Saturday, February 11, 2006

The War Goes On, Unreported...
The War Goes On, Unreported...
Eric Alterman

Center for American Progress: Think Again

As the “coalition forces” lurch toward the third anniversary of the Bush administration’s ill-fated March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the members of the media stand poised to embark on yet another round of navel-gazing over their role in first helping to enable, and later make sense of, this senseless war – a war that has proven as dangerous to journalists as anyone else.

We began January with the Christian Science Monitor’s Jill Carroll being abducted – and her translator killed – on a Baghdad street, and ended the month with ABC’s Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt being seriously injured in a bombing near the capital. In all, the Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that 61 journalists have been killed in Iraq since March 2003 – 42 of whom, lest we forget, were Iraqi. In addition, 23 “media workers” have also lost their lives, bringing the total up to 84. That’s a rate of more than two a month since the start of the war.

One reason this astounding casualty rate may have been left off the front pages here in the States (aside from the Woodruff/Carroll tragedies) is most likely reflected in the ethnic breakdown seen above: the majority of those killed have been Iraqis. And if you peruse the “media workers” list, which consists of translators, drivers, fixers, and other media support personnel, you’ll find that it is made up solely of Iraqis or Arabs. It brings to mind the National Review Online's John Derbyshire, who recently wrote that after seeing a headline about the Egyptian ship that sank in the Red Sea, “A couple of sentences in, I learned that the ship was in fact a ferry, the victims all Egyptians. I lost interest at once, and stopped reading. I don't care about Egyptians.”

But if we didn’t already know of the dangers reporters in Iraq face, the stream of editorials and first-hand accounts from reporters over the past month have driven the lesson home. Hidden beneath this public lament is another sobering fact: While the danger for reporters increases day-by-day, many western news organizations have been downsizing their staffs in Iraq due to the astronomical costs associated with keeping a full staff in country for such an extended period of time. With such a withdrawal, it stands to reason that the daily coverage of the nuts and bolts of the war on the ground would suffer – which is what the Columbia Journalism Review found when it sent a reporter to Baghdad last month to cover the coverage.

In late January, Paul McLeary (who used to co-author this column with me before being hired by CJR), wrote that “from the anecdotal evidence I collected [while in Baghdad] it's clear that news organizations have scaled back so much that there are fewer and fewer reporters to go out on embeds with the military. As a result, everyday stories…are being lost.”

Obviously, stories are still coming out of Iraq, but as more reporters leave, as they did en masse after the November 2005 bombing of the al-Hamra Hotel in Baghdad (one of the most popular among western reporters), the quantity of the coverage has decreased. Paul wrote, “the fact is that the grinding, day-to-day reality of the war is essentially being forgotten…. With a dwindling number of people assigned to cover the war, there is only so much that can be done, resulting in coverage restricted to the ‘big’ stories, while many of the small, daily victories and defeats go unnoticed. And in that, the enormity of the story itself gets diminished.”

We’ve seen this pattern of waning concern and mounting indifference before, and as Nicholas Kristoff has been hammering home for months now in the New York Times, we’re seeing the unwillingness of news organizations to commit their people to dangerous situations showing up in the dearth of coverage of the genocide in Darfur.

So, while we dwell on the danger reporters face in Iraq, we run the risk of ignoring the fact that there are fewer and fewer reporters present to cover the story. As a result, it slips further from the headlines, and from our collective consciousness. As David Axe recently wrote in Salon, the reporters who remain in Iraq are increasingly constrained by both the danger and cost of extremely expensive security measures, which have “sharply limited their ability (and in some cases their willingness) to move around and provide accurate, comprehensive coverage of Iraq…. The remaining handful of non-embedded reporters in Baghdad are mostly holed up in a few besieged hotels, which, according to one source, are under constant surveillance by insurgent groups. Western reporters rarely venture out of the heavily fortified Green Zone, instead relying on local stringers to gather quotes and research stories.”

But as McLeary discovered, Axe is wrong to stoke the myth that reporters are all taking refuge in the Green Zone, when in reality only a few news organizations make their home there. Some of the biggest, like Time, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, CBS, the AP and Knight Ridder are all out in Baghdad itself, well removed from the protective embrace of the American military.

But it hardly matters where a reporter lives if confined, for reasons of security, to a hotel room. As for the dwindling number of journalists actually living in those hotels and compounds, try as they might, their corporate bosses aren’t giving them enough staff to cover all the dimensions of the story. “[I]f news organizations won't invest the money and manpower to cover it from top to bottom,” McLeary wrote, “it will end up becoming a story told only through its major disasters and victories, without many of the small, personal narratives and struggles that give the story its humanity.” And without that, there really isn’t much of a story to tell, at all.


Brown warned White House before Katrina struck

Brown warned White House before Katrina struck

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former federal disaster chief Michael Brown told a U.S. Senate panel on Friday he warned President George W. Bush of impending catastrophe in New Orleans last summer and informed White House aides of dangerous flooding shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck.

Brown said on August 29, the day the hurricane hit, he relayed urgent reports that the city's levee pumps were failing, contradicting White House officials who have said they were unaware on August 29 the levees were no longer functioning.

With the pumps overwhelmed and the levees seriously breached, floodwaters overtook much of New Orleans in a natural disaster that killed about 1,200 people along the Gulf Coast.

On September 1, Bush said in a television interview, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

Yet Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the committee's ranking Democrat, cited a report from the National Weather Service at 9:14 a.m. on August 29 that at least one of the levees protecting the city was breached.

Brown, who headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in his first detailed testimony about his contacts with Bush and top White House officials that he informed the White House that "we were realizing our worst nightmare."

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is investigating failures by federal, state and local officials to deal with the hurricane and particularly why the Bush administration was so slow to react to the emergency.

Brown blamed the poor federal response to Katrina in part on the absorption of FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security, which he said was focused on preventing terrorist attacks and neglected the threat of natural disasters. He urged it be set up as a separate agency once again.

In addition to one or two direct talks with Bush before the storm, Brown said he talked with White House officials about 30 times once Katrina hit land. Those conversations included White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Brown said, adding: "Sometimes the president would get on the phone."

Before agreeing to answer questions about his contacts with the White House, Brown sought assurances he would not be caught in a legal cross-fire over whether those conversations should be divulged.

Committee head Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, gave Brown a green light to testify, saying the White House was given the chance, but had not invoked executive privilege.


In his testimony, Brown said Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff's sprawling agency was making Katrina response decisions contrary to his own. "It became an absolutely unmanageable situation," Brown said.

Brown emerged as the main scapegoat for the government's response. He was forced to resign shortly after the disaster.

Collins, who is leading the Senate probe of the government response, put some of the blame on Brown's shoulders. Following his testimony, Collins said Brown "let his poor relations" with Chertoff interfere with communications.

Some Democrats on the committee tried to lay blame squarely with the White House. "Keep your chin up. Fight back," Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey told Brown, adding that the Bush administration was handling hurricane reconstruction poorly.

Besides those killed, hundreds of thousands were made homeless in the storm, which devastated much of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Nearly six months later, many of those displaced do not know whether their homes will be rebuilt.

Bush was nearing the end of his monthlong summer vacation when the hurricane struck. He was on a working trip to Arizona and California on the day it hit and the day after, August 29 and August 30, and returned to Washington from his Texas ranch on August 31.

Brown's appearance before the Senate panel was followed by a subpoena to appear before the House Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina. The panel is meeting this weekend.

"This will be a closed meeting. We want to get the information we need from Brown without causing a further media circus," said Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia who chairs that committee.

(Additional reporting by Alan Elsner and Donna Smith)


Auditors Find Huge Fraud in FEMA Aid

The New York Times
Auditors Find Huge Fraud in FEMA Aid

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 — Thousands of applicants for federal emergency relief money after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita used duplicate or invalid Social Security numbers or bogus addresses, suggesting that the $2.3 billion program was a victim of extensive fraud, a Congressional auditor will report Monday.

The examination of the so-called Expedited Assistance program determined that the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed to take even the most basic steps to confirm the identifies of about 1.4 million people who sought expedited cash assistance, leaving the program vulnerable to the "significant fraud and abuse," the Government Accountability Office intends to report.

The auditors did not try to estimate the total dollar amount of fraudulent claims. But the report says that FEMA itself had found that 900,000 of the 2.5 million applications for all forms of individual assistance were "potential duplicates."

