Senate Democrats

THE SENATE MUST ACT TO CONSIDER PORT SECURITY

Washington, DC–Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, urging him to consider legislation related to Bush Administration plans to outsource control of American ports to the government of the United Arab Emirates immediately upon the Senate’s return from the President’s Day Recess.

It has become clear that decision on this proposal was reached without adequate consideration or consultation, and a more extensive review is plainly necessary. Furthermore, the current controversy has served to spotlight the ongoing failure of the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans to adequately provide security at our nation’s ports. Democrats are calling for a thorough review of the current proposal, and action to fix glaring security inadequacies. America can do better than to leave our nation vulnerable to attack.

The letter follows below.

February 23, 2006

The Honorable William Frist

Majority Leader

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Frist:

I was pleased to note your recent public statements expressing concerns about the Bush Administration’s decision to permit a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to take over operations at six key U.S. seaports. In light of the bipartisan concerns about the national security ramifications of this decision and the fact that the deal will close March 2 if Congress fails to act, I request that you permit the Senate to consider legislation related to the Administration’s decision the first day we return from the February recess.

The national security implications of this decision could not be more obvious. It is well known that our ports are a major terrorist target as well as the avenue by which terrorists could smuggle a “dirty bomb” and other harmful materials into this country. Under the terms of the proposed transaction, DP World, the UAE-owned company, would be managing operations at some of this nation’s largest seaports. As you may know, the independent, non-partisan 9/11 Commission and others have raised concerns about the UAE. For example, the 9/11 Commission concluded the UAE served as a logistical and financial conduit for al Qaeda operatives involved in the 9/11 plot. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates, was the headquarters of the nuclear black market run by disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who allegedly supplied nuclear weapons technology to Libya and North Korea.

The process followed by the Bush Administration to reach such an important decision could not be more flawed. Despite the significant national security implications of this action, President Bush asserts he was not involved in the decision making process. We also know that neither the Congress nor the states involved were properly consulted by the Administration prior to the public disclosure of the Administration’s decision. Equally alarming is the fact that those Administration officials involved in this decision did not exercise the full statutory authority to conduct a complete investigation into the potential national security implications of this deal.

The Bush Administration’s flawed decision has focused public attention not only on the specifics of this transaction but on the larger issue of port security. Despite the fact that only about 5 to 6 percent of the over 9 million containers entering U.S. ports are physically inspected, the Bush Administration proposed in FY2006 and 2007 to eliminate the port security grant program initiated by Congress. This is but one example of how the President’s budget proposals have repeatedly short-changed America’s port security requirements.

For all of these reasons, I hope you will agree with me that it is essential that the Senate consider legislation addressing the DP World transaction and other related port security needs before the March 2 deadline. I look forward to working with you to address these critical national security concerns when we return next week.

Sincerely,

Harry Reid

Senate Democratic Leader

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