Port Security

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The controversy over the sale of a British company to a United Arab Emirates owned business continues to build in the United States.

If the deal goes through the Arab nation would control six major U.S. ports.

President Bush is backing the deal. Republican Congressman Jeff Miller is among a number of lawmakers surprised by President Bush's latest actions.

“I'm perplexed that the President would draw a line in the sand on this particular issue,” says Miller.

The $7 billion deal would put Dubai Ports; a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, in control six U.S. sea ports from New York to Miami.

President Bush didn't learn of the deal until this week, but he approves of it. And that's drawing opposition from both of the major political parties. Opponents say it would increase the threat of terrorism at American ports.

"The American people have a much different mind set after September 11."

Security experts agree. Scott Troudt works for ATS a security and intelligence consulting firm with offices here in the Panhandle and all over the world, including the United Arab Emirates.

Troudt says any foreign control is a step in the wrong direction, "Even if one percent of the people who work for that company have sympathies for Muslim extremist or terrorists, we're definitely going to be compromising U.S. National Security."

Officials at Port Panama City say it's not unusual to have foreign owned companies operating ports in the U.S.

But Dubai Ports is owned by a foreign country.

"You know international private owned companies; I think that's more legitimate. But foreign governments operating contracts on our ports, I think that's something that should be questioned,” explains Port Director Wayne Stubbs.

Despite the threat of a presidential veto, some members of Congress are talking about legislation to delay or kill the port deal.

"I'll vote for a piece of legislation that slows this process down and I'm hopeful that the President does not follow through on the veto threat because unfortunately, I think his veto would be overridden."

Not everybody feels this way.

"It just the fact that they're Arabs that's caused such a knee jerk reaction and such an uproar from certain sections of the country,” says Bay County resident Larry Friday.

"It think it's an economic issue and if it's viable for the United States, I think it should be okay,” says Cincinnati resident Frank Vito.

Although the port operations may end up under foreign control, the U.S. will still control port security.

If President Bush carries out his veto threat, it would be his first since moving into the oval office in 2001.