Even when FEMA's automated computer system picked out what might be fraudulent applications, payments were at times still sent, says the advance testimony of Gregory D. Kutz, the managing director of the G.A.O.'s forensic audits unit.

The controls were so lax that auditors were able to secure their own $2,000 relief check by using "falsified identifies, bogus addresses and fabricated disaster stories," and then simply waiting for the money to arrive in the mail, says the report for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

Nicol Andrews, a FEMA spokeswoman, said the agency recognized there could be fraud. But Ms. Andrews said the priority was getting aid as fast as possible to hundreds of thousands of families in dire need.

"We took a calculated risk in a catastrophic situation," she said. "It was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, some may have cheated the system."

She added that some arrests have been made. The agency is also suspending payments to people suspected of trying to cheat the system.

Still, the auditors found signs of fraud nearly everywhere:

¶Nearly half of the 11,000 individuals who received special debit cards as payment — an approach used in the immediate aftermath of the storm in Texas — got a second $2,000 payment in emergency aid.

¶Inspections of 200 properties in Texas and Louisiana listed as home addresses turned up 80 that were vacant lots or nonexistent apartments.

¶More than half of a group of 248 other applicants had used Social Security numbers that were never issued, belonged to dead people or did not match the name provided.

In one case, auditors found 17 individuals, some with the same last name and addresses, who used 34 bogus Social Security numbers to collect more than $103,000 in payments.

Auditors found isolated instances where the electronic debit cards were used to pay for "adult entertainment," a .45-caliber handgun, jewelry or bail bond services.


Cheney Says New Unit Will Prove Tax Cuts Boost Revenue
Cheney Says New Unit Will Prove Tax Cuts Boost Revenue

By Nell Henderson
Washington Post Staff Writer

Vice President Cheney said Thursday night that the verdict is in before the Bush administration's new tax analysis shop has even opened for business

: Tax cuts boost federal government revenue.

That assertion won applause from his audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference, but it is a long-standing source of debate among many economists and tax experts at a time of rising federal budget deficits.

Cheney touted President Bush's recently announced proposal to create a tax analysis division as a move toward providing more evidence for the administration's side of the argument.

"The president's tax policies have strengthened the economy, as we knew they would," Cheney told the conference, according to a text posted on the White House's Web site. "And despite forecasts to the contrary, the tax cuts have translated into higher federal revenues."

Cheney said some forecasters have underestimated the degree to which tax cuts would stimulate economic growth and tax revenue.

"It's time to reexamine our assumptions and to consider using more dynamic analysis to measure the true impact of tax cuts on the American economy," Cheney said, explaining why Bush has proposed the new Treasury Department division. "The evidence is in, it's time for everyone to admit that sensible tax cuts increase economic growth and add to the federal treasury."

Bush's proposal, unveiled in his budget plan last week, comes as he is pushing Congress to make permanent the recent tax cuts that are scheduled to expire in coming years. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted last month that the budget deficit would swell to $337 billion this year and that the red ink would end in 2012 only if the tax cuts were allowed to expire.

Treasury officials said yesterday that the president's proposed Division on Dynamic Analysis -- with a handful of employees and a $513,000 budget -- would go beyond the government's old "static" methods of analyzing proposed changes in tax policy only in terms of their direct effects on certain affected taxpayers. Instead, "dynamic" analysis looks at how tax changes cause consumers and businesses to behave differently in ways that affect the overall economy's growth.

For example, a tax break to encourage business investment might lower some individual companies' tax bills -- looking like a hit to Treasury revenue under a static analysis. But if that tax cut caused businesses to buy more equipment, hire more workers and increase profits, that might contribute to stronger overall economic growth -- causing the employees and companies to pay more in income, sales and other taxes over time.

Treasury officials said yesterday that they would not initially use their dynamic analysis for "scoring," or estimating the effects of tax changes on the government's tax receipts. But the department said in a statement: "It is envisioned that dynamic analysis eventually would evolve into dynamic scoring . . . (maybe within a year or two)."

Some tax-cut proponents contend that tax cuts can essentially pay for themselves by spurring such strong economic growth that the additional tax revenue more than offsets the money lost to the cuts.

Many economists dispute that, arguing that the effects of tax cuts depend on how they are structured, on economic circumstances and on many other variables.

"All economists agree tax policy has an effect on the economy. The hard thing is to figure out how to measure these effects in the real world," said Leonard E. Burman, co-director of the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.

Both Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation and the CBO provide dynamic analyses of how tax changes are likely to affect the larger economy, but they do not use dynamic scoring in the budget process.

"I am a proponent of doing this," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who introduced dynamic analysis while he was CBO director.

But, he added, because of the challenges of developing good models and the difficulty of the findings, "there are limits to how useful it is as a policy tool."


Censorship Is Alleged at NOAA; Scientists Afraid to Speak Out, NASA Climate Expert Reports
Censorship Is Alleged at NOAA
Scientists Afraid to Speak Out, NASA Climate Expert Reports

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer

NEW YORK, Feb. 10 -- James E. Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who sparked an uproar last month by accusing the Bush administration of keeping scientific information from reaching the public, said Friday that officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also muzzling researchers who study global warming.

Hansen, speaking in a panel discussion about science and the environment before a packed audience at the New School university, said that while he hopes his own agency will soon adopt a more open policy, NOAA insists on having "a minder" monitor its scientists when they discuss their findings with journalists.

"It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States," said Hansen, prompting a round of applause from the audience. He added that while NOAA officials said they maintain the policy for their scientists' protection, "if you buy that one please see me at the break, because there's a bridge down the street I'd like to sell you."

NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher denied Hansen's charges, saying his agency requires its scientists to tell its press office about contacts with journalists but does not monitor their communications.

"My policy since I've been here is to have a free and open organization," Lautenbacher said. I encourage scientists to conduct peer-reviewed research and provide the honest results of those findings. I stand up for their right to say what they want."

Hansen prefaced his speech, which focused largely on how quickly humans must act in order to prevent irreversible climate change, by saying he was speaking as an individual. "I'm not speaking for the agency or the government," he said.

Most scientists who study climate change have concluded that Earth's current warming is being driven by the burning of fossil fuels. The administration does not question the link between human activity and climate change, but it has called for more research and supports solutions other than mandatory limits on carbon emissions.

After the panel discussion -- which also featured Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer, American Enterprise Institute fellow Steven Hayward and Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich -- Hansen said he knows of NOAA scientists who are chafing at the administration's restrictions but are afraid to speak out.

New School President Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska, said he invited Hansen to speak because he was "very concerned" about what he called the administration's efforts to steer the debate over global warming: "It's not only inappropriate; it stifles the very debate we're trying to have today, and that we need to have on this issue."

Kerrey said of Hansen, "He's not a radical; he's a scientist who's studied the issue. Let the disagreement occur without stifling one side of the argument."

After Hansen told the New York Times and The Washington Post in late January that political appointees at NASA had made it hard for him and other researchers to convey their findings on climate change to the public, NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin e-mailed agency employees last week and vowed to support "scientific openness."

Griffin, who had been chastised by House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.) over the issue earlier in the week, said he would draft a new policy that would respect scientists' right to speak out.

In an interview Friday, Boehlert -- who has met personally with Griffin and spoken on the phone with him several times since the controversy erupted last month -- said he was satisfied Griffin was taking the necessary steps.

"The administration should make it abundantly clear, as Michael Griffin did in his letter to NASA employees, that there will be no effort, in any way, shape or form, deliberate or hinted at, that would stifle a respected scientist working for the government, doing research paid for by the American taxpayers, from talking about their work," Boehlert said.

He added that he had not received "outpourings from the scientific community" alleging government censorship and that, to his knowledge, "there are no plans in place to intimidate or stifle science."

Also Friday, George C. Deutsch, 24, a NASA spokesman who resigned this week after allegations that he had edited scientists' writings to conform to administration views and tried to limit reporters' access to Hansen, e-mailed reporters to say there is a "culture war" in the government over climate change. Deutsch's resignation came after it was learned he had not graduated from Texas A&M University, as he claimed on his résumé.

"There is no pressure or mandate, from the Bush administration or elsewhere, to alter or water down scientific data at NASA, period," Deutsch said, adding that after being tasked to work with Hansen, "I quickly learned one thing: Dr. Hansen and his supporters have a very partisan agenda and ties reaching to the top of the Democratic Party.

