Chertoff unaware of ports deal until after OK

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was not aware a Dubai-owned company was seeking to operate terminals in six U.S. ports and that his agency was leading the review until after the deal's approval, an administration official said yesterday.
Mr. Chertoff's spokesman, Russ Knocke, told The Washington Times the issue rose no higher than the department's assistant secretary for policy, Stewart Baker.
"[Chertoff] was not briefed up to this until after this story started appearing in the newspapers," Mr. Knocke said.
Mr. Chertoff is the third Cabinet official to acknowledge he did not know his agency had signed off on the plan as a member of the interagency Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS). Both Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Treasury Secretary John W. Snow have publicly said they were unaware of the deal.
But Mr. Chertoff's exclusion is more noteworthy because his department headed the CFIUS review and is in charge of security at all U.S. ports.
Mr. Knocke said the reason Mr. Chertoff was not informed was because CFIUS canvassed scores of government agencies and none objected to Dubai Ports World's (DPW) bid to buy terminal operations on national security grounds.
If there had been an objection, the committee would have conducted a more extensive 45-day investigation and notified Cabinet secretaries. The 12-member committee, which includes six Cabinet secretaries, on Jan. 17 approved the company buying a British firm that runs terminals at the ports.

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