Our View: Secrecy of port deal suspicious | TheUnion.com

Our View: Secrecy of port deal suspicious

President Bush has always said he wants to be a uniter rather than a divider.

Six years after he was first elected to the nation’s highest office, that promise has become a reality at least temporarily as Republicans and Democrats alike are shocked to learn that the management of six U.S. ports has been sold to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates.

Bush, although never told the sale had been approved by the federal government, has steadfastly defended the deal. Federal lawmakers, meanwhile, are saying that it might be unwise to make this sale to a country from the volatile Middle East.

Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville, is among those who opposes the sale. The eight-term lawmaker told The Union on Wednesday he’d support legislation that would only allow American firms to manage port operations in the United States.

Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., have said they will introduce similar legislation. In an expression of frustration, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joseph Biden, D-Del., have described the administration as “tone deaf” in its dealings with Congress.

The Bush administration has responded by pointing out that a company from another foreign country, Britain, now manages the ports. Bush and others in the administration also say that the United Arab Emirates, which has vast oil reserves, has been an ally in the war on terror. Finally, the administration is satisfied the sale represents no threat to U.S. security.

The deal was approved after three months of study by the Treasury Department.

What Treasury Department officials failed to understand is that a deal with national security implications cannot be decided behind closed doors. Perhaps this sale satisfies our post 9/11 national security concerns, but it is impossible to know or support this deal until it has been fully vetted by Congress.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are understandably outraged by the pending sale, even though the UAE company involved agreed Thursday to hold off on the deal in a surprise announcement.

If President Bush dismisses their objections or vetoes legislation that would require more scrutiny of transactions of this magnitude, he risks isolating himself politically and sends a message that he will brush off a nation’s concern about security.

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