"Anyone perceived to be a Republican, a Bush supporter or a Christian is singled out and labeled a threat to their views. I encourage anyone interested in this story to consider the other side, to consider Dr. Hansen' s true motivations and to consider the dangerous implications of only hearing out one side of the global warming debate," Deutsch said.


Americans say president shouldn't suspend rights

Americans say president shouldn't suspend rights

By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Most Americans believe a president should not be allowed to suspend constitutional guarantees in order to fight terrorism, a poll released on Friday said.

The poll, taken for the American Bar Association in the wake of the controversy generated by President Bush's domestic spying program, found the public divided over whether government eavesdropping on personal communications could ever be justified.

"As our poll shows, and legal scholars agree, the awesome power of government to penetrate citizens' most private communications must not be held in one set of hands," Michael Greco, the group's president, told a news conference.

"To prevent the very human temptation to abuse this power there must be checks and balances in the form of oversight by the courts and Congress," he said.

"I personally reject the false choice that is being offered Americans that they must give up their liberties to have security. We must protect both, and we can protect both," he added.

With the administration refusing to provide details of the eavesdropping program, which was a closely held secret until recently, the extent of any violations are unclear, Greco said.

The program, authorized by Bush in 2001, allows the National Security Agency to monitor the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens to track people with suspected ties to al Qaeda and other militant groups.

The White House has said warrantless eavesdropping is legal under Bush's Constitutional powers as commander-in-chief and a congressional authorization for the use of military force adopted days after the September 11 attacks.

The program bypassed secret courts created under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that grant warrants. Greco said if those courts do not work as they should, the administration should ask Congress to amend the law.

The Harris Interactive telephone survey of 1,045 adults taken February 3-6 found that 77 percent have reservations about the fundamental issues raised by the eavesdropping controversy, the ABA said in releasing the survey.

Of that group, 52 percent agreed that a president should never be able to "suspend the constitutional freedoms of people like you." Another 25 percent said constitutional freedoms should never be suspended unless authorized by a court or Congress.

Only 18 percent said a president could lift constitutional guarantees any time if it was necessary to protect the country and another 5 percent said they did not know or declined to answer. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.

A second question asking what would justify government eavesdropping on personal communications without a search warrant or court order found 45 percent saying such action would never be justified.

A further 48 percent were divided, with 22 percent saying it would be OK based on "an anonymous tip that you may be helping to plan a terrorist attack in the United States" and 21 percent saying it would be justified based on "someone's suspicion that you may be sending money to a terrorist organization."

ABA delegates plan to vote on Monday on a policy proposal calling on Bush "to abide by our constitutional system of checks and balances and respect the roles of Congress and the judiciary in protecting national security consistent with the Constitution." It also calls for a halt to the eavesdropping.


Thousands to join pro-Islam rally

Thousands to join pro-Islam rally

A mass rally by mainstream Muslims demonstrating against controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist is to be staged.

Organisers told BBC News they are expecting at least 30,000 people to go to central London's Trafalgar Square.

Public figures from across the political spectrum are due to speak.

The event aims to explain the views of moderate Muslims towards cartoons published in a Danish newspaper which led to worldwide protests.

Organisers also said it aims to dissociate the mainstream Muslim community from a "minority of extremists".

The rally on Saturday afternoon, called United Against Incitement and Islamophobia, has been organised by the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain and a number of Christian organisations, and has the backing of the Mayor of London.

Mayor Ken Livingstone singled out football thugs and extremists and warned them to stay away, saying police would halt any attempt to disrupt the demonstration.

Organiser Anas Altikriti, of the Muslim Association of Britain, said he was confident the demonstration would not be taken over by extremists.

He told BBC Five Live: "Our stewards are very vigilant, we're working very very closely with the police plus we have made absolutely sure that there will only be one official slogan on our T-shirts and on our placards, and that is 'united against incitement and united against islamophobia' - anything else is not down to the organisers."

'Civilised manner'

Protests held in London last week sparked outrage when demonstrators carried placards with messages which some said amounted to "incitement to murder".

Doctor Azam Tamimi, who is the director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, is due to speak at the demonstration and said it would be peaceful.

"The main purpose of the rally today is to object to what has been going on in a civilised manner.

"We have the right to be angry, but we have to do it within the remits of the law, and we have to respect the rights of others," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Steele Apologizes for Holocaust Remarks; Compared Stem Cell Research to Nazi Medical Experiments
Steele Apologizes for Holocaust Remarks
Compared Stem Cell Research to Nazi Medical Experiments

By Robert Barnes and Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writers

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele profusely apologized yesterday for comments linking stem cell research to Nazi experimentation, but the offhand analogy could undermine what had been a concerted effort by the Republican to run for the U.S. Senate as a moderate "bridge" between Democrats and Republicans in his left-leaning state.

Steele issued apologies in a radio interview and in phone conversations with Jewish leaders in Baltimore and Washington, and then continued to express regret throughout a series of stops in Prince George's County.

"I offended members of the Jewish community and members of the Maryland community," Steele said outside a Prince George's nursing home. "It was a remark that was an improper inference, because I never specifically said Holocaust. . . . And it did not reflect my attitude and my belief, and I am really sorry about the whole thing."

Besides offending those Steele was trying to befriend, some politicians and political observers said his remarks appeared to hurt him in several ways: putting him on the wrong side of a popular issue, reinforcing a worry among even some Republicans that he can be an accident-prone candidate in a high-profile race, and signaling to swing voters that he is more conservative than the almost-nonpartisan image he has cultivated.

"Some people could think he's not moderate . . . but a hard-right Republican," said University of Maryland Prof. Ronald Walters, who has been closely following Steele's campaign.

Keith Haller, who conducts polls for Maryland media and others, said his recent surveys show that Steele has "risen above the cacophony of partisan battles" in the state. "His popularity has been steadily soaring, so he certainly didn't need to engage on this issue, in such an awkward way."

In an appearance Thursday before the Baltimore Jewish Council, Steele responded to a question about stem cell research by saying he was "cautious" about the idea of "tinkering around with life," and added:

"Look, you of all folks know what happens when people decide they want to experiment on human beings, when they want to take your life and use it as a tool," Steele said, according to a recording of the event. "I know that as well from my community and our experience with slavery."

Jewish leaders, for the most part, accepted Steele's apology. Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said he considered it an exercise of bad judgment by a good man.

"He understands his remarks were offensive," Halber said. "People in the Jewish community are upset about them. What was behind the words were not the feelings of a hatemonger, though."

His Democratic opponents were glad Steele apologized but sharp in their criticism.

"Michael Steele does not have the right to compare the lifesaving potential of stem cell research to the barbarity of the Holocaust," said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, one of several Democrats running to replace retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D). "His remarks were offensive to the millions of Americans who stand to benefit [from] this research, as well as to Holocaust survivors and their families."

State Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld (D-Montgomery), the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, said she was "shocked by the ignorance of the statement." Another Senate candidate, former congressman and former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, said he also was offended by Steele's comments about slavery. "Any further comparison to equate slavery to stem cell research is a reach that I and others who are the descendants of slaves don't understand," he said.

Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who has recommended $20 million in state money for stem cell research but wants to let an outside panel decide which kind of cell research should be funded, tried to deflect criticism from his former running mate.

"I think after an adult, straight-up person makes a comment and then apologizes for the comment, unless you want to make a political deal out of it, or you want to cause some sort of political damage because you dislike his candidacy, what else can the guy do?" Ehrlich told the Associated Press.

Steele's Senate candidacy has been greatly aided by national Republican leaders, who recruited him to run believing he is the party's best hope. But Steele has studiously avoided following a GOP script in a state where President Bush is a help only in fundraising.

The stem cell issue is one in which Marylanders differ greatly from Bush and other prominent Republicans. Haller said that in his latest poll for the Baltimore Sun, 60 percent of the voters supported embryonic stem cell research; the state's increasingly important independent voters favored it 3 to 1, and even a plurality of Republicans are in favor.

Steele has cited his strong Catholic faith -- he spent several years as a seminarian -- in explaining his opposition to abortion and the death penalty, even though he said yesterday he does not let his religion enter into "policy discussions."

"It is a force in my life. I tried to share a little bit of that because most politicians get up and give you the pat, 30-second sound bite," Steele said. "I will continue to do that, but unfortunately in that process, there was an inference that was not right."

