Thursday, March 02, 2006

Federal judge in N.J. refuses to order investigation into port deal

Federal judge in N.J. refuses to order investigation into port deal

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — In a setback for the state of New Jersey, a federal judge Wednesday refused to order an investigation into the deal that would put an Arab company in charge of operations at Newark and other major U.S. ports.

U.S. District Judge Jose Linares also said the state cannot see documents the company gave to a federal committee reviewing the deal. The judge said the state "needs to show an immediate need for those documents."

Under the $6.8 billion deal, Dubai Ports World would take over major commercial operations at ports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia. The state of New Jersey and other critics of the deal say it could compromise national security.

The Bush administration agreed Sunday to the company's request for a 45-day investigation of the deal's potential security risks; the judge on Wednesday said that review should be sufficient.

The Justice Department argued that Dubai Ports has already agreed to an investigation and that the documents sought by the state are confidential.

New Jersey Attorney General Zulima Farber said that despite the judge's decision, she was satisfied because she believes the state's lawsuit prompted the company to agree to the 45-day review.

Farber said that neither she nor New Jersey's acting domestic security chief had the highest level of national security clearance. Applications for those clearances are pending, she said.

Four officials in the state's Office of Counter-Terrorism have top security clearance, in addition to the governor, according to the attorney general's office.

The state's lawsuit isn't the only one addressing the ports deal.

The owner of Port Newark, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, last week sued the company operating the port.

The suit claims the pending acquisition violates a 30-year lease with the Port Authority and the port operator, London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. The contract was signed in 2000.

Find this article at: