Saturday, February 25, 2006

Why Are Any U.S.Ports Owned or Operated by Foreign Corporations or Governments?
Why Are Any U.S.Ports Owned or Operated by Foreign Corporations or Governments?

[Editors Note: This is exactly the same question posed yesterday in an article on The Op Ed Page ( ) titled "Dubai Ports World and the Bush administration: Connecting the dots."]

There are plenty of good, non-jingoist, reasons to oppose the sale of 6 US ports to a corporation controlled by the government of the United Arab Emirates. But the bigger question is: why are US ports and other strategic infrastructure being privatized, particularly to companies owned by foreign governments?

Before the UAE controversy erupted, most Americans probably did not know that many US ports are already owned or run by private corporations, some of which are owned by foreign governments.

According to the New York Times, foreign-based companies own and/or manage over 30% of US port terminals. According to Time Magazine, over 80% of the terminals in the Port of Los Angeles are run by foreign-owned companies, including the government of Singapore. In fact, APL Limited, controlled by the Singapore government, operates ports in Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle and Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Chinese government-owned companies control terminals in the Port of Los Angeles and other West Coast ports, as well as both ends of the Panama Canal.

You don’t have to be an economic nationalist to think that certain strategic infrastructure should not be owned by foreign companies, particularly those owned by foreign governments. Ports certainly fit into that category. Other examples include airports, railroads, and nuclear power plants. If we’re going to sell off strategic facilities to foreign companies and governments, why not sell off the FAA, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, or the New York City Police? (I’m sure some Saudi or Chinese security personnel know how to crack heads better than New York’s finest.)

Senators Clinton and Menendez have announced that they are introducing legislation to prohibit companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from purchasing port operations in the United States. But they should go one step further. Profit-making corporations, foreign or domestic, should not be allowed to own key strategic infrastructure. Corporation’s responsibility is to their shareholders, not to the nation. If there’s a conflict between security and profits, profits will come first. Strategic infrastructure should be owned and controlled by institutions that put the interests of the American people above profits. This could take the form of government ownership, or more likely ownership by non-profit joint government/private entities.

In the end, the issue comes down to the Bush Administration’s ideology of privatizing everything from social security to port ownership.

The Democrats, if they’re not too timid, should expand congressional hearings on the UAE deal to include the larger issues of port security and the ownership and control of America’s strategic infrastructure. They should make clear that while Bush may sacrifice constitutional liberties in the name of national security, he will sacrifice national security to further the interests of the global business elite.


Reaping What You Sow

The New York Times
Reaping What You Sow

It's easy to imagine how the Bush administration might have defused much of the uproar over a deal to allow a company owned by the Dubai royal family in the United Arab Emirates to run six American ports. Members of Congress asked for consultation and reassurance that the deal would not compromise already iffy security at one of the most vulnerable parts of the nation's homeland defense system. What they got was a veto threat and a presidential suggestion that they were all anti-Arab.

If the administration is in trouble with Congress, it's long overdue. For years now, the White House has stonewalled Congressional committees attempting to carry out their oversight duties. Administration officials appearing before Senate and House committees have given testimony that was, to put it generously, knowingly misleading. Requests for information have been simply waved away with an invocation of national security. Just recently, the Senate Intelligence Committee attempted to get information on the administration's extralegal wiretapping, but was told that it would compromise national security to tell the senators how the program works, how it is reviewed, how much information is collected and how that information is used.

The chickens are coming home to roost. A White House that routinely brands anyone who disagrees with its positions as soft on terrorism is now complaining that election-bound lawmakers are callously using the ports deal to frighten voters. A White House that invaded Iraq as a substitute for defeating Al Qaeda is frustrated because Congress is using the company, Dubai Ports World, as a stand-in for all the intractable perils of the Middle East.

As satisfying as it may be to see the tables turning, though, there is a serious issue at hand. The United Arab Emirates deserves a serious, respectful explanation if Dubai Ports World is not going to be given the right to manage American ports — a right that has already been granted to companies from countries like Britain and China.

The United Arab Emirates is an ally. But the money to finance the Sept. 11 attacks flowed through that country, according to the 9/11 commission. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist, sent equipment to Libya and Iran through Dubai, helping to create nuclear weapons capacity for those two regimes. And while port managers have little if anything to do with inspecting cargo or checking manifests, they are responsible for hiring guards, securing the areas under their control and working with Customs and Homeland Security officials.

The administration argues that the ports deal was thoroughly vetted, and that proper safeguards are in place to prevent any possible security breaches. That argument might hold if the White House had a good track record on these kinds of sweeping assurances.

As it is, we know that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the sale in what appears to have been handled as a fairly routine matter. We know that same committee has been sharply criticized by the Government Accountability Office for letting the desire for foreign investment override concerns for national security. And we also know that the Homeland Security Department, which has done nothing to earn the public's trust as of yet, did not request any extended review of the deal. That is what many members of Congress are asking for now.

One reason for the current uproar is the halfhearted way the Bush administration has dealt with the issue of port security. Screening incoming containers for nuclear devices is one of the most important missions in any war on terrorism. But the White House has never made it a top priority, and it has opposed those in Congress who have.

The president's main budget priority continues to be tax cuts, and he has not fought for the money needed to keep the ports secure. The administration has worked to eliminate a port-security grant program from the budget. The money that has been available has not been used effectively. The Homeland Security Department's own inspector general reported last year that 80 percent of the allocated funds had not yet been spent, and that scarce dollars for ports were going to places like Martha's Vineyard, which are not likely terrorist targets.

The management of cargo inspections has also been criticized as woefully inadequate. A Government Accountability Office report last year found serious deficiencies in things like the reliability of radiation detection equipment and decisions about which and how many incoming containers to inspect.

Mr. Bush and his defenders say the last thing America needs is more bad publicity in the Arab world. They're right. But this problem won't be resolved by the administration's standard demands that Congress and the public should let it do what it wants and trust Mr. Bush's good judgment.


IRS finds 'disturbing' political activity by charities in 2004

IRS finds 'disturbing' political activity by charities in 2004
By Mary Dalrymple, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — IRS examinations found nearly three out of four churches, charities and other civic groups suspected of having violated restraints on political activity in the 2004 election actually did so, the agency said Friday.

Most of the examinations that have concluded found only a single, isolated incidence of prohibited campaign activity.

In three cases, however, the IRS uncovered violations egregious enough to recommend revoking the groups' tax-exempt status.

The vast majority of charities and churches followed the law, but the examinations found a "disturbing" amount of political intervention in the 2004 elections, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said.

"It's disturbing not because it's pervasive, but because it has the potential to really grow and have a very bad impact on the integrity of charities and churches," Everson said in an interview.

The tax agency looked only at charities, churches and other tax-exempt organizations referred to the IRS for potentially violating laws that bar them from participating in or intervening in elections, including advocating for or against any candidate.

Those referred to the IRS represent a fraction of more than 1 million tax-exempt organizations organized under section 501(c)(3) of the tax law.

The IRS examined 110 organizations referred to the tax agency for potential violations, and 28 cases remain open.

Among 82 closed cases, the IRS found prohibited politicking and sent a written warning to 55 organizations and assessed a penalty tax against one group. Those organizations included 37 churches and 19 other organizations.

In the three additional cases in which the IRS recommended revoking tax-exempt status, none of the organizations were churches. The agency did not identify the three.

The IRS found tax violations unrelated to politics in five cases. Examinations of the 18 remaining groups did not turn up any wrongdoing.

In some cases, the IRS found flagrant violations of the law. In others, charities did not understand their obligations. Many activities fall into an ambiguous area that requires closer scrutiny of context and timing.

"There are very few places where you can draw bright lines," Everson said. "People have to think about this."

Among the prohibited activities, the examiners found that charities and churches distributed printed material supporting a preferred candidate and assembled improper voter guides or candidate ratings.

Religious leaders had used the pulpit to endorse or oppose a particular candidate, and some groups had shown preferential treatment to candidates by letting them speak at functions.

Other charities and churches had made improper cash contributions to a candidate's political campaign.

The IRS said the cases covered "the full spectrum" of political viewpoints.

The tax agency set up a task force in 2004 to review allegations of improper political activity. The special procedures, revealed shortly before the election, drew criticism from some tax-exempt groups.

An audit by Treasury Department inspectors found nothing inappropriate in the examinations, but it faulted the IRS for creating the appearance of political motivation by waiting too long to announce the project and contact organizations.

The IRS said it plans to continue using the task force, and its speedier procedures, for this year's election and in the future. It also released detailed guidance to charities and churches about the prohibitions against political activities.

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Al Qaeda claims responsibility for Saudi attack

Al Qaeda claims responsibility for Saudi attack
By Souhail Karam

ABQAIQ, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for Friday's attack on a Saudi oil facility at Abqaiq, when security forces fired at suicide bombers trying to storm the world's biggest oil processing plant.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said oil and gas output was unaffected by the "terrorist attempt" -- the first direct strike on a Saudi oil target since al Qaeda militants launched attacks aimed at toppling Saudi Arabia's pro-Western monarchy in 2003.

In a statement posted on a Web site often used by militants, Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's group said two of its members carried out the operation.

"With grace from God alone, hero mujahideen from the squadron of Sheikh Osama bin Laden succeeded today (Friday) penetrating a plant for refining oil and gas in the town of Abqaiq in the eastern part of the peninsula, and then allowed two car bombs in driven by two martyrdom seekers," it said.

It said the raid was within the framework of efforts by al Qaeda to prevent the theft of Muslims' wealth by "crusaders and Jews" and to force "infidels" out of the peninsula.

Oil prices jumped $2 a barrel on news of the attack in the world's largest oil exporter, which came a year after bin Laden urged his supporters to hit Gulf oil targets.

In Abqaiq, a guard manning an outer gate of the facility said security forces were combing the plant in search of any militants hiding there. "The security situation is still unstable," said the guard, ushering people away.

Saudi security adviser Nawaf Obaid said security forces fired on three cars at the outer gates of the Abqaiq facility, 1.5 km (one mile) from the main entrance.


One car was carrying gunmen and two others, packed with explosives, rammed the gates, he said. All the attackers were killed. Security sources in Riyadh said four militants and two security officers died and two other officers were wounded.

Mohammad al-Merri, a relative of one of the officers killed, said the militants were able to penetrate the first checkpoint leading to the facility. "They opened fire and killed two officers after the guards at the second checkpoint became suspicious of them," he told Reuters in Abqaiq.

Security sources said the blast after the shootout slightly injured eight workers, including some from the Indian subcontinent.

Dubai-based Al Arabiya television said the attackers used cars bearing the logo of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco.

Residents said they heard the blast from about two km (more than a mile) away, then saw smoke rising from the site.

Naimi, quoted by the Saudi Press Agency, said a small fire broke out after the explosion but was quickly brought under control.

It was the first major strike by militants in Saudi Arabia since suicide bombers tried to storm the Interior Ministry in Riyadh in December 2004.


Most Saudi oil is exported from the Gulf via the huge producing, pumping and processing facility at Abqaiq, also known locally as Baqiq, in the mainly Shi'ite Eastern Province.

The prospect of an attack on Saudi crude facilities has deeply worried nations reliant on Saudi oil, which makes up one-sixth of the world's exports, or 7.5 million barrels a day.

Former Middle East CIA field officer Robert Baer has described Abqaiq as "the most vulnerable point and most spectacular target in the Saudi oil system."

Aramco says it has the tightest security at all its oil plants, including helicopters, cameras, motion detectors and thousands of armed guards.

"The security measures at the oil facilities are better than at the royal palaces," said al Qaeda expert Fares bin Houzam.

Abqaiq handles crude pumped from the giant Ghawar field and ships it off to terminals at Ras Tanura -- the world's biggest offshore oil loading facility -- and Juaymah. It also pumps oil westwards across the kingdom to Red Sea export terminals.

"Abqaiq is the world's most important oil facility," said Gary Ross, CEO at PIRA Energy consultancy in New York. "This just emphasizes fears over global oil supply security when we're already facing major ongoing risks in Nigeria, Iran and Iraq."

Officials say about 144 foreigners and Saudis, including security forces, and 120 militants have died in militant attacks and clashes with police since May 2003, when al Qaeda suicide bombers hit three Western housing compounds in Riyadh.

(Additional reporting by Ghaida Ghantous, Inal Ersan, Miral Fahmy and Amil Khan in Dubai; Richard Mably and Peg Mackey in London; Caroline Drees in Washington; Andrew Hammond)


Experts see medical ethics violations at Guantanamo

Experts see medical ethics violations at Guantanamo
By Alan Elsner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Doctors and psychologists at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay are taking part in practices, including force feeding, that violate medical ethics, say ethicists and medical associations.

Doctors at Guantanamo have inserted feeding tubes through the noses of prisoners on hunger strike. Psychiatrists and psychologists have observed harsh interrogations and advised interrogators on ways to persuade detainees to cooperate.

"These are fundamental violations. When doctors join the military, their medical ethics should not change. Medical personnel should not participate in any procedures harmful to the patient," said Leonard Rubinstein, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights.

The United States acknowledges using some aggressive interrogation techniques but insists it does not torture of detainees. But a U.N. human rights team this month said the treatment of detainees "amounted to torture."

The United States is holding around 500 suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Many have been there for over four years, all but a handful without charges.

The debate over medical ethics has heated up with the recent disclosure that hunger strikers at Guantanamo had been forcibly tied down in "restraint chairs" for force feedings. Some detainees said the feedings had been made intentionally painful to break the hunger strike.

Defense Department officials denied this, and said they were acting to keep the prisoners alive.

In a letter last month to David Nicholl, chairman of the British Medical Association's ethics committee, the chief medical officer at Guantanamo, Capt. John Edmondson, said the detainees' motivation was to protest their confinement rather than to kill themselves. He said his staff was "providing nutritional supplementation on a voluntary basis to detainees who wish to protest their confinement by not taking oral nourishment."

Officers said they were proud that not a single detainee had died at the prison and were determined to maintain that record.


U.S. professional medical associations have been slow to take a position on the ethics of such practices as force feeding and coercive interrogations but that is now changing.

The American Medical Association has said that medical ethics preclude physician participation in the intentional infliction of physical or mental harm.

On force feeding, the AMA says: "When a patient is capable of forming an unimpaired or rational judgment concerning the consequences of refusing nourishment, a physician should respect such a refusal."

Steven Miles of the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics said medical organizations had been reluctant to speak out for fear of alienating politicians whose support they need on issues such as malpractice reform, but the flow of news from Guantanamo had forced their hand.

"There's enough smoke now to suggest that bad things are happening," he said.

Last October, the Pentagon flew several leaders of U.S. medical organizations to Guantanamo to dispel their concerns but allowed them no access to detainees.

A month later, the assembly of the American Psychiatric Association endorsed a statement that psychiatrists "should not participate or serve as consultants for coercive interrogations involving methods such as degradation, threats, isolation, imposition of fear, humiliation, sleep deprivation" and others widely reported to have been used at Guantanamo.

And an American Psychological Association task force last year said psychologists could ethically serve in consultative roles to interrogations as long as they stayed within the bounds of their professional code of conduct which forbids torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.


Washington told to justify port deal in court

Washington told to justify port deal in court
By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The Bush administration was ordered by a U.S. federal judge on Friday to explain why it did not give New Jersey officials documents and information Washington had about a deal allowing an Arab company to take over management of a container terminal in Newark.

U.S. District Court Judge Jose Linares signed an order demanding to know why the government did not carry out a full investigation into the change of ownership of the container terminal at Port Newark.

The judge set a hearing for Wednesday and said in the order he would issue a preliminary injunction blocking the deal, pending a full investigation, unless he was satisfied with Washington's answers.

The judge asked in the order that federal officials explain why New Jersey officials were not given the same documents and information that Washington used to approve the deal, under which state-owned Dubai Ports World would take over management from the British company P&O.

On Thursday, the State of New Jersey sued the federal government to block the deal on the grounds it violated the 10th Amendment, which says states control anything not explicitly mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

Earlier, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine urged the governors of states with ports affected by the deal -- Louisiana, New York, Florida, Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania -- to join the lawsuit.

Democrat Corzine issued the invitation in letters to each governor, saying the lawsuit "will seek to enjoin this sale of vital assets to a foreign nation without our states having had the opportunity to determine the extent of the threat to the safety of our citizens."

The latest developments came as a second lawsuit was filed in New Jersey over the controversial deal.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey filed a lawsuit on Friday to stop the change of management of its container terminal at Port Newark in New Jersey.

The authority, jointly owned by the states of New York and New Jersey, said the deal violates the terms of P&O's lease.

The transaction is part of a $6.85 billion deal under which the United Arab Emirates company Dubai Ports World DPW would manage terminals at six major U.S. ports.

The plan has sparked protests from federal and local lawmakers and officials who fear the ports' security will be hurt if they are managed by a company whose owner has been accused of having links with terrorist groups.

The Port Authority said it has a right to review changes in port management under the existing lease agreement. The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court in Newark, urged the court to declare that the purchase of P&O requires consent of the Port Authority under the lease, that the container terminal is in breach of its lease, and that the lease is terminated.

The suit names P&O Ports North America, and Port Newark Container Terminal LLC as defendants.