Steele was elected Maryland's first statewide African American officeholder as Ehrlich's running mate and has not campaigned on his own for such a high-profile job. He has regretted off-the-cuff remarks before.

Last summer, when news reports broke that Ehrlich had held a fundraiser at an all-white country club, Steele said he didn't care because "I don't play golf. It's not an issue with me." A couple of weeks later, he changed his mind and said, "The core issue there is, the perception of discrimination is just as insidious as the reality of discrimination." He said his first answer was "flippant."

Staff writer Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.


3 more representatives tied to lobbyist Abramoff

3 more representatives tied to lobbyist Abramoff

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three members of Congress have been linked to efforts by lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a former General Services Administration official to secure leases of government property for Abramoff's clients, according to court filings by federal prosecutors on Friday.

The filings in U.S. District Court do not allege any wrongdoing by the elected officials but list them in documents portraying David Safavian, a former GSA chief of staff, as an active adviser to Abramoff, giving the lobbyists tips on how to use members of Congress to navigate the agency's bureaucracy.

Abramoff is cooperating with federal investigators in a wide-ranging probe of corruption on Capitol Hill that threatens several powerful members of Congress and their staff members. Last month, he pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.

Safavian is charged with lying to a GSA ethics officer when he said Abramoff was not seeking business with the agency at the time the lobbyist paid for Safavian and several others to go on a golf outing to Scotland in August 2002.

At the time of the trip, prosecutors said, Abramoff was trying to get GSA approval for leases of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington for an Indian tribe to develop and for federal property in Silver Spring, Md., for use by a Jewish school.

Two of the elected officials referred to in Friday's filings have been identified in published reports as Reps. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, and Don Young, R-Alaska. According to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, the two representatives wrote to the GSA in September 2002, urging the agency to give preferential treatment to groups such as Indian tribes when evaluating development proposals for the Old Post Office.

LaTourette maintains he did nothing improper by advocating special opportunities for certain small businesses in areas known as HUBzones, or Historically Underutilized Business zones. His spokeswoman, Deborah Setliff, said that the letter was reviewed by Young's chief of staff and counsel and that it did not advocate any particular business over another.

A spokesman for Young did not return telephone calls.

Friday's filings by prosecutors refer to a third member of Congress, Rep. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va. Her name appears in e-mails that suggest she was trying to help Abramoff secure a GSA lease for land in Silver Spring for a religious school.

Capito claims to know nothing about the effort. "The action taken by her former chief of staff was done without her knowledge, approval or consent," said her spokesman, Joel Brubaker. "She was not aware of any contact with GSA of any type on this matter."

Mark Johnson, Capito's former chief of staff, said he did not bring the issue to Capito's attention. He said he was contacted by Neil Volz, a colleague of Abramoff's and a former chief of staff for Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

Johnson said Volz asked him to check on the status of a project involving the GSA. Johnson said he believes he called a friend at the GSA but doesn't recall the outcome.

Prosecutors included the e-mails in documents filed in response to a request by Safavian's lawyers to dismiss the indictment against him. Safavian's lawyers want a federal judge to throw out the charges on grounds there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

In their filing, prosecutors laid out a series of contacts between Abramoff and Safavian that show the former GSA official gave inside information and advice to the lobbyist.

Safavian used his personal e-mail during business hours to communicate with Abramoff several times, according to prosecutors. He also edited the draft of a letter that was probably sent under LaTourette and Young's names.

And Safavian advised Abramoff to tell his wife to use her maiden name during a meeting with GSA officials so she wouldn't draw attention to her politically connected husband's involvement in the project.

In a July 23, 2002, e-mail to a GSA official, Safavian discussed getting information about the Silver Spring site to Capito's office. But Volz discovered a complication the next day.

Volz told Abramoff that someone at the GSA wanted the congresswoman to put her request in writing. "We can't ask the most vulnerable Republican incumbent member of Congress in the House to put something in writing that can be made public," Volz wrote. "The congresswoman's office has already put the request in and you would think that would be enough!!!"

Associated Press writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Cheney authorized aide to leak in CIA case

Cheney authorized aide to leak in CIA case: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney directed his aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby to use classified material to discredit a critic of the Bush administration's Iraq war effort, the National Journal reported on Thursday.

Court papers released last week show that Libby was authorized to disclose classified information to news reporters by "his superiors," in an effort to counteract diplomat Joe Wilson's charge that the Bush administration twisted intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons to justify the 2003 invasion.

The National Journal, a U.S. weekly magazine, citing attorneys familiar with the matter, reported that Cheney was among those superiors referred to in a letter from prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to Libby's lawyers.

A lawyer for Cheney had no immediate comment.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, faces perjury and other charges in the leak of the identity of Wilson's wife Valerie Plame, a move that effectively ended her career at the CIA.

Libby has pleaded not guilty to five counts of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice.

Cheney's name has surfaced in other court documents as well. According to an appeals-court decision made public last Friday, "the vice-president informed Libby 'in an off sort of curiosity sort of fashion'" that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA one month before her identity was made public.

Both documents cite testimony Libby made to a grand jury.

Lawyers for Libby could not be reached for comment.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Cheney's efforts to discredit Wilson could have risked national security.

"The Vice President's vindictiveness in defending the misguided war in Iraq is obvious. If he used classified information to defend it, he should be prepared to take full responsibility," Kennedy said in a statement.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan declined to comment.

"Our policy is we're not going to discuss this while there's an ongoing legal proceeding," McClellan told reporters.


Abramoff says he met Bush "almost a dozen" times

Abramoff says he met Bush "almost a dozen" times

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jack Abramoff said in correspondence made public on Thursday that President Bush met him "almost a dozen" times, disputing White House claims Bush did not know the former lobbyist at the center of a corruption scandal.

"The guy saw me in almost a dozen settings, and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids. Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who knows," Abramoff wrote in an e-mail to Kim Eisler, national editor for the Washingtonian magazine.

Abramoff added that Bush also once invited him to his Texas ranch.

The messages were made public by the American Progress Action Fund, a liberal activist group. Eisler confirmed their accuracy to Reuters but said he did not intend them to become public.

"They reflect the feeling of frustration he has not just with Bush but with all these guys claiming they didn't know him," said Eisler, who knew Abramoff through a book he wrote about the Pequot Indian tribe.

Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud charges in early January and is cooperating with prosecutors in a corruption probe that could implicate lawmakers and officials across Washington.

Bush has said he never had a discussion with Abramoff and does not remember having his picture taken with him.

The White House has said Abramoff attended three Hanukkah receptions at the White House.

Eisler said he had seen five photographs of Abramoff with Bush, none taken at Hanukkah parties.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Thursday that the revelations did not prove Bush knew him well.

"I think as the president also indicated, he's taken at least five photos with many people in this room at the annual holiday reception. And so I think you need to put this in context," McClellan said.

Abramoff spokesman Andrew Blum declined to comment.

Abramoff raised more than $100,000 for Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, a feat that won him an invitation to Bush's ranch in August 2003, the National Journal reported at the time.

"I was invited during the 2004 campaign," Abramoff told Eisler.

Abramoff said he did not make the trip because as an Orthodox Jew he cannot travel on Saturdays.

In the wake of Abramoff's indictment, the Bush-Cheney campaign said it would donate to charity $6,000 in contributions made by Abramoff or his clients, but not the money he helped raise.

The White House has acknowledged he participated in a few staff-level meetings at the White House.

Although the Abramoff scandal has mostly focused attention so far on prominent House Republicans, including former Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, at least two Bush administration officials have been implicated.

David Safavian, a former White House budget official, has been charged with lying and obstructing investigations into his 2002 golf outing to Scotland with Abramoff.

Stephen Griles, the former No. 2 official at the Interior Department, has come under scrutiny after allegations he tried to block a casino at Abramoff's request.


White House Knew of Levee's Failure on Night of Storm

The New York Times
White House Knew of Levee's Failure on Night of Storm

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 — In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.

But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Marty Bahamonde, first heard of a major levee breach Monday morning. By late Monday afternoon, Mr. Bahamonde had hitched a ride on a Coast Guard helicopter over the breach at the 17th Street Canal to confirm the extensive flooding. He then telephoned his report to FEMA headquarters in Washington, which notified the Homeland Security Department.

