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Debate Rages Over Port Security Technology

As President Bush confronts congressional leaders this week over the operation of U.S. port terminals by a Middle Eastern company, industry leaders are also asking if the deal puts port security technology at risk.

The operation of terminals at six major ports are at issue. They would be operated by DP World, the Dubai, United Arab Emirates-headquartered company buying Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. for $6.8 billion. Terminals include New York and New Jersey ports, which participate in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiatives to secure maritime ports against terrorist attacks.

The debate has put the Bush administration squarely are on the defensive.

"The change of ownership at a terminal will not impact or affect the security of our nation's ports," said Leah Yoon, spokeswoman for the Customs and Border Protection, said. "Port employees go through extensive background and security checks."

But calls to block the sale raise questions about port security, experts said. And some industry watchers worry that high-tech devices and strategies, such as biometrics, radio frequency identification ((RFID) and radiation sensor technology, being installed at ports could fall into the wrong hands.

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