U.S. lawmakers opposed to the takeover have cited links between UAE and al Qaeda but President George W. Bush has defended the deal, calling the UAE an ally in his war on terrorism.

"The Port Authority has been deprived of its right to conduct a thorough review of the purchase ... of the identity, qualifications, experience and reputation of the purchasers ... and of the proposed impact that the change may have on the control and ownership," the lawsuit said.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Did the White House "Authorize" Leaks to Woodward? And did those leaks damage national security?
Did the White House "Authorize" Leaks to Woodward?
Murray Waas

Did the Bush administration "authorize" the leak of classified information to Bob Woodward? And did those leaks damage national security?

The vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) made exactly that charge tonight in a letter to John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence. What prompted Rockefeller to write Negroponte was a recent op-ed in the New York Times by CIA director Porter Goss complaining that leaks of classified information were the fault of "misguided whistleblowers."

Rockefeller charged in his letter that the most "damaging revelations of intelligence sources and methods are generated primarily by Executive Branch officials pushing a particular policy, and not by the rank-and-file employees of intelligence agencies."

Later in the same letter, Rockefeller said: "Given the Administration's continuing abuse of intelligence information for political purposes, its criticism of leaks is extraordinarily hypocritical. Preventing damage to intelligence sources and methods from media leaks will not be possible until the highest level of the Administration cease to disclose classified information on a classified basis for political purposes."

Exhibit A for Rockefeller: Woodward's book, Bush at War.

Here is what Rockefeller had to say:

In his 2002 book Bush at War, Bob Woodward described almost unfettered access to classified material of the most sensitive nature. According to his account, he was provided information related to sources and methods, extremely sensitive covert actions, and foreign intelligence liaison relationships. It is no wonder, as Director Goss wrote, "because of the number of recent news reports discussing our relationships with other intelligence services, some of these partners have even informed the C.I.A. that they are reconsidering their participation of some of our most important antiterrorism ventures."

I wrote both former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet and Acting DCI John McLaughlin seeking to determine what steps were being taken to address the appalling disclosures contained in Bush at War. The only response I received was to indicate that the leaks had been authorized by the Administration. The CIA has still not responded to a follow-up letter I sent a year and half ago on September 1, 2004, trying to pin down which officials were authorized to meet with Mr. Woodward and by whom, and what intelligence information was conveyed during these authorized exchanges.

Were leaks of classified information "authorized" to Woodward? Rockefeller's letter says exactly that. And among other things, it is well known and has been reported long ago that one of Woodward's sources for both of his books about the Bush presidency was then-VicePresidential chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, who is portrayed in quite a flattering manner in both.

Rockefeller said in his letter that the President's directing of administration officials to co-operate with the administration-friendly Woodward was only one example of such "authorized leaks".

Rockefeller said elsewhere in his letter:

On February 9th, the National Journal reported that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told a grand jury that he was 'authorized' by Vice President Cheney and other White House superiors to disclose classified information from a National Intelligence Estimate to the press to defend the Administration's use of pre-war intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq...

This blatant abuse of intelligence information for political purposes is inexcusable, but all to common. Throughout this period leading up to the Iraq war the Administration selectively declassified or leaked information related to Iraq's acquisition of aluminum tubes, the alleged purchase of uranium, the non-existent operational connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and numerous other issues.

The White House is declining tonight to comment on Rockefeller's letter, as is Woodward. (If either of them does at some point have something to say, either to me, or elsewhere, I will update this post accordingly.)

Did the leaks to Woodward damage national security? Michael Scheuer, the CIA's former head of the CIA's Bin Laden Unit, wrote in his book Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror:

After reading Mr. Woodward's Bush at War, it seems to me that the U.S. officials who either approved or participated in passing the information--in documents and via interviews--that is the heart of Mr. Woodward's book gave an untold measure of aid and comfort to the enemy.

What was not known by Scheuer at the time was that officials on the "Seventh Floor" of the CIA were literally ordered by then-CIA director George Tenet to co-operate with Woodward's project because President Bush personally asked that it be done. More than one CIA official co-operated with Woodward against their best judgment, and only because they thought it was something the President had wanted done or ordered.

One former senior administration official explained to me: "This was something that the White House wanted done because they considered it good public relations. If there was real damage to national security--if there were leaks that possibly exposed sources and methods, it was not done in this instance for the public good or to expose Watergate type wrongdoing. This was done for presidential image-making and a commercial enterprise--Woodward's book."

Woodward himself perhaps lends credence to that possibility.

On page 243 of his book Plan of Attack, Woodward wrote:

[O]n December 18, my wife, Elsa Walsh, and I attended a huge White House Christmas party for the media hosted by the president and his wife. The Bushes stood for hours in a receiving line as a photographer snapped pictures with the first couple.

When we reached the front of the line, the president remarked that my book Bush at War was selling well. "Top of the charts," he said, and asked, "Are you planning to do another book?" He then stretched out his arms and indicated with his body language that there might be a story there, that it should be done.

Without any irony, Woodward didn't seem to understand how far he had come from meeting Mark Felt in the middle of the night in a parking garage.

Did Woodward disappoint Bush with his next war? I like to speak no opinions. My saying is: I blog, you decide.

One can skip a read of the book, and go simply to the index, in making their own judgments:

Here are some entries:

Bush, George W.: absence of doubt in, 139-40, 420
Bipartisan solidarity of, 189, 200.
Importance of showing resolve and, 81, 116, 152, 320-21, 406, 418-19, 437
legacy of, 90, 165
morality of, 86-132, 272, 313-14
on freedom, 88-89, 93, 152, 258, 276, 405, 424, 428
optimism of, 91, 93, 313-14
patience of, 162-63, 165, 271
as a strong leader, 91, 430

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U.S. to Pay Big Employers Billions Not to End Their Retiree Health Plans

The New York Times
U.S. to Pay Big Employers Billions Not to End Their Retiree Health Plans

America's largest companies expect the federal government to pay them about $4 billion over the next four years to help keep their retiree health plans alive at a time when such benefits are increasingly on the chopping block, according to a new study by Credit Suisse First Boston.

The money is due to start flowing to employers this month as part of Medicare's new prescription drug benefit. When Congress authorized the Medicare drug benefit, it also agreed to start subsidizing the drug component of employers' retiree health plans, to keep them from shifting their retirees into the government program.

The goal is to save the government money, even after the subsidies, while giving the retirees a better deal than they might get if they were pushed into Medicare.

Among the nation's 500 largest companies, 331 offer retiree health plans.

With the program just starting its first year, it is not yet clear whether the subsidy will achieve its goals. For one thing, there are about 36 million people 65 and older in this country who are eligible for Medicare, but only about 7 million retirees currently covered by employer-sponsored health plans. Still, the Credit Suisse study, published on Wednesday, shows that the subsidy is popular with big employers — even those that do not fit the stereotype of companies in waning industries unable to cope with health care inflation and armies of baby-boomer retirees.

The money, to be sure, will flow to some financially weaker companies staggering under the weight of their health plans, like General Motors, which is expected to receive $1.1 billion over the next four years in drug subsidies for their retired workers.

But there are also thriving businesses like the utility company Exelon, which seem able to afford their plans on their own but will nonetheless receive the federal payouts.

There are companies, too, like BellSouth, that have been setting aside money for retiree health care for years and have billions on hand.

And some that have no reserves for those outlays, like Delta Air Lines, will also receive subsidies.

The government is not drawing distinctions because the subsidy is meant only to help employers stay in the retiree health care business, not to direct public funds to the neediest employers.

Mark Hamelburg, director of employer policy and operations at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that runs Medicare, said, "The whole purpose was to incentivize employers to keep providing the good level of coverage that they have had." So far, employers covering 6.4 million retirees have enrolled for the subsidy, he said.

To get the new subsidy, a company must offer retirees a prescription drug benefit that is at least as valuable as the minimum benefits now available under Medicare. Even though General Motors, 3M, Unocal, International Flavors and Fragrances and Avaya are among businesses that have limited or cut back their retiree health plans in recent years, the study showed, all still offer benefits generous enough to qualify for the subsidy.

At the same time, the study found a few large companies that were expanding their retiree health plans, not cutting them. General Electric, for example, in 2003 increased its total obligations of this sort by about $2.5 billion, as part of a new labor agreement. The Medicare subsidy will offset some $583 million of that increase.

And BellSouth's commitments to retiree health care increased $3.3 billion in 2004, after auditors for the company required changes in the way it was accounting for the benefits. The Medicare subsidy will offset $1.1 billion of that.

The Credit Suisse analysts who conducted the study, David Zion and Bill Carcache, prepared it to show investors how successful, or not, companies had been in shifting the cost of their retiree health plans onto other payers.

Companies that fear they have promised more benefits than they can deliver "are actively trying to pass the buck," the analysts wrote. This means trying to shift costs "to anyone who will bear them: their retirees, active workers, the U.S. taxpayer, etc.."