"FYI from FEMA," said an e-mail message from the agency's public affairs staff describing the helicopter flight, sent Monday night at 9:27 to the chief of staff of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and recently unearthed by investigators. Conditions, the message said, "are far more serious than media reports are currently reflecting. Finding extensive flooding and more stranded people than they had thought — also a number of fires."

Michael D. Brown, who was the director of FEMA until he resigned under pressure on Sept. 12, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he personally notified the White House of this news that night, though he declined to identify the official he spoke to.

White House officials have confirmed to Congressional investigators that the report of the levee break arrived there at midnight, and Trent Duffy, the White House spokesman, acknowledged as much in an interview this week, though he said it was surrounded with conflicting reports.

But the alert did not seem to register. Even the next morning, President Bush, on vacation in Texas, was feeling relieved that New Orleans had "dodged the bullet," he later recalled. Mr. Chertoff, similarly confident, flew Tuesday to Atlanta for a briefing on avian flu. With power out from the high winds and movement limited, even news reporters in New Orleans remained unaware of the full extent of the levee breaches until Tuesday.

The federal government let out a sigh of relief when in fact it should have been sounding an "all hands on deck" alarm, the investigators have found.

This chain of events, along with dozens of other critical flashpoints in the Hurricane Katrina saga, has for the first time been laid out in detail following five months of work by two Congressional committees that have assembled nearly 800,000 pages of documents, testimony and interviews from more than 250 witnesses. Investigators now have the documentation to pinpoint some of the fundamental errors and oversights that combined to produce what is universally agreed to be a flawed government response to the worst natural disaster in modern American history.

On Friday, Mr. Brown, the former FEMA director, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He is expected to confirm that he notified the White House on that Monday, the day the hurricane hit, that the levee had given way, the city was flooding and his crews were overwhelmed.

"There is no question in my mind that at the highest levels of the White House they understood how grave the situation was," Mr. Brown said in the interview.

The problem, he said, was the handicapping of FEMA when it was turned into a division of the Homeland Security Department in 2003.

"The real story is with this new structure," he said. "Why weren't more things done, or what prevented or delayed Mike Brown from being able to do what he would have done and did do in any other disaster?"

Although Mr. Bahamonde said in October that he had notified Mr. Brown that Monday, it was not known until recently what Mr. Brown or the Homeland Security Department did with that information, or when the White House was told.

Missteps at All Levels

It has been known since the earliest days of the storm that all levels of government — from the White House to the Department of Homeland Security to the Louisiana Capitol to New Orleans City Hall — were unprepared, uncommunicative and phlegmatic in protecting Gulf Coast residents from the floodwaters and their aftermath. But an examination of the latest evidence by The New York Times shines a new light on the key players involved in the important turning points: what they said, what they did and what they did not do, all of which will soon be written up in the committees' investigative reports.

Among the findings that emerge in the mass of documents and testimony were these:

¶Federal officials knew long before the storm showed up on the radar that 100,000 people in New Orleans had no way to escape a major hurricane on their own and that the city had finished only 10 percent of a plan for how to evacuate its largely poor, African-American population.

¶Mr. Chertoff failed to name a principal federal official to oversee the response before the hurricane arrived, an omission a top Pentagon official acknowledged to investigators complicated the coordination of the response. His department also did not plan enough to prevent a conflict over which agency should be in charge of law enforcement support. And Mr. Chertoff was either poorly informed about the levee break or did not recognize the significance of the initial report about it, investigators said.

¶The Louisiana transportation secretary, Johnny B. Bradberry, who had legal responsibility for the evacuation of thousands of people in nursing homes and hospitals, admitted bluntly to investigators, "We put no plans in place to do any of this."

¶Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans at first directed his staff to prepare a mandatory evacuation of his city on Saturday, two days before the storm hit, but he testified that he had not done so that day while he and other city officials struggled to decide if they should exempt hospitals and hotels from the order. The mandatory evacuation occurred on Sunday, and the delay exacerbated the difficulty in moving people away from the storm.

¶The New Orleans Police Department unit assigned to the rescue effort, despite many years' worth of flood warnings and requests for money, had just three small boats and no food, water or fuel to supply its emergency workers.

¶Investigators could find no evidence that food and water supplies were formally ordered for the Convention Center, where more than 10,000 evacuees had assembled, until days after the city had decided to open it as a backup emergency shelter. FEMA had planned to have 360,000 ready-to-eat meals delivered to the city and 15 trucks of water in advance of the storm. But only 40,000 meals and five trucks of water had arrived.

Representative Thomas M. Davis III, Republican of Virginia, chairman of the special House committee investigating the hurricane response, said the only government agency that performed well was the National Weather Service, which correctly predicted the force of the storm. But no one heeded the message, he said.

"The president is still at his ranch, the vice president is still fly-fishing in Wyoming, the president's chief of staff is in Maine," Mr. Davis said. "In retrospect, don't you think it would have been better to pull together? They should have had better leadership. It is disengagement."

One of the greatest mysteries for both the House and Senate committees has been why it took so long, even after Mr. Bahamonde filed his urgent report on the Monday the storm hit, for federal officials to appreciate that the levee had broken and that New Orleans was flooding.

Eyewitness to Devastation

As his helicopter approached the site, Mr. Bahamonde testified in October, there was no mistaking what had happened: large sections of the levee had fallen over, leaving the section of the city on the collapsed side entirely submerged, but the neighborhood on the other side relatively dry. He snapped a picture of the scene with a small camera.

"The situation is only going to get worse," he said he warned Mr. Brown, then the FEMA director, whom he called about 8 p.m. Monday Eastern time to report on his helicopter tour.

"Thank you," he said Mr. Brown replied. "I am now going to call the White House."

Citing restrictions placed on him by his lawyers, Mr. Brown declined to tell House investigators during testimony if he had actually made that call. White House aides have urged administration officials not to discuss any conversations with the president or his top advisors and declined to release e-mail messages sent among Mr. Bush's senior advisors.

But investigators have found the e-mail message referring to Mr. Bahamonde's helicopter survey that was sent to John F. Wood, chief of staff to Secretary Chertoff at 9:27 p.m. They have also found a summary of Mr. Bahamonde's observations that was issued at 10:30 p.m. and an 11:05 p.m. e-mail message to Michael Jackson, the deputy secretary of homeland security. Each message describes in detail the extensive flooding that was taking place in New Orleans after the levee collapse.

Given this chain of events, investigators have repeatedly questioned why Mr. Bush and Mr. Chertoff stated in the days after the storm that the levee break did not happen until Tuesday, as they made an effort to explain why they initially thought the storm had passed without the catastrophe that some had feared.

"The hurricane started to depart the area on Monday, and then Tuesday morning the levee broke and the water started to flood into New Orleans," Mr. Chertoff said on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Sept. 4, the weekend after the hurricane hit.

Mr. Chertoff and White House officials have said that they were referring to official confirmation that the levee had broken, which they say they received Tuesday morning from the Army Corps of Engineers. They also say there were conflicting reports all day Monday about whether a breach had occurred and noted that they were not alone in failing to recognize the growing catastrophe.

Mr. Duffy, the White House spokesman, said it would not have made much difference even if the White House had realized the significance of the midnight report. "Like it or not, you cannot fix a levee overnight, or in an hour, or even six hours," he said.

But Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said it was obvious to her in retrospect that Mr. Chertoff, perhaps in deference to Mr. Brown's authority, was not paying close enough attention to the events in New Orleans and that the federal response to the disaster may have been slowed as a result.

"Secretary Chertoff was too disengaged from the process," Ms. Collins said in an interview.

Compounding the problem, once Mr. Chertoff learned of the levee break on Tuesday, he could not reach Mr. Brown, his top emergency response official, for an entire day because Mr. Brown was on helicopter tours of the damage.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the homeland security committee, said the government confusion reminded him of the period surrounding the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Information was in different places, in that case prior to the attack," Mr. Lieberman said, "and it wasn't reaching the key decision makers in a coordinated way for them to take action."

Russ Knocke, a homeland security spokesman, said that although Mr. Chertoff had been "intensely involved in monitoring the storm" he had not actually been told about the report of the levee breach until Tuesday, after he arrived in Atlanta.

"No one is satisfied with the response in the early days," Mr. Knocke said.

But he rejected criticism by Senator Collins and others that Mr. Chertoff was disengaged.

