On Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, author Richard Miniter misrepresented the issues surrounding the Bush administration's approval of the takeover of six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World (DPW). Miniter falsely asserted that DPW "has gone through every security check" and that the deal "was thoroughly vetted by an interagency review." Miniter also insisted that in objecting to the deal, administration critics were displaying "anti-Arab bias."
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On the February 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, former Wall Street Journal Europe editorial page writer Richard Miniter misrepresented the issues surrounding the Bush administration's approval of the takeover of operations at six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World (DPW) -- a company owned by the government of Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Miniter falsely asserted that DPW "has gone through every security check" and that the deal "was thoroughly vetted by an interagency review." Miniter also insisted that in objecting to the deal, administration critics were displaying "anti-Arab bias" and "illusions of racism." Miniter further suggested that the deal's critics sought to apply "one law for non-Arab companies" but were attempting to establish a system in which "if they happen to be an Arab country, there's an extra step just for them." In doing so, Miniter ignored the primary criticism offered by many opponents of the deal: that federal law requires an additional 45-day investigation of such deals if the acquiring company is owned by a foreign government and the acquisition "could affect the national security of the U.S." -- an investigation the Bush administration did not conduct regarding the DPW deal.
On Hannity & Colmes, Miniter referred to DPW as a "UAE company" and noted that under the deal, DPW will be "taking over the ports from a British company, Peninsular and Oriental [Steam Navigation Co. (P&O)]." But in leveling his charge of "anti-Arab bias," Miniter ignored the legally significant distinction between DPW and P & O: Unlike DPW, P&O -- before its acquisition by DPW -- was not controlled by the British government or any other foreign government. In doing so, Miniter echoed the White House's own repeated efforts to characterize opposition to the deal as motivated by racial or ethnic bias. On February 22, for example, Bush told reporters: "I really don't understand why it's OK for a British company to operate our ports, but not a company from the Middle East."
But as Media Matters for America has noted, a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1993 requires an additional 45-day investigation of foreign direct investment in the United States if "the acquirer is controlled by or acting on behalf of a foreign government" and the acquisition "could result in control of a person engaged in interstate commerce in the U.S. that could affect the national security of the U.S."
Indeed, despite Miniter's insistence that DPW "has gone through every security check" and "every hoop" and that the deal "was thoroughly vetted by an interagency review," the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) -- the interagency panel of Bush administration officials responsible for assessing such deals -- did not conduct the 45-day investigation provided for under the law. Rather, CFIUS approved the DPW deal after only an initial review.
Critics of the DPW deal, such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), have not advocated what Miniter described as "an extra step" for acquirers that "happen to be an Arab country." Rather, they have called for what they argue is a legally required step.
Clinton, for example, said during a February 23 meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee that her concerns about the deal stem from the administration's apparent decision -- in her view -- to ignore the requirements under a U.S. law known as Exon-Florio, as amended by the FY 1993 defense authorization bill:
CLINTON: We've heard from numerous administration spokespeople that those of us who are raising concerns are somehow out of place because, after all, it was a British company that was engaged in these activities selling to the Dubai company.
For many of us, there is a significant difference between a private company and a foreign government entity. Under the Exon-Florio statute, which governs these foreign investments and the process that you undertook, if we are at all impacting national security, the full 45-day investigation of an investment by a foreign government is mandatory if it, quote, "affects national security."
Yet the CFIUS board voted unanimously -- according to our information -- not to conduct an investigation that, by my reading of the statute, is required. Since D.P. World is controlled by a foreign government, under the statute, the transaction requires a 45-day investigation if it affects national security.
And in a February 22 USA Today op-ed, Schumer and King similarly argued that their criticism of the deal "has nothing to do with the fact that the United Arab Emirates ... is an Arab nation":
The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States was established to answer these important questions of national security. Yet, in this case, CFIUS only completed a brief 23-day staff review and didn't even begin the 45-day investigation required by law when a foreign government is involved in a deal. More must be done.
Our call for increased scrutiny of this deal has nothing to do with the fact that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an Arab nation. Our seaports remain the most vulnerable aspect of our homeland security. Therefore, handing over their operation to a foreign government, especially one with reported terrorist ties, deserves thorough review.
From the February 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes with co-host Alan Colmes and guest host Michael Reagan:
MINITER: Look, this is just illusions of racism, really. This is an anti-Arab bias. This company, this UAE company, has gone through every security check. And what people who are against this have to say is: We have one law for non-Arab companies. And if they pass all the rules, and regulations, and procedures, and are awarded the right to run -- not to own the ports, but just to operate -- certain docks and warehouse facilities, then that's OK. But if they happen to be an Arab country, there's an extra step just for them.
MINITER: Yes, it's an immense bureaucratic relation problem. But, look, this was thoroughly vetted by an interagency review, a lengthy process. They went through every hoop. And, yeah, the president is not participating in every single decision of this vast alphabet soup of bureaucracy that we call the federal government.
REAGAN: But, Richard, when it comes to this issue about ports, when we worry about our borders out here in California, or Arizona, or New Mexico, or Texas, and borders are a main issue, ports have been a main issue, that when all of a sudden the announcement comes out that, in fact, the United Arab Emirates, who does have ties to Osama bin Laden, is taking over the ports, America starts asking questions. And for the White House not to be made aware, for [Secretary of Defense Donald H.] Rumsfeld not to be made aware, for [Secretary of Homeland Security Michael] Chertoff not to be made aware, somebody didn't do their job in Washington, D.C.
MINITER: Well, if you can point to the bureaucratic flaw, the specific form that didn't go the right person, I'd be interested in seeing it. The fact of the matter is, the money that went to the 9-11 hijackers out of the UAE -- and UAE is kind of like the Switzerland of Middle East banking; all banking goes through there -- the bank in question was Standard and Chartered, a British bank. So again -- and they're taking over the ports from a British company, Peninsular and Oriental. It's just an exchange of one set of foreign owners for another. The executive team in charge is American. The dockworkers remain American. All that's changing is who owns the company that employs these people.