"If they succeed," the analysts added, "it's a giant transfer of risk from corporate America to the work force, and retirees."

Instead of increasing corporate profits in a given year, the subsidies are supposed to free up cash that the company would otherwise have to spend on health care. Mr. Zion and Mr. Carcache said this effect would show up on corporate cash-flow statements. In the future, though, after the Financial Accounting Standards Board completes its current project on pension accounting, retiree medical plan activity might make its way onto corporate balance sheets.

The company with by far the biggest retiree health plan is G.M. — a plan so large that the $77 billion obligation constitutes 18 percent of the combined retiree health obligations of the nation's 500 largest companies. G.M. projects that it will make cash outlays of about $18 billion for retiree health care over the next four years.

Those projections were made before it negotiated a package of concessions with the United Auto Workers union in October, but a G.M. spokesman, Jerry Dubrowski, said newer projections were not available. He said the cutbacks were still being challenged in court by retirees, who argue that the union has no legal authority to negotiate for them, only for active workers. If the concessions are upheld, Mr. Dubrowski said, the retirees will still get a better deal under G.M.'s health plan than if they were pushed into Medicare.

"This is an important first step in reforming the whole health care system," he added.

But the company that will get the biggest boost from Medicare on a percentage basis is not G.M., but Genuine Parts, a distributor of auto replacement parts and office products that has rising sales and profits, and a much smaller health plan. The subsidy, estimated at $6 million over the next four years, will reduce its overall health care obligations to retirees by 62 percent, the study found.

The Credit Suisse analysts found that the big companies, over the life of their retiree health plans, expected to receive about $25 billion from the federal subsidy arrangement.

But Mr. Hamelburg of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that companies' estimates did not capture the entire outlay expected because they did not include the substantial subsidies that would go to state and local governments that run retiree health plans. The government expects to pay all employers, private and public, about $14 billion over the next four years.


Role of Sen. Elizabeth Dole's Husband, former Sen. Robert Dole, at Issue
Role of Sen. Dole's Husband at Issue
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer

The lobbying of former Senate majority leader Robert J. Dole on behalf of the Dubai-owned company set to take over management of terminals at six major U.S. seaports is creating a political problem for his wife, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.).

The chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Jerry Meek, yesterday called on Sen. Dole to remove herself from "any congressional oversight" of the Dubai port deal. "The fact that Dubai is paying her husband to help pass the deal presents both a financial and ethical conflict of interest for Senator Dole," Meek said.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Dole rejected the criticism as "a partisan attack" and defended the senator's role as a lawmaker and her husband's as a lobbyist.

"Elizabeth Dole knows that her work is separate from Bob Dole," said her spokeswoman, Lindsay Taylor Mabry. "Bob Dole works for a law firm. Elizabeth Dole works for the people of North Carolina."

Former senator Dole (R-Kan.), 82, said in a written statement yesterday that he is not going to lobby his wife or members of Congress. His law firm, Alston & Bird LLP, helped steer the application of Dubai Ports World through the federal bureaucracy over the past few months, and Dole signed on as a lobbyist for the company this week. His spokesman would not say what lobbying, if any, Alston & Bird is now doing in Congress; the firm's spokeswoman did not return telephone messages.

Dubai Ports World beefed up its lobbying efforts, including on Capitol Hill, after lawmakers threatened this week to scuttle the transaction. The lawmakers said they feared that national security might be compromised by letting a Middle Eastern firm manage key U.S. ports.

Dole's statement said he will confine his lobbying to the Bush administration. "I have not nor will I 'lobby' Members of Congress on this issue, not even at home," he wrote. "I have not discussed the port issue with any Senator or member of Congress or anyone working for the Congress, nor will I do so in the months to come."

The controversy confronting the Doles is an increasingly common one in Washington. According to Public Citizen's Congress Watch, at least three dozen members of Congress have relatives who are professional lobbyists.

Congress Watch and other watchdog groups have loudly criticized the growing trend. "What better way to buy access to a lawmaker than to hire the lawmaker's son, daughter or spouse as their lobbyist on a lucrative retainer?" said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Congress Watch.

Some of Congress's most prominent members have relatives on K Street. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has a son, Josh Hastert, who works as a lobbyist for PodestaMattoon. The son of former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Chester Trent Lott Jr., lobbies for the Livingston Group. A son-in-law of Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is a lobbyist, as are the wives of both Democratic senators from North Dakota -- one for professional baseball, the other for insurance companies.

In addition, sons of two senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), are lobbyists. The father of Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), former senator Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), lobbies, as does the wife of House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Blunt's connection to Altria Group Inc., the tobacco and consumer products company that his wife works for, was an issue in his unsuccessful bid to become majority leader.

Lawmakers defend their connections with lobbyists as just another byproduct of the modern world in which spouses are often professionals, as are their children.

Lawmakers also state that their lobbyist relatives do not lobby them personally.

Blunt's wife does not lobby the House of Representatives, a Blunt spokeswoman said. Hastert's son refrains from lobbying the House Republican leadership. Amid news media scrutiny a few years ago, Reid imposed a prohibition against any lobbying in his office by relatives.

Still, the issue remains sensitive. Various proposals to change lobbying laws amid the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal have included bans on lobbying by relatives of lawmakers.


Security issues go beyond ports flap

Security issues go beyond ports flap
By Mimi Hall, Bill Nichols and Sue Kirchhoff, USA TODAY

When mayors, governors and members of Congress learned this week that an Arab company was poised to oversee terminals at six major U.S. seaports, many reacted with surprise and horror.

They demanded to know why President Bush would support the idea of a government-owned company from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) operating key commercial areas in this country where security is paramount. And they vowed to stop the deal.

The $6.8 billion ports deal has become an extraordinary piece of political theater in Washington, but it is quite ordinary in another sense. It merely is the latest example of a decades-long trend in which foreign interests have become heavily involved in U.S. institutions the government now considers targets for terrorism — from busy seaports to utilities and railways.

At the massive Port of Los Angeles alone, 80% of the terminals are run by foreign firms. And the U.S. Department of Transportation says the United Kingdom, Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China and Taiwan have interests in U.S. port terminals.

Bush says a company from the UAE, a U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, shouldn't be treated any differently than other companies that seek to do business here. But the tiny Persian Gulf nation was a base of operations for two 9/11 hijackers — a fact cited repeatedly Wednesday by Democratic and Republican politicians from New York to Miami.

However, port security specialists say much of Wednesday's rhetoric focused on the wrong questions.

Allowing Dubai Ports World to control up to 30% of the port terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Miami shouldn't really be a cause for concern, says James Loy, former deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security and a retired commandant of the Coast Guard. "We're making a mountain out of a mole hill here."

He and other analysts say that instead, politicians should focus on gaps in port-security programs that have left the global shipping system and the nation's 360 ports vulnerable to terrorism. The vulnerabilities extend from companies that load cargo containers abroad and the inspection process at overseas ports, to the need to install radiation detectors at most U.S. ports.

If the Dubai Ports World deal is sealed, the company would oversee only a tiny piece of a security chain that is weak from start to finish, Loy says. At the six ports, the company would be responsible only for keeping cargo containers secure from the time they are unloaded from foreign ships to when the containers are taken away on trucks, generally a few hours later.

The more significant vulnerabilities are abroad, where blue jeans, car parts and other goods are loaded at foreign companies before making the journey to U.S. ports.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents inspect U.S.-bound goods at 42 of the world's busiest foreign ports. However, the Homeland Security Department acknowledges that by the time a pair of jeans ends up in someone's shopping cart in Ohio, the chance that the container in which they were shipped was inspected by a U.S. agent is less than 10%.

That security gap is part of what fueled this week's firestorm. New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, says his state will file suit later this week to stop the deal in which Dubai is taking over the port terminals from a London company. Members of Congress, including Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Va., say they are planning hearings.

Loy says he hopes politicians will begin to focus on the significant port-security questions that are "much more deserving of our interest and attention than this little episode."

Key among them: Is the U.S. government doing enough to make sure terrorists abroad don't use cargo containers to sneak weapons of mass destruction past the Coast Guard and Customs officers responsible for security?

Focus on containers

As a terminal operator, Dubai Ports World would be responsible only for terminal maintenance and security in the area where cargo containers are stored before being loaded onto trucks. Before that happens, some containers are inspected by the Coast Guard. Shipping company and port employees who handle cargo are checked against terrorist watch lists.

"I can understand the high level of anxiety the deal has created," says Keith Mason, former chairman of the Georgia Port Authority. "But a more important issue is what's contained in the boxes when they get to the United States."

By J. Pat Carter, AP
An unidentified official guards a shipping container storage area at the Port of Miami.

After 9/11, the U.S. government imposed security requirements and programs at U.S. ports in response to heightened concerns that terrorists could try to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the USA in cargo containers.

However, the checks are spotty, and once containers arrive in the United States, they seldom are inspected. The government is working to install drive-through radiation detectors at all major ports so that trucks carrying offloaded containers can be checked for radiation on their way to the nation's highways, but that program is just beginning. Now, only 37% of the cargo coming into the U.S. is sent through radiation detectors.

Other government screening programs include:

•The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, which offers benefits to companies, ports, terminal operators and others that provide verifiable information about their cargo and operations. The program was designed to allow Homeland Security to focus on high-risk cargo from undisclosed countries the government suspects of having ties to terrorism.

But last year, congressional investigators found that of the 4,357 importers certified under the program, only 564 — or 13% — had been deemed secure by Customs officials.

•A 24-hour advance manifest rule requires most sea carriers to give the U.S. government descriptions of cargo and information on those handling the cargo 24 hours before it is loaded.

•The Container Security Initiative, which is a voluntary program that allows U.S. officials to pre-screen companies and their goods before containers are loaded on ships. Through the program, U.S. agents work at overseas ports using sophisticated computer models to identify potentially risky cargo that should be physically inspected.

Foreign ownership increasing

Besides raising security concerns, the debate over the Dubai deal has cast a spotlight on the increasingly prevalent foreign ownership of U.S. ports.

Stephen Flynn of the Council on Foreign Relations estimates that most port terminals across the nation are run by foreign interests.

In Los Angeles, port spokeswoman Theresa Adams Lopez says, foreign operations include Yusen Terminals Inc., a subsidiary of Japanese shipping giant NYK Line, established in 1885.

The Port of Seattle has five container terminals. Three are run by U.S. companies, one is managed by a South Korean company, and the fifth is managed by a company partly owned by the Singapore government.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns five primary cargo terminals, three of which are run by foreign firms. The terminal that would be run by the Dubai-based company is operated in conjunction with a Danish firm. The terminal is leased to the two companies and is five years into the 30-year lease, port authority spokesman Steve Coleman says. The other two main cargo terminals in New York and New Jersey are run by the same Danish firm and by a Hong Kong-based company.

Loy says it's all an inevitable part of a global economy. "The notion that we should not have our ports operated by foreign companies is ludicrous, and indicates someone is not understanding how the global marketplace works today," he says.

Meanwhile, U.S. exporters have worried about possible trade retaliation if the UAE deal is blocked. U.S. shipping companies also have concerns.

Bob Waters, vice president of SSA Marine, the largest U.S.-owned marine terminal operator, said his company has not seen any signs of retaliation at its sites abroad. The Seattle-based company has operations in 150 ports worldwide.

"We haven't seen any indication of that yet," Waters says. But "is there a concern? Sure."

Contributing: Richard Benedetto, Jim Drinkard, Jim Hopkins, David Jackson, Matt Kelley, Martha Moore, Andrea Stone and wire reports

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Sept. 11 report ties bin Laden to UAE

Sept. 11 report ties bin Laden to UAE

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States raised concerns with the United Arab Emirates seven years ago about possible ties between officials in that country and Osama bin Laden, according to a section of the Sept. 11 commission's report that details a possible missed opportunity to kill the al-Qaeda leader.

Republicans and Democrats alike are raising concerns this week about the Bush administration's decision to let a UAE-operated company take over operations at six American ports, in part citing ties the Sept. 11 hijackers had to the Persian Gulf country.

President Bush has called the UAE a close partner on the war on terror since Sept. 11, and his aides have listed numerous examples of the country's help.

The Sept. 11 commission's report released last year also raised concerns UAE officials were directly associating with bin Laden as recently as 1999.

The report states U.S. intelligence believed that bin Laden was visiting an area in the Afghan desert in February 1999 near a hunting camp used by UAE officials, and that the U.S. military planned a missile strike.

Intelligence from local tribal sources indicated "bin Laden regularly went from his adjacent camp to the larger camp where he visited the Emiratis," the report said.

"National technical intelligence confirmed the location and description of the larger camp and showed the nearby presence of an official aircraft of the United Arab Emirates.

But the location of bin Laden's quarters could not be pinned down so precisely," the report said.

The missile attack was never launched, and bin Laden moved on, the report said.

A month later, top White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke "called a UAE official to express his concerns about possible associations between Emirati officials and bin Laden," the report said.

CIA officials hope to continue staking out the Afghan camp in hopes bin Laden would return and a possible strike could be launched.

But "imagery confirmed that less than a week after Clarke's phone call, the camp was hurriedly dismantled and the site was deserted," the report said.

CIA officials were "irate" and "thought the dismantling of the camp erased a possible site for targeting bin Laden, the report said.

At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Sen. Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat, asked Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt if he was aware of the 9-11 commission's assertion that the United Arab Emirates represents "a persistent counterterrorism problem"for the United States.

Kimmitt replied that administration figures involved in the decision to approve the deal "looked very carefully" at information from the intelligence community.

"Any time a foreign-government controlled company comes in," Kimmitt said, "the intelligence assessment is of both the country and the company."

"Just raise your hand if anybody talked to the 9-11 commission," Levin told the administration representatives at the witness table. Nobody raised a hand.

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Declassified memos show 74 CIA air landings in Canada

Declassified memos show 74 CIA air landings in Canada

TORONTO (AP) — CIA planes have landed in Canada 74 times since the 9/11 terror attacks, underscoring fears that the United States is ferrying suspected terrorists through its neighboring country en route to foreign prisons for torture, according to newly declassified government documents.

The government memos were releassed this week under Canada's Access to Information Act. The Associated Press obtained them Thursday from The Canadian Press.

Internal government briefing notes revealed senior intelligence officials from six government agencies, including the Security Intelligence Service, met in late November to discuss the flights.

One memo dated Nov. 28 instructed officials to tell the media that there was "no credible information to suggest that these planes were used to ferry suspected terrorists to and from Canada, or that illegal activity took place."

A spokesman for the CIA in Washington declined comment on Thursday.

U.S. intelligence officials have said in the past that the planes are more likely to be carrying staff, supplies or Director Porter Goss on his way to a foreign visit.

The U.S. has come under fire, especially in Europe, for the practice of "extraordinary rendition" — the transporting of terror suspects to countries where they face harsh interrogation methods and possibly torture.

Ottawa has been investigating the detention of Syrian-born Canadian engineer Maher Arar. He was detained at JFK International Airport in New York in September 2002 on suspicion of being a member of Osama bin-Laden's al-Qaeda network.

U.S. authorities deported Arar to Syria, where he was kept in a damp Damascus prison cell and allegedly tortured for 10 months before being released and flown back to Canada.

Last November, journalists and the Opposition in Parliament — the Conservative Party that now is in power — raised allegations that at least six aircraft linked to alleged front companies for the CIA had landed at Canadian airports in the previous six months.

One of the briefing notes, which is stamped "SECRET," said that Canada Border Services Agency reported that 20 aircraft had made 74 flights to Canada since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush gave the CIA authority to conduct the operations and permitted the agency to act without case-by-case approval from the White House or other administration offices.

U.S. government officials say the operations are used for those considered by the CIA to be the most serious terror suspects.

The European Union has demanded answers from the State Department about reports of secret U.S.-run prisons for terrorism suspects in Europe.

Romania, meanwhile, challenged human rights groups Thursday to provide evidence that his country hosted a secret U.S. detention center or allowed its airports to be used in CIA transfers.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch organization has alleged terror suspects captured in Afghanistan have been transported through Romania, which has denied the claims.

Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, who was in London for talks, said there remained no proof of impropriety.

"I've always asked those who pretend to have proof, to offer us that proof, it would be extremely important for us," Ungureanu told a news conference.

The Public Safety Department in Ottawa said in January that a federal review of landings by the supposed CIA flights showed no evidence of "illegal activities."

Amnesty International said the Canadian government has yet to provide the human rights group evidence that the flights were not used to ferry terror suspects to foreign prisons.

"There's clearly a range of international human rights concerns associated with flights of this description," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty's Canadian arm.

He said Ottawa should be held responsible if it is determined that the flights did in fact deliver terror suspects into torture, a violation of the Canadian constitution.

"If you're part of the chain of events that make that happen, then your human rights responsibility as a government are engaged," Neve said.

Flight data obtained by The Canadian Press show that since mid-2005, at least seven different planes owned by reputed CIA shell corporations have landed at Canadian airports.

One recent flight, an 11-seat Beech turboprop, set out for Keflavik, Iceland, on Feb. 12 from Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, where it had arrived the previous day from Montreal.

The U.S. military maintains an air station in Keflavik, which serves as a refueling point for Europe-bound aircraft.

