HONG KONG (Reuters) – A former top U.S. security official attacked American politicians over their handling of the disputed Dubai Ports World deal last year, saying it was “the worst example” of a security issue being used for political gain.
Dubai Ports, owned by the United Arab Emirates, became the centre of a bitter debate in Congress after buying assets at six U.S. ports within its $6.8 billion purchase of Britain’s Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co.
The Bush administration approved the purchase of facilities, but lawmakers had security concerns about an Arab state-owned company running U.S. port terminals, and Dubai Ports responded by saying it would sell those U.S. assets.
The uproar “sent the wrong signal to the rest of the world,” former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told a group of Hong Kong businessmen and reporters at an event organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong on Thursday.
“It was a classic triumph of politics over reason, politics over facts,” he said. “It was not about security. It was about politics. Like a bunch of lemmings, everyone went off that cliff.”
Ridge was the first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which was created by Congress in 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
He is now a business consultant and adviser to Republican Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign.