Calling George Wendt!!!!!!!!!!
Could I get your input on this?
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush is facing political pressure to block a deal that would give a United Arab Emirates-based company management of six major U.S. seaports.
Two Republican governors -- George Pataki of New York and Robert Ehrlich of Maryland --- have indicated they may try to cancel port lease arrangements, according to The Associated Press.
The deal -- which would affect the ports of New York and New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; Miami, Florida; and New Orleans, Louisiana -- has triggered security concerns among lawmakers and the public.
The Republican chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security said the deal should not go through without a complete investigation.
"I would urge the president to freeze the contract, hold this contract, until a full and thorough and complete investigation can be conducted," said Rep. Peter King of New York.
The Bush administration contends the UAE is a key ally in the war on terror.
Others point out that two of the 9/11 hijackers came from the UAE. Also, most of the hijackers received money channeled through sources in the UAE, according to the Justice Department and the 9/11 commission. (Watch what role the UAE plays in the war on terror -- 1:57)
This month, shareholders of the British-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O) approved the company's acquisition by Thunder FZE, a subsidiary of Dubai-based Dubai Ports World.
P&O directs commercial operations at the six U.S. ports. The takeover by Dubai Ports World means that it will be in charge of those operations.
Deal called 'by the book'
Administration officials on Monday sought to downplay the deal, saying it was done properly and that it would not jeopardize port security.
Bush was unaware of the deal until he heard reports of the congressional uproar, presidential adviser Dan Bartlett said.
"The process was done by the book," Bartlett said. "If you start deciding these issues in a guilt-by-association method, you will have a situation which has deep and harmful ramifications to the economic interests of this country."
Former President Carter, a frequent critic of the administration, said he doesn't think the deal poses "any particular threat" to security. "I've been to Dubai, and I've seen the remarkable port facilities they have there, perhaps the best in the world," Carter told CNN on Monday.
"My presumption is, and my belief is, that the president and his secretary of state, the Defense Department and others have adequately cleared the Dubai government organization to manage the ports."
A Dubai Ports World spokesman said that the firm has received all the necessary regulatory approvals and that the security systems in place at the ports would only get better under the new management.
"We intend to maintain or enhance current security arrangements, and this is business as usual for the P&O terminals," the spokesman said.
Industry official alleges 'racism'
A port security expert said that fears the agreement would reduce U.S. security are based on "bigotry" against Arabs and that "shameless" politicians are creating an issue they think will resonate with the public.
"This whole notion that Dubai is going to control or set standards for U.S. ports is a canard ... is factually false," said Kim Petersen, head of SeaSecure, a U.S.-based maritime security company, and executive director of the Maritime Security Council, which represents 70 percent of the world's ocean shipping.
Dubai Ports World must abide by the Maritime Transportation Security Act passed by Congress in 2002 and International Ship and Port Facility Security codes enacted in 2004, Petersen said. The U.S. Coast Guard enforces both sets of security measures.
Ridge cites 'legitimate' concerns
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff defended the deal in appearances on talk shows Sunday. He said federal law required a review of the sale by a committee that includes officials from the Homeland Security, Treasury and Commerce departments, along with the FBI and Pentagon.
"We look at what the issue of the threat is," Chertoff said. "If necessary, we build in conditions or requirements that, for extra security, would have to be met in order to make sure that there isn't a compromise to national security."
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, pounced on Chertoff, already under fire for his agency's response to Hurricane Katrina.
"You can't just simply tell us, 'Trust us,' " Menendez said. "We trusted the government response to Hurricane Katrina -- and the people of the Gulf were largely left on their own."
Menendez has proposed a law prohibiting the sale of operations at U.S. ports to companies owned by international governments, noting 95 percent of cargo reaching American ports is not inspected.
Chertoff's predecessor, Tom Ridge, said that he believes U.S. officials would not jeopardize national security.
Nevertheless, Ridge said, "I think the anxiety and the concern [over the deal] that has been expressed by congressmen and senators and elsewhere is legitimate.
"The bottom line is I think we need a little bit more transparency here."