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More Port Controversy

Yesterday on the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Rep Peter King (R-NY) said something interesting:

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I just did an interview with Republican Congressman Peter King. As you know he's already been a sharp critic of this port deal, he's from the port state of New York, of course. He's also the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House.

He's now alleging to CNN that a couple weeks back when this story first broke, he spoke to the officials at the Departments of Treasury and Homeland Security, who were involved in this CFIUS process, and he asked them did you check out whether or not DP World, the company involved, had ties to al Qaeda, and he is telling CNN hew was told, quote, Congressman, you don't understand, we don't conduct a thorough investigation.

I pressed him on this, because this will obviously seem to contradict various administration claims that not only was there investigation, but that it was thorough, that it got to the heart of the security questions whether or not there were terrorist ties here. I pressed King on this point. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY: I'm saying there was no investigation, there was no real investigation conducted during that 30-day period. I'm hoping there will be a real one during this 45 days, but when I hear the administration say they're going to use the 45 days to educate the Congress and let us know exactly what happened, they should be educating themselves.

They should be doing the investigation they should have done during the first 30 days when there should have been an automatic 45- day investigation. I can't emphasize enough, there's been no investigation into terrorism whatsoever on this contract.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: King added that as a result of what he's learned from administration officials involved in the process, it would be, quote, shameful to move forward on this actual deal. The explosive new charges are coming as Democrats today on the third birthday of the Department of Homeland Security really pounded away and charged that this port deal shows that the administration has been negligent on the overall issue of homeland security.

Obviously, King has been a critic of the deal from the beginning, but if what he said is true then the White House is in even more trouble on the deal than originally thought.

Also, The Washington Times editorializes on the Bush administration's response to the recently reported concerns cited by the Coast Guard about "intelligence gaps" with the DPW deal:

According to both Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and Assistant Homeland Security Secretary Stewart Baker, a "letter of assurance" from the United Arab Emirates firm was the reason. This letter would provide information on personnel, operations and foreign influence as the U.S. government requests it, they said -- and this was enough to satisfy the Coast Guard.

It turns out the letter in question doesn't even address the Coast Guard's concerns. It contains bland reassurances and mentions of previously disclosed participation in U.S. government security programs. Said Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and Homeland Security Committee chairman, in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Tuesday: "[A] careful review of the 'assurances letter' reveals that DP World is not, in fact, bound to provide the U.S. government with the information it would need to close the intelligence gaps the Coast Guard identified...The language is weak... Indeed, the assurances appear to amount to little more than a restatement of what the FBI or other law enforcement agenc[ies] could gather anyway in the course of an investigation."

Finally, the New York Times reports on the heartburn the DPW deal is causing even the most loyal Republicans:

Senator Jon Kyl, a staunch supporter of President Bush who faces a potentially difficult re-election fight this year, is hearing a lot from constituents in Arizona about the plan to allow a Dubai company to operate shipping terminals at Eastern ports. Most think the deal should be stopped. [snip]

It is not clear what kind of staying power the deal has as an issue, but for now Republicans have little choice but to acknowledge the objections they are hearing from voters, distancing themselves from Mr. Bush on national security heading toward the midterm elections. [snip]

Many Republicans doubt that Mr. Bush will be able to contain the opposition, and Democrats agree, pointing to the unusual amount of bipartisan backing for legislative proposals that would give Congress the final say on the deal.

Most Republicans are not yet willing to draw a line in the sand, and the agreement for the new 45-day review bought the White House some time. But the reservations run deep, and the White House cause has not been helped by what Republicans on Capitol Hill viewed as a dismissive posture by the administration and a needlessly quick veto threat.

"Let's see what happens," said Mr. Kyl of Arizona. "We will do the right thing and let the politics take care of itself."

We'll see about that. The politics of this deal continue to remain negative, and seem to be growing more so as more reports surface about whether or not a satisfactory review of national security issues took place the first time around. If the 45-day review produces evidence national security was given short shrift, or if new evidence emerges casting doubt on the UAE's reliability as a post 9-11 ally in the war on terror, then the chance of the deal going through go from very slim to nil.