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Judge orders U.S. to release Guantanamo detainee data

Judge orders U.S. to release Guantanamo detainee data

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A federal judge ordered the Pentagon on Thursday to release the identities of hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to The Associated Press, a move which would force the government to break its secrecy and reveal the most comprehensive list yet of those who have been imprisoned there.

Some of the hundreds of detainees in the war on terror being held at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been held as long as four years. Only a handful have been officially identified.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff in New York ordered the Defense Department to release uncensored transcripts of detainee hearings, which contain the names of detainees in custody and those who have been held and later released. Previously released documents have had identities and other details blacked out.

The judge ordered the government to hand over the documents by March 3 after the Defense Department said Wednesday it would not appeal his earlier ruling in the lawsuit filed by the AP.

On Jan. 23, Rakoff ordered the military to turn over uncensored copies of transcripts and other documents from 317 military hearings for detainees at the prison camp. There were another 241 detainees who refused to participate in the Combatant Status Review Tribunals and the Defense Department said no transcripts exist of those hearings.

U.S. authorities now hold about 490 prisoners at Guantanamo on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Most have been held without charges since the detention center opened four years ago, prompting complaints from human rights groups and others.

"AP has been fighting for this information since the fall of 2004," said Dave Tomlin, assistant general counsel for the news organization. "We're grateful to have a decision at last that keeping prisoner identities secret is against the public policy and the law of this country."

The military has never officially released the names of any detainees except the 10 who have been charged.

Most of those that are known emerged from the approximately 400 civil suits filed on behalf of prisoners by lawyers who got their names from family or other detainees, said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which represents about 200 detainees.

"They have been very resistant to releasing the names," Ratner said. "There are still people there who don't have a lawyer and we don't know who they are. They have disappeared."

The Defense Department earlier released transcripts after the AP filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act, but the names and other details of detainees were blacked out.

The Defense Department said it would obey the judge's order.

"DOD will be complying with the judge's decision in this matter," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

Law experts said the case has wide-ranging implications.

"The government has tried to maintain Guantanamo as a black hole since they opened it," said Jonathan Hafetz of the New York University School of Law. "This is bringing it within the mainstream of the justice system and says we're not going to have secret detentions at Guantanamo."

In his ruling last month, Rakoff rejected government arguments that releasing the detainees' names from transcripts should be kept secret to protect their privacy and their families, friends and associates from embarrassment and retaliation.

The judge had given the government a month to decide whether to appeal and the U.S. Solicitor General decided not to pursue the case further, said Megan Gaffney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.

The AP is awaiting a decision from the judge on whether the government must release the unredacted transcripts from a second round of hearings, the annual Administrative Review Board — panels that decide whether detainees are still considered a threat to the United States.

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UAE gave $100 million for Katrina relief; contributed at least $1 million before 1995 to the Bush Library Foundation

Officials: UAE gave $100 million for Katrina relief

The United Arab Emirates has long-standing ties to the Bush family. Records show the UAE and one of its sheikhs contributed at least $1 million before 1995 to the Bush Library Foundation, which established the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Weeks before one of its companies sought U.S. approval for its ports deal, the United Arab Emirates contributed $100 million to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, officials confirmed Thursday.

The Bush administration said the money it received from the United Arab Emirates was nearly four times as much as it received from all other countries combined. Other countries, including some in the Middle East, also pledged large contributions but have not yet sent the money. (Related news: Ports deal may face delay)

The White House said the $100 million for storm victims demonstrates the close relationship between the two governments now caught in a firestorm over the potential security risks of state-owned Dubai Ports World running operations at six major U.S. ports.

The money from the United Arab Emirates was previously described by the State Department only as a "very large" contribution. The White House said so far it has received $126 million in international donations, including the UAE money.

The administration said there was no connection between the request for U.S. approval of the $6.8 billion ports deal and the UAE contribution. It disclosed details about the donation to support President Bush's description of the nations as important allies.

"There was no connection between the two events," said Adam Ereli, the deputy State Department spokesman.

Robert Kimmitt, deputy secretary at the Treasury Department, told senators Thursday that Dubai Ports World first approached U.S. officials Oct. 17 to discuss a proposed purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which runs significant operations at six large U.S. ports.

Kimmitt said the company informally approached Treasury officials to discuss preliminary stages of the purchase. A formal review of the proposed sale started on Dec. 16, Kimmitt told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The United Arab Emirates sent its $100 million Katrina donation on Sept. 21 using an electronic transfer to an account at the State Department, the White House said. Two-thirds of the money was given to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help coordinate aid to 100,000 families. The rest was sent to the Education Department to help rebuild schools and universities near New Orleans that were damaged by the storm.

The United Arab Emirates has long-standing ties to the Bush family. Records show the UAE and one of its sheikhs contributed at least $1 million before 1995 to the Bush Library Foundation, which established the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. The executive chairman of Dubai Ports World, Ahmed bin Sulayem, is not listed among donors.

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UAE Company Agrees to Delay U.S. Port Deal

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UAE Company Agrees to Delay U.S. Port Deal
By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

A United Arab Emirates company offered Thursday to delay its takeover of most operations at six U.S. ports to give the Bush administration more time to convince skeptical lawmakers the deal poses no security risks.

The surprise announcement relieves some pressure from a standoff between President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress, where some lawmakers have threatened to block the deal because of concerns over the UAE's purported ties to terrorism. Immediate reaction on Capitol Hill was mixed.

Under the offer coordinated with the White House, Dubai Ports World said it will agree not to exercise control or influence the management over U.S. ports pending further talks with the Bush administration, Congress and local port authorities. It did not indicate how long it will wait for these discussions to take place.

The Dubai-based state-owned company said it will move forward with other parts of the deal affecting the rest of the world.

"It is not only unreasonable but also impractical to suggest that the closing of this entire global transaction should be delayed," Dubai Ports said in a statement.

"The reaction in the United States has occurred in no other country in the world," the company's chief operating officer, Ted Bilkey, said in a statement. "We need to understand the concerns of the people in the U.S. who are worried about this transaction and make sure that they are addressed to the benefit of all parties. Security is everybody's business."

The announcement came as bipartisan political furor persisted over the deal — supposed to be completed in early March — because of national security concerns. Republicans and Democrats alike are crafting legislation blocking or delaying the deal with an Arab country tied to some of the hijackers from Sept. 11, 2001. Bush had pledged earlier to veto such a measure.

The company's announcement did not appease some of the deal's harshest Democratic critics.

"If the president were to voluntarily institute the review and delay the contract that would obviate the need for our legislation, but a simple cooling-off period will not allay our concerns," said Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y.

However, one prominent Republican who had questioned the deal appeared optimistic.

"This is definitely a positive step," said Rep. Peter King (news, bio, voting record) of New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "We'll need more details as to the nature of the discussions that will be held and the extent of the investigation into Dubai Ports."

The company said U.S. operations affected by the deal account for roughly 10 percent of its overall value, noting that its purchase of London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. covers 30 terminals in 18 countries, ferries and properties. It stressed that the sale overall would not be delayed, and British shareholders will be paid as previously planned.

Earlier Thursday, Democrats pushed for a new 45-day investigation into the deal and accused the administration of failing to thoroughly investigate whether it would threaten national security.

For its part, the administration sought to quell the controversy.

"People don't need to worry about security," Bush told reporters after a morning Cabinet meeting at the White House. "This wouldn't be going forward if we weren't certain that our ports would be secure. The more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by my government, the more they'll be comforted that our ports will be secure."

Meantime, Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, said Bush was willing to accept a slight delay in Dubai Ports World's purchase of terminal leases and other operations at the U.S. ports from a British company. "What is important is that members of Congress have the time to get fully briefed on this," Rove said on Fox Radio's "Tony Snow Show."

On Capitol Hill, administration officials who approved the transaction told the Senate Armed Services Committee that their 90-day review did not turn up a single national security concern to justify blocking it and they said no one raised an issue that would have prompted the need for a further, 45-day investigation.

"We're not aware of a single national security concern raised recently that was not part of" a three-month review before the deal was approved, Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt told the lawmakers.

Democratic committee members accused officials of failing to take into account issues raised about the Arab country in the final report of the special commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record) of Michigan, the top Democrat on the committee, derided the administration's "casual approach" in approving a deal involving a country "with an uneven record of battling terrorism."

Levin at one point noted that the Sept. 11 commission found "a persistent counterterrorism problem represented by the United Arab Emirates."

"Just raise your hand if anybody (at the witness table) talked to the 9-11 commission," commanded Levin. There was no response from the administration's representatives.

White House Homeland Security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend said the UAE's cooperation in the fight against terrorism has changed since 2001.

"They have been critical allies in Afghanistan," she told reporters at a news conference on a separate matter. "They have been critical allies in fighting the financial war against terror. They've been critical allies in terms of our military-to-military relationship."