"He was not informed of it," Mr. Knocke said. "It is certainly a breakdown. And through an after-action process, that is something we will address."

The day before the hurricane made landfall, the Homeland Security Department issued a report predicting that it could lead to a levee breach that could submerge New Orleans for months and leave 100,000 people stranded. Yet despite these warnings, state, federal and local officials acknowledged to investigators that there was no coordinated effort before the storm arrived to evacuate nursing homes and hospitals or others in the urban population without cars.

Focus on Highway Plan

Mr. Bradberry, the state transportation secretary, told an investigator that he had focused on improving the highway evacuation plan for the general public with cars and had not attended to his responsibility to remove people from hospitals and nursing homes. The state even turned down an offer for patient evacuation assistance from the federal government.

In fact, the city was desperately in need of help. And this failure would have deadly consequences. Only 21 of the 60 or so nursing homes were cleared of residents before the storm struck. Dozens of lives were lost in hospitals and nursing homes.

One reason the city was unable to help itself, investigators said, is that it never bought the basic equipment needed to respond to the long-predicted catastrophe. The Fire Department had asked for inflatable boats and generators, as well as an emergency food supply, but none were provided, a department official told investigators.

Timothy P. Bayard, a police narcotics commander assigned to lead a water rescue effort, said that with just three boats, not counting the two it commandeered and almost no working radios, his small team spent much of its time initially just trying to rescue detectives who themselves were trapped by rising water.

The investigators also determined that the federal Department of Transportation was not asked until Wednesday to provide buses to evacuate the Superdome and the convention center, meaning that evacuees sat there for perhaps two more days longer than necessary.

Mr. Brown acknowledged to investigators that he wished, in retrospect, that he had moved much earlier to turn over major aspects of the response effort to the Department of Defense. It was not until the middle of the week, he said, that he asked the military to take over the delivery and distribution of water, food and ice.

"In hindsight I should have done it right then," Mr. Brown told the House, referring to the Sunday before the storm hit.


Lawmakers seek oversight of Bush spying program

Lawmakers seek oversight of Bush spying program

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic and Republican lawmakers called on Thursday for stronger congressional oversight of President George W. Bush's domestic spying program, despite a new White House gesture of openness toward Congress.

A day after the White House began sharing details of the program with the two congressional intelligence committees, Republican Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio said Congress still needed to adopt new legislation to ensure the program was legal under the Constitution.

"We can end this controversy about the constitutionality of this program very simply, and that is to deal with it by legislation," said DeWine, a member of the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees.

He also said it was "in the best interests of this country" for the Senate intelligence committee to have regular oversight of the program, which has caused an outcry among Democrats and some Republicans.

DeWine and other members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence got their first formal briefing on the program on Thursday from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and deputy U.S. intelligence chief, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden.

But Democrats emerged from the closed-door session to express frustration over what they called White House stonewalling.

"Where we really wanted hard information that was important to us, that gave us the size and the scope and the reach and the depth, they were not forthcoming," said Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, the panel's ranking Democrat.


Rockefeller said the committee would vote on whether to launch a full Senate inquiry at a February 16 business meeting. "The momentum of that may do more to bring about a resolution than anything else," he said. "They cannot shut us out."

The program, which Bush authorized in 2001, allows the National Security Agency to monitor the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens to track people with ties to al Qaeda and other militant groups.

Up to now, the administration has informed only eight lawmakers, known as the "Gang of Eight," about its existence. But the White House has come under increasing pressure to brief the full Senate and House of Representatives intelligence panels.

On Wednesday, the White House allowed Gonzales and Hayden to share some details of the program with House lawmakers.

Some Republicans worry that the wider discussion would allow lead to the release of classified information that could jeopardize the program.

"I am most concerned -- most concerned -- over the loss of the capability of this program, which could have dire consequences," said Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the Senate intelligence panel's Republican chairman.

Two Senate Democrats -- Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin -- queried the chief executives of AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. in a Thursday letter about whether their companies have been asked to participate in the program.

The White House maintains that warrantless eavesdropping is legal under Bush's Constitutional powers as commander-in-chief and a congressional authorization for the use of military force adopted days after the September 11 attacks.

Critics say Bush may have overstepped his authority under the Constitution and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is drafting a measure requiring the White House to submit the program for review by a secret federal court that handles eavesdropping warrant applications.

But Roberts said any effort to address the program with new legislation would emerge from his intelligence committee.


Group Claims New Orleans Election Plans Hurt Blacks; Lawsuit Filed

ABC News
Group Sues Over New Orleans Election Plans
Group Claims New Orleans Election Plans Hurt Blacks; Lawsuit Filed
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - An advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging plans for city elections in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, alleging the process would keep blacks out of elected office.

The Advancement Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that has been active in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, claims the plan relies too much on cumbersome absentee voting. Most displaced voters are black.

The group wants changes to the election plan, including polling stations outside the state.

Meanwhile, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People warned that it might organize protests and challenge the elections in court unless displaced voters are given greater consideration in plans to hold elections April 22.

"Everything is on the table," said John Jackson, the NAACP's chief policy officer.

City elections were originally scheduled for Feb. 4 but were postponed after Katrina smashed polling places, dispersed election workers and displaced about two-thirds of the city's population.

Among other races, voters will cast ballots for mayor. So far, the most striking aspect of that race is the number of prominent white business leaders and politicians who have jumped into the fray.

Incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin remains the only black candidate among more than half a dozen hopefuls.

Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, the son of former Mayor Moon Landrieu and brother of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is considering a run. Moon Landrieu, who was elected in 1970 and left office in 1978, was the last white mayor.

"Everything reflects the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the demographics of the city," said Silas Lee, a New Orleans political analyst and pollster. "That impacted how many white candidates perceive their political fortunes."

Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, went further and charged that "there may be an effort to elect white leadership and create a city that is not welcoming to having the residents return."

State officials have been working to try to make sure evacuees can vote. Secretary of State Al Ater plans to send out nearly 1 million notices to tell displaced voters how to cast ballots by mail.

But Jackson said having displaced people cast ballots by mail may leave many people out of the electoral process.

Ater did not immediately return a phone call Thursday.

In the meantime, the state Legislature is working on bills that would make it easier for evacuees to vote. For example, one bill would set up polling places in cities around Louisiana.


Judge Dismisses Penultimate Ohio Lawsuit Stemming From 2004 Presidential Race

ABC News
Judge Dismisses Penultimate Ohio Lawsuit
Judge Dismisses Penultimate Ohio Lawsuit Stemming From 2004 Presidential Race
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit over Ohio's recount of the 2004 presidential election, leaving only one court challenge remaining from the state's role in the re-election of President Bush.

U.S. District Judge James Carr in Toledo threw out the suit filed by a voting rights group on behalf of the Green Party and Libertarian candidates. Tuesday's dismissal, barring an appeal, leaves active only a suit filed by the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

The judge's ruling came in a challenge by the National Voting Rights Institute to the recount that showed Bush beat Democratic challenger John Kerry by about 118,000 votes out of 5.5 million cast.

The institute's initial lawsuit sought to force the state to begin the recount before the vote was certified Dec. 6, 2004.

The institute complained that the recount would not be finished until after the Electoral College vote made Bush's election official Dec. 13 and thus violated federal law. The recount was completed Dec. 28.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell sided against the institute, noting that state law mandated the recount could not begin before certification.

States generally are exempt from election lawsuits unless a plaintiff can prove that a state's policy could affect future races, which the institute said Blackwell's interpretation could do.

But the judge ruled that Blackwell's interpretation applied only to the 2004 election and would have no bearing on future elections.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Petro was he was pleased with the ruling.

The institute said any decision to appeal would be up to David Cobb, the Green Party candidate, and the Libertarians' Michael Badnarik.

The League of Women Voters' suit says a faulty elections system violated the equal protection and due process of some Ohio voters. Some voters waited in line for hours because there were too few voting machines in many precincts, the league contends.

The state has said the suit, which does not challenge the 2004 results, is frivolous and should be dismissed.

On the Net:

National Voting Rights Institute:

League of Women Voters of Ohio:


Climate 'warmest for millennium'

Climate 'warmest for millennium'
By Paul Rincon
BBC News science reporter

In the late 20th Century, the northern hemisphere experienced its most widespread warmth for 1,200 years, according to the journal Science.

The findings support evidence pointing to unprecedented recent warming of the climate linked to greenhouse emissions.

