY: And the last time around, American companies didn't bid, Joe. That was the problem. They'd ended up with a—a British company is fine with me, but there wasn't a market. The American companies didn't try to operate the ports.

IFTIKHAR: Right, foreign companies have been operating ports in the United States since the year 2000. I think that what's important to keep in mind is, you know, we talk about free trade and democratizing other parts of the world. I think that there is no better way to democratize than to increase contacts and not decrease them, you know, just based on, you know, this industry of fear.

WOOLSEY: I think we can plenty of contact with the UAE without turning our ports over to it.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, I agree, Director Woolsey.

KING: Well, the ports are our most vulnerable area. We can't be turning them over.

SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much. Thank you so much, I appreciate it, Director Woolsey, Peter King, and Arsalan, greatly appreciate it.

And I agree especially with Congressman King. Our ports are our most vulnerable entry points right now because of a lot of mistakes that have been made by our leaders in Washington over the past five years. This is a dreadful step to take, and we need to correct it.

We'll be right back in a second.


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