Levin and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., accused the administration of ignoring a law that requires a longer review — an additional 45 days — if a proposed business deal could affect national security.

Kimmitt responded: "We didn't ignore the law. Concerns were raised. They were resolved."

Following the company's announcement, Clinton's spokesman, Philippe Reines, said the senator "welcomes the news that the investigation that she and others have called for will have a chance to proceed. The administration should now use this delay to conduct the investigation that the law requires."

Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he would ask Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to prepare a memorandum on the administration's interpretation of the law to see if it deviates from Congress' intent.

Elsewhere, New Jersey sued in federal court to block the UAE company from taking over operations at the Port Newark container terminal until the federal government investigates possible security risks. The owner of the busy shipping center, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said it also has security concerns about the takeover and plans to file a lawsuit Friday to terminate the firm's lease at the port.

Also Thursday, administration officials said that weeks before Dubai Ports World sought U.S. approval for the deal, the UAE contributed $100 million to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The administration said there was no connection between the request for U.S. approval of the ports deal and the UAE's contribution.

The White House, which so far has gotten a total of $126 million in international donations, said the UAE's contribution shows the close relationship between the two governments.


Associated Press writers Devlin Barrett in Washington, Jeffrey Gold in Trenton, N.J., Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pa., and Anne Gearan in Beirut, Lebanon, contributed to this report.


White House Cites Katrina Response Failures

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White House Cites Katrina Response Failures
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

Flawed government planning for major disasters led to rampant confusion during the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the White House concluded Thursday in a report focusing more on fixing shortfalls before the next storm season than on assigning blame.

The review described poor communications systems, delays in delivering supplies and overall tumult within the Bush administration, but revealed little new about the plodding federal effort in the days just before and after the storm socked the Gulf Coast last Aug. 29.

The 228-page document, including 125 recommendations for improvement, adopted a far softer tone than a scathing House report issued last week and offered scant criticism of President Bush, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and then-FEMA Director Michael Brown.

That House review, written by a Republican-led committee, blamed all levels of government for the lackluster response that it said contributed to the deaths and suffering of thousands of the region's residents.

"The magnitude of Hurricane Katrina does not excuse our inadequate preparedness and response, but rather it must serve as a catalyst for far-reaching reform and transformation," the White House report concluded.

It added: "Similar to the images of grief and destruction on September 11, 2001, the images of suffering and despair from Hurricane Katrina are forever seared into the hearts and memories of all Americans. Those painful images must be the catalyst for change."

Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, left more than 1,300 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama dead, hundreds of thousands homeless and tens of billions of dollars worth of damage in its wake.

Days after the storm, Bush accepted responsibility for the faulty federal response and ordered White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend to conduct the internal inquiry.

"We will learn from the lessons of the past to better protect the American people," Bush said Thursday.

The report's recommendations span from dramatic reforms — including potentially giving the Pentagon control over the federal response in worst-case disasters — to smaller changes. It calls for a public awareness campaign on individual preparedness similar to the successful "Stop, Drop and Roll" slogan for fire safety information.

It says the government should improve its evacuation preparations, its plans for swifter medical aid and its overall blueprint for coordinating federal response efforts, calling it confusing. It also calls for state tax breaks to encourage citizens to purchase disaster gear and requirements that students take courses in first aid, starting next year.

The review singles out the Homeland Security Department for most of the breakdowns. They included failure to understand the scope of Katrina's damage, delays in passing information to the White House and emergency workers, and a system for delivering water, food and other supplies that was ensnared in red tape.

In one example of the department's failures, the report noted that Homeland Security's operations center was still dithering about whether New Orleans levees had been breached nearly six hours after a National Weather Service reported a break in at least one floodwall.

The report also cited several examples in which the Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected help from other federal agencies — including boats, aircraft, maintenance crews and housing for evacuees — because of miscommunications and misunderstandings. It said Brown, who was heading the federal response at the scene, was still organizing his chain of command nearly 60 hours after the storm struck.

Members of Congress, including Senate Homeland Security Committee chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the White House assessment is not clear on how it will enact and pay for some of its recommendations. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., questioned why the report does not hold anyone accountable for the failures.

"Only a full understanding of what went wrong and who was responsible will enable us to correct our path for the future," said Lieberman, the top Democrat on a Senate panel separately investigating failures during Katrina.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (news, bio, voting record) of Mississippi, top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, criticized the report for ignoring calls to remove FEMA from Chertoff's control.

"Simply providing recommendations is not enough for the American people," Thompson said.

Chertoff commended the report, which he said was consistent with internal changes already under way at his department.

Brown, who quit under fire in Katrina's aftermath, applauded the report for concluding the agency's resources and personnel have been stretched too thin since it was merged into Homeland Security in 2003.

"I am pleased that this has been finally recognized and that an opportunity now exists to put FEMA on proper footing," Brown said in an e-mail.

Underscoring the report's upbeat tone, the White House called it, "The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina, Lessons Learned." It included a 19-page chapter called "What Went Right," citing strong work by the National Weather Service and Coast Guard and saying the section portrayed "at best only a partial representation of the enormity of the American spirit."


Associated Press Writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.


On the Net:

White House report:


Democrats urge FDA to reverse label liability

Democrats urge FDA to reverse label liability

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Food and Drug Administration position that federally approved prescription drug labels are not subject to state liability laws should be reversed, Democratic lawmakers said on Thursday.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, whose department includes FDA, Rep. Henry Waxman of California and other lawmakers said the policy protects drugmakers from lawsuits and was enacted without public comment.

The FDA issued the controversial policy last month as part of new rules to simplify long and often hard-to-read drug labels. It said drugmakers were concerned that simpler labels would open them up to lawsuits.

The FDA-approved prescribing information "whether it be in the old or new format, pre-empts conflicting or contrary state law," the agency wrote at the time.

Agency officials have said the language simply restated their position in state lawsuits against drugmakers.

The lawmakers said the decision failed to take into account numerous hurdles to revise drug labels when new risks emerge.

"Unfortunately, important information about how to use the drug safely and effectively that is developed after approval is not always added to the drug's label in a timely way," wrote Reps. Waxman, John Dingell of Michigan and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

In a second letter to Leavitt, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd questioned why the FDA "completely ignores" Congress' intent to allow states to take liability action even under federal law.

In both letters, lawmakers said the agency's proposed version of the rule, issued in December 2000, said FDA labeling would not pre-empt state law.

FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs Scott Gottlieb defended the agency's decision, saying "it was not at all a total reversal." But he added that he had not read the letters.

HHS spokesman Bill Hall confirmed that the department received the letters and declined further comment.


Libby's lawyers ask to dismiss perjury case

Libby's lawyers ask to dismiss perjury case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, who faces perjury charges, asked a judge on Thursday to throw out the case on the grounds that the prosecutor was appointed improperly.

Since both Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Attorney General John Ashcroft removed themselves from the investigation because of their close ties to the White House, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald reports to David Margolis, a career Justice Department lawyer.

Lawyers for Lewis "Scooter" Libby argued that because Fitzgerald does not report to the attorney general, he should not have been appointed by a deputy at the Justice Department.

"Because he was not appointed to that office by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, he holds that authority improperly," Libby's lawyers wrote.

Fitzgerald was picked by then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey in December 2003 to investigate who leaked the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame to reporters after her husband accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons to justify the 2003 invasion.

Plame's career at the CIA effectively ended after her identity was made public.

Libby is charged with lying to a grand jury about his conversations with reporters about Plame. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial in January 2007.

In other filings Libby's lawyers have argued that any inconsistencies in his testimony come from a faulty memory.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dubai Ports World and the Bush administration: Connecting the dots

The Op Ed Page
Dubai Ports World and the Bush administration: Connecting the dots
Richard Kuper

In December 2004, Dubai Ports International (DPI), a leading world port operator, acquired the international terminal business of CSX World Terminals.

British owned P&O Ports North America, Inc is the P&O Ports company responsible for all port operations in North America. Among it's responsibilities is the loading and unloading of cargo. P&O Ports is also the managing company of the New York Passenger Ship Terminal.

In November 2005, United Arab Emirates-backed Dubai Ports World agreed to buy UK ports and ferries group Peninsular & Oriental Steam (P&O), creating the world's third-largest ports company.

The Dubai Ports World purchase was approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Treasury Secretary John Snow (former CEO of CSX, who's CSX World Terminals division is now part of Dubai Ports World) is chairman of the Committee.

President Bush recently nominated David Sanborn, a senior executive of Dubai Ports World, to run the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration. Mr. Sanborn had been running the company's operations in Europe and Latin America.