University of East Anglia researchers measured changes in fossil shells, tree rings, ice cores and other past temperature records or "proxies".

They also looked at people's diaries from the last 750 years.

Timothy Osborn and Keith Briffa of UEA analysed instrument measurements of temperature from 1856 onwards to establish the geographic extent of recent warming.

Then they compared this data with evidence dating back as far as AD 800.

The analysis confirmed periods of significant warmth in the Northern Hemisphere from AD 890 - 1170 (the so-called "Medieval Warm Period") and for much colder periods from 1580 - 1850 (the "Little Ice Age").

Natural records

The UEA team showed that the present warm period is the most widespread temperature anomaly of any kind since the ninth century.

"The last 100 years is more striking than either [the Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age]. It is a period of widespread warmth affecting nearly all the records that we analysed from the same time," co-author Timothy Osborn told the BBC.

Osborn and Briffa used 14 sets of temperature records from different locations across the Northern Hemisphere.

The records included long life evergreen trees growing in Scandinavia, Siberia and the Rockies which had been cored to reveal the patterns of wide and narrow tree rings over time. Wider rings related to warmer temperatures.

The chemical composition of ice from cores drilled in the Greenland ice sheets revealed which years were warmer than others.

Dear diary

The researchers used proxy data developed from the diaries of people living in the Netherlands and Belgium during the past 750 years that revealed, for example, the years when the canals froze.

"These records extend over many centuries and even thousands of years. We simply counted how many of those records indicated that, in any one year, temperatures were warmer than average for the region they came from," said Dr Osborn.

Professor John Waterhouse, director of the Environmental Sciences Research Centre Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge commented: "Although we're getting increasingly accurate measurements of present-day temperature, we've got nothing like that from the past to compare those with.

"There's much uncertainty in past reconstructions. You've got to look at the reconstructed data in the past in light of the likely errors that those data have."

But he added: "As we get more and more evidence in, it is looking as if the current period is the warmest for over 1,000 years."

In November, Science published a paper showing atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane are higher now than at any time in the past 650,000 years.


Ethics scandal looms over Republicans' meeting

Ethics scandal looms over Republicans' meeting

By Thomas Ferraro

CAMBRIDGE, Maryland (Reuters) - Republicans in the House of Representatives, rocked by ethics scandals, met in a secluded Maryland town on Thursday, hoping to regroup under new leadership and position themselves to retain power in November's elections.

A week after electing Rep. John Boehner of Ohio as majority leader to succeed indicted Texan Tom DeLay, Republicans opened a three-day retreat at a time when public opinion polls show broad discontent with Congress and the White House.

"I'm going to tell them they face challenges and opportunities," Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman said shortly before addressing the gathering at a waterfront hotel in Cambridge, a two-hour drive from Washington.

"I'm going to tell them that the public clearly wants reform -- that the public believes that the country needs to continue reforming things if we are going to be on the right track," Mehlman told reporters, referring to lobbying practices on Capitol Hill and such basics as health care, education and national security.

Lobbying scandals and Justice Department investigations involving Republican lawmakers and former aides threaten the party's control of the House, which it has held since 1995.

Boehner said the retreat would allow for a "period of renewal" and bonding. He said it would take time to unite his 231-member caucus on a lobbying reform package, one that party leaders said would seek input from Democrats.

"We're going to have, frankly, an ethics seminar for all our members and staff so that they know what the rules are, and I think it'll help ensure that members and staff live up to those rules," Boehner said.


In the wake of a scandal involving Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Boehner has called for more public disclosure of the relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists rather than a fundamental overhaul of the way Congress does business.

Unlike some of his colleagues, he is opposed to abolishing "earmark" spending for pet projects, urging instead more transparency.

A number of Republicans have been drawn into the investigation of Abramoff, who pleaded guilty last month to fraud charges and agreed to help prosecutors in their corruption probe.

Separately, Republican Randy Cunningham of California resigned from the House in November after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for help in securing Defense Department contracts.

Boehner was the surprise winner of a House Republican leadership election last week, defeating Roy Blunt of Missouri. DeLay was forced to step down as majority leader last year after he was indicted in Texas on campaign-related felony charges.

President George W. Bush was scheduled to address House Republicans on Friday. Bush was expected to focus on his $2.77 trillion proposed federal budget that would boost defense spending, slow Medicare's growth and cut domestic programs in an effort to soothe Republican frustrations over high deficits.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan)


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Secret Court's Judges Were Warned About NSA Spy Data; Program May Have Led Improperly to Warrants
Secret Court's Judges Were Warned About NSA Spy Data
Program May Have Led Improperly to Warrants

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer

Twice in the past four years, a top Justice Department lawyer warned the presiding judge of a secret surveillance court that information overheard in President Bush's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to obtain wiretap warrants in the court, according to two sources with knowledge of those events.

The revelations infuriated U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly -- who, like her predecessor, Royce C. Lamberth, had expressed serious doubts about whether the warrantless monitoring of phone calls and e-mails ordered by Bush was legal. Both judges had insisted that no information obtained this way be used to gain warrants from their court, according to government sources, and both had been assured by administration officials it would never happen.

The two heads of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court were the only judges in the country briefed by the administration on Bush's program. The president's secret order, issued sometime after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, allows the National Security Agency to monitor telephone calls and e-mails between people in the United States and contacts overseas.

James A. Baker, the counsel for intelligence policy in the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, discovered in 2004 that the government's failure to share information about its spying program had rendered useless a federal screening system that the judges had insisted upon to shield the court from tainted information. He alerted Kollar-Kotelly, who complained to Justice, prompting a temporary suspension of the NSA spying program, the sources said.

Yet another problem in a 2005 warrant application prompted Kollar-Kotelly to issue a stern order to government lawyers to create a better firewall or face more difficulty obtaining warrants.

The two judges' discomfort with the NSA spying program was previously known. But this new account reveals the depth of their doubts about its legality and their behind-the-scenes efforts to protect the court from what they considered potentially tainted evidence. The new accounts also show the degree to which Baker, a top intelligence expert at Justice, shared their reservations and aided the judges.

Both judges expressed concern to senior officials that the president's program, if ever made public and challenged in court, ran a significant risk of being declared unconstitutional, according to sources familiar with their actions. Yet the judges believed they did not have the authority to rule on the president's power to order the eavesdropping, government sources said, and focused instead on protecting the integrity of the FISA process.

It was an odd position for the presiding judges of the FISA court, the secret panel created in 1978 in response to a public outcry over warrantless domestic spying by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. The court's appointees, chosen by then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, were generally veteran jurists with a pro-government bent, and their classified work is considered a powerful tool for catching spies and terrorists.

The FISA court secretly grants warrants for wiretaps, telephone record traces and physical searches to the Justice Department, whose lawyers must show they have probable cause to believe that a person in the United States is the agent of a foreign power or government. Between 1979 and 2004, it approved 18,748 warrants and rejected five.

Lamberth, the presiding judge at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, and Kollar-Kotelly, who took over in May 2002, have repeatedly declined to comment on the program or their efforts to protect the FISA court. A Justice Department spokesman also declined to comment.

Both presiding judges agreed not to disclose the secret program to the 10 other FISA judges, who routinely handled some of the government's most highly classified secrets.

So early in 2002, the wary court and government lawyers developed a compromise. Any case in which the government listened to someone's calls without a warrant, and later developed information to seek a FISA warrant for that same suspect, was to be carefully "tagged" as having involved some NSA information. Generally, there were fewer than 10 cases each year, the sources said.

According to government officials familiar with the program, the presiding FISA judges insisted that information obtained through NSA surveillance not form the basis for obtaining a warrant and that, instead, independently gathered information provide the justification for FISA monitoring in such cases. They also insisted that these cases be presented only to the presiding judge.

Lamberth and Kollar-Kotelly derived significant comfort from the trust they had in Baker, the government's liaison to the FISA court. He was a stickler-for-rules career lawyer steeped in foreign intelligence law, and had served as deputy director of the office before becoming the chief in 2001.

Baker also had privately expressed hesitation to his bosses about whether the domestic spying program conflicted with the FISA law, a government official said. Justice higher-ups viewed him as suspect, but they also recognized that he had the judges' confidence and kept him in the pivotal position of obtaining warrants to spy on possible terrorists.