So clearly Bush & Co fingerprints are all over this, but the bigger question is why any foreign owned company, friend or foe, is controlling the loading and unloading of cargo in the USA.


South Dakota passes abortion ban

South Dakota passes abortion ban

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota (Reuters) - South Dakota became the first U.S. state to pass a law banning abortion in virtually all cases, with the intention of forcing the Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 decision legalizing the procedure.

The law, which would punish doctors who perform the operation with a five-year prison term and a $5,000 fine, awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Michael Rounds and people on both sides of the issue say he is unlikely to veto it.

"My understanding is we are the first state to truly defy Roe v. Wade," the 1973 high court ruling that granted a constitutional right to abortion, said Kate Looby of Planned Parenthood's South Dakota chapter.

State legislatures in Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky also have introduced similar measures this year, but South Dakota's legislative calendar means its law is likely to be enacted first.

"We hope (Rounds) recognizes this for what it is: a political tool and not about the health and safety of the women of South Dakota," Looby said.

"If he chooses to sign it, we will be filing a lawsuit in short order to block it," she said after attending the afternoon debate at the state capital in Pierre.

Proponents have said the law was designed for just such a court challenge.

The timing is right, supporters say, given the recent appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the high court. The two conservatives could pave the way to a decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The high court said on Tuesday it will rule on whether the federal government can ban some abortion procedures, a case that could reveal whether the court reshaped by President George W. Bush will restrict abortion rights.

In 1992, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the last direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.

The South Dakota law concludes that life begins at conception based on medical advances over the past three decades.

Proposed amendments to the law to create exceptions to specifically protect the health of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest, were voted down. Also defeated was an amendment to put the proposal in the hands of voters.

The bill as written does make an exception if the fetus dies during a doctor's attempt to save the mother's life.

Planned Parenthood operates the sole clinic in South Dakota where roughly 800 abortions are performed each year by doctors from neighboring Minnesota, Looby said.

Two years ago, Rounds vetoed a similar bill, saying it would wipe out existing restrictions on abortion while it was fought in the courts. A rewritten bill lost narrowly in the state Senate.

Some legislators opposed to abortion rights questioned whether it was premature to challenge Roe v. Wade, and said litigation would prove expensive for the sparsely populated state. An anonymous donor has offered $1 million to the state to defray the costs of litigation.


Arab Co., White House Had Secret Agreement

Yahoo! News
Arab Co., White House Had Secret Agreement

By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer

The Bush administration secretly required a company in the United Arab Emirates to cooperate with future U.S. investigations before approving its takeover of operations at six American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. It chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

As part of the $6.8 billion purchase, state-owned Dubai Ports World agreed to reveal records on demand about "foreign operational direction" of its business at U.S. ports, the documents said. Those records broadly include details about the design, maintenance or operation of ports and equipment.

The administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to court orders. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate U.S. government requests. Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.

"They're not lax but they're not draconian," said James Lewis, a former U.S. official who worked on such agreements. If officials had predicted the firestorm of criticism over the deal, Lewis said, "they might have made them sound harder."

The conditions involving the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. were detailed in U.S. documents marked "confidential." Such records are regularly guarded as trade secrets, and it is highly unusual for them to be made public.

The concessions — described previously by the Homeland Security Department as unprecedented among maritime companies — reflect the close relationship between the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

The revelations about the negotiated conditions came as the White House acknowledged President Bush was unaware of the pending sale until the deal had already been approved by his administration.

Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House. He pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement, but some lawmakers said they still were determined to capsize it.

Dubai Port's top American executive, chief operating officer Edward H. Bilkey, said the company will do whatever the Bush administration asks to enhance shipping security and ensure the sale goes through. Bilkey said Wednesday he will work in Washington to persuade skeptical lawmakers they should endorse the deal; Senate oversight hearings already are scheduled.

"We're disappointed," Bilkey told the AP in an interview. "We're going to do our best to persuade them that they jumped the gun. The UAE is a very solid friend, as President Bush has said."

Under the deal, the government asked Dubai Ports to operate American seaports with existing U.S. managers "to the extent possible." It promised to take "all reasonable steps" to assist the Homeland Security Department, and it pledged to continue participating in security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials.

The administration required Dubai Ports to designate an executive to handle requests from the U.S. government, but it did not specify this person's citizenship.

It said Dubai Ports must retain paperwork "in the normal course of business" but did not specify a time period or require corporate records to be housed in the United States. Outside experts familiar with such agreements said such provisions are routine in other cases.

Bush faces a potential rebellion from leaders of his own party, as well as a fight from Democrats, over the sale. It puts Dubai Ports in charge of major terminal operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Senate and House leaders urged the president to delay the takeover, which is set to be finalized in early March. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said the deal raised "serious questions regarding the safety and security of our homeland." House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., asked the president for a moratorium on the sale until it could be studied further.

In Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the agreement was thoroughly vetted. "We have to maintain a principle that it doesn't matter where in the world one of these purchases is coming from," Rice said Wednesday. She described the United Arab Emirates as "a good partner in the war on terrorism."

Bush personally defended the agreement on Tuesday, but the White House said he did not know about it until recently. The AP first reported the U.S. approval of the sale to Dubai Ports on Feb. 11, and many members of Congress have said they learned about it from the AP.

"I think somebody dropped the ball," said Rep. Vito Fossella (news, bio, voting record), R-N.Y. "Information should have flowed more freely and more quickly up into the White House. I think it has been mishandled in terms of coming forward with adequate information."

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush learned about the deal "over the last several days," as congressional criticism escalated. McClellan said it did not rise to the presidential level, but went through a government review and was determined not to pose a threat.

McClellan said Bush afterward asked the head of every U.S. department involved in approving the sale whether there were security concerns. "Each and every one expressed that they were comfortable with this transaction going forward," he said.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez told the AP the administration was being thoughtful and deliberate approving the sale.

"We are not reacting emotionally," Guiterrez said in an interview Wednesday. "That's what I believe our partners from around the world would like to see from us is that we be thoughtful. That we be deliberate. That we understand issues before we make a decision."

Associated Press writers Jeanine Aversa in Washington, Anne Gearan in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and John Christoffersen in Danbury, Conn., contributed to this report.


Terror fears, stoked by Bush, now bite him

Terror fears, stoked by Bush, now bite him
By Alan Elsner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For almost five years President George W. Bush has warned Americans to fear terrorism, but now those words may come back to bite him.

The president, who has cast himself as America's protector against terrorism and Islamic militancy, has been thrown on the defensive by a bipartisan revolt over his administration's approval of a state-owned company from the United Arab Emirates assuming operation of six major U.S. seaports.

Bush and his aides have argued that the United Arab Emirates is an anti-terrorist ally and that the company would have no security role. But even Bush allies, like South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, have called the deal "politically tone deaf."

With Republican and Democratic lawmakers drafting legislation to block the port deal, Bush vowed on Tuesday to use his veto for the first time should any such law reach his desk, drawing the lines for a high-stakes political battle.

"Politically, for the president, it is a huge mistake for him to be defending this decision. The president will be overturned," said U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, the former number two Republican in the House of Representatives.

Bush has long been successful in persuading Americans they were under constant threat and he was the best man to protect them, although polls reveal paradoxes in attitudes.

Last month, some 75 percent of Americans said in a Zogby survey that they expected the country to suffer a major terrorist attack within the next two years, but a CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll found that 64 percent of Americans had confidence in Bush's ability to prevent an attack.

Fears have not subsided, pollster John Zogby said, although the United States has not suffered a major attack since September 11, 2001. Bush two weeks ago revealed a plot foiled in 2002 to fly an airplane into the West Coast's tallest building and said the terrorist threat had not abated.

"That's what makes this story so ironic. I guess you can't have it both ways," Zogby said.

Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said, "Bush is a victim of his own rhetoric. This deal flies in the face of the Bush administration's general posture, which has been that there is much to fear out there and they have been vigilant in protecting the country."


Other factors may also be driving opposition to the proposed takeover by Dubai Ports World of operations at the six ports.

Among them may be general anti-Arab sentiment and political calculations in a congressional election year. For years, Bush has portrayed Democrats as weak on security. Now, they have taken the chance to hit back.

Meanwhile Republicans are less beholden to a second-term president with weak approval ratings.

"So far Bush has always managed to get Republicans back in line when he needed to, but his influence is waning and it will only get worse for this administration," Jillson said.

Some in Congress have complained they were blindsided by the deal, which was approved by a panel whose deliberations are closed to the public.

Anger has also bubbled up among grassroots conservatives at the heart of Bush's political base who are expressing themselves on talk radio and the Internet.

Political analyst Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute compared the furor to a conservative revolt last year that thwarted Bush's nomination of White House legal counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. "It's the foreign policy equivalent of the Miers nomination. It's stupid," Ledeen said.