In 2004, Baker warned Kollar-Kotelly he had a problem with the tagging system. He had concluded that the NSA was not providing him with a complete and updated list of the people it had monitored, so Justice could not definitively know -- and could not alert the court -- if it was seeking FISA warrants for people already spied on, government officials said.

Kollar-Kotelly complained to then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, and her concerns led to a temporary suspension of the program. The judge required that high-level Justice officials certify the information was complete -- or face possible perjury charges.

In 2005, Baker learned that at least one government application for a FISA warrant probably contained NSA information that was not made clear to the judges, the government officials said. Some administration officials explained to Kollar-Kotelly that a low-level Defense Department employee unfamiliar with court disclosure procedures had made a mistake.

Kollar-Kotelly asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to ensure that wouldn't happen again, government officials said.

Baker declined to comment through an office assistant, who referred questions about his FISA work to a Justice Department spokesman. Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith also declined to comment and referred questions to Justice officials. Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department could not discuss its work with the FISA court.

"The department always strives to meet the highest ethical and professional standards in its appearances before any court, including the FISA court," Roehrkasse said. "This is especially true when department attorneys appear before a court on an ex parte basis, as is the case in the FISA court."

Shortly after the warrantless eavesdropping program began, then-NSA Director Michael V. Hayden and Ashcroft made clear in private meetings that the president wanted to detect possible terrorist activity before another attack. They also made clear that, in such a broad hunt for suspicious patterns and activities, the government could never meet the FISA court's probable-cause requirement, government officials said.

So it confused the FISA court judges when, in their recent public defense of the program, Hayden and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales insisted that NSA analysts do not listen to calls unless they have a reasonable belief that someone with a known link to terrorism is on one end of the call. At a hearing Monday, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the "reasonable belief" standard is merely the "probable cause" standard by another name.

Several FISA judges said they also remain puzzled by Bush's assertion that the court was not "agile" or "nimble" enough to help catch terrorists. The court had routinely approved emergency wiretaps 72 hours after they had begun, as FISA allows, and the court's actions in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks suggested that its judges were hardly unsympathetic to the needs of their nation at war.

On Sept. 12, Bush asked new FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III in a Cabinet meeting whether it was safe for commercial air traffic to resume, according to senior government officials. Mueller had to acknowledge he could not give a reliable assessment.

Mueller and Justice officials went to Lamberth, who agreed that day to expedited procedures to issue FISA warrants for eavesdropping, a government official said.

The requirement for detailed paperwork was greatly eased, allowing the NSA to begin eavesdropping the next day on anyone suspected of a link to al Qaeda, every person who had ever been a member or supporter of militant Islamic groups, and everyone ever linked to a terrorist watch list in the United States or abroad, the official said.

In March 2002, the FBI and Pakistani police arrested Abu Zubaida, then the third-ranking al Qaeda operative, in Pakistan. When agents found Zubaida's laptop computer, a senior law enforcement source said, they discovered that the vast majority of people he had been communicating with were being monitored under FISA warrants or international spying efforts.

"Finally, we got some comfort" that surveillance efforts were working, said a government official familiar with Zubaida's arrest.


Records Show New House Majority Leader John Boehner Rents Washington Aparment From Lobbyist

ABC News
Records Show Boehner Rents From Lobbyist
Records Show New House Majority Leader John Boehner Rents Washington Aparment From Lobbyist
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader John Boehner rents a basement apartment from a lobbyist whose clients had an interest in legislation overseen or sponsored by Boehner, according to lobbying records.

Boehner, R-Ohio, pays $1,600 a month rent for the apartment owned by lobbyist John Milne and his wife, Debra Anderson, Boehner spokesman Don Seymour Jr. said.

"It is conceivable that John Milne may have lobbied Boehner on a few occasions over the years, but we are not aware of any specific instances of it, and we are certain no lobbying has taken place during the time in which John Boehner has been renting the property," Seymour said.

Boehner, elected majority leader by his Republican colleagues last week, is involved in GOP efforts to reform lobbying rules, a consequence of influence peddling by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in a Capitol Hill corruption investigation after pleading guilty last month to conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.

Milne did not respond to a request for comment.

Lobbying records show that he represented Buca di Beppo and Parasole Restaurant Holdings Inc. both restaurant companies to lobby on the minimum wage, an issue handled by the Education and the Workforce Committee chaired by Boehner. The restaurant industry has opposed increases in the minimum wage, which has not risen since 1997.

Milne also represented the parent company, Buca Inc., to lobby for the Small Business Tax Fairness Act, which had provisions to quicken tax breaks for restaurant buildings. While the measure did not go through Boehner's committee, he was among the sponsors. The proposed speedup in depreciation is a major objective for the restaurant industry.

Seymour, the Boehner spokesman, said the rental price of the apartment represented a fair market value, based on similar rental costs in the area near the U.S. Capitol.

He said that Boehner first met Debra Anderson during the early 1990s when she worked in the administration of George H.W. Bush and met Milne in the late 1990s.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Republican Conference, composed of all the Republicans in the chamber, named a registered lobbyist for the Securities Industry Association as its chief of staff.

Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, cited Rachel Robinson's experience, not only as a vice president of the securities trade group but as a director of operations for former Rep. Newt Gingrich when he was speaker of the House.


Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay Lands Spot on Appropriations Committee

ABC News
DeLay Lands Coveted Appropriations Spot
Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay Lands Spot on Appropriations Committee
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, forced to step down as the No. 2 Republican in the House, scored a soft landing Wednesday as GOP leaders rewarded him with a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.

DeLay, R-Texas, also claimed a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is currently investigating an influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his dealings with lawmakers. The subcommittee also has responsibility over NASA a top priority for DeLay, since the Johnson Space Center is located in his Houston-area district.

"Allowing Tom DeLay to sit on a committee in charge of giving out money is like putting Michael Brown back in charge of FEMA Republicans in Congress just can't seem to resist standing by their man," said Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

GOP leaders also named California Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee. Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, vacated that post after winning a campaign to replace DeLay.

McKeon is a seven-term conservative who has a generally good relationship with educators. He authored a 2001 law to remove disincentives for workers who would have lost part of their Social Security benefits when switching jobs to become public school teachers.

DeLay was able to rejoin the powerful Appropriations panel he was a member until becoming majority leader in 2003 because of a vacancy created after the resignation of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. Cunningham pleaded guilty in November to charges relating to accepting $2.4 million in bribes for government business and other favors.


House Committee Squashes Democratic Queries About Torture

ABC News
House Committee Squashes Torture Queries
House Committee Squashes Democratic Queries About Torture
By WILLIAM C. MANN Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Republicans easily defeated three resolutions seeking information about the Bush administration's policies on torture after a heated committee hearing.

Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said Democrats who submitted the resolutions should "at least silently confess to themselves that their actions pose real dangers to our country."

Hyde accused Democrats of playing politics, with an eye on November's congressional elections, by offering the three resolutions demanding:

Information on a practice that has been called extraordinary rendition, or sending suspects abroad to countries where they would allegedly be tortured for information.

Documents about U.S. policies regarding U.N. anti-torture conventions.

Documents and records involving Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's December trip to Europe, during which she was dogged by reports of alleged secret European jails.

All three proposed resolutions were defeated on almost straight party-line votes.

The committee's senior Democrat, Rep. Tom Lantos of California, denied Hyde's accusations of partisan motivation.


Wikipedia's Help From the Hill; Edits Lead Site to Block Some Lawmakers' Offices
Wikipedia's Help From the Hill
Edits Lead Site to Block Some Lawmakers' Offices

By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer

The scope of the scandal keeps growing, and now that an investigation has been launched, a growing list of Capitol Hill members and their staff appear to be involved.

No, this isn't about fallout from the shenanigans of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. This concerns Wikipedia -- the online encyclopedia written and edited by anyone who wants to contribute -- and the suspected perpetrators of untruths about certain lawmakers.

Recent reports about editorial antics taking place on the site -- selective erasures of past faux pas, outright insults and dozens of other politically motivated revisions -- prompted Wikipedia to block temporarily some addresses on Capitol Hill from being able to edit entries.

At the same time, Wikinews, the affiliated news site about Wikipedia, launched an investigation into changes from Senate offices. Wayne Saewyc, a volunteer Wikinews editor, designed a computer program to match up more than 65,000 possible Internet addresses to offending changes, and it traced them back to various lawmakers' offices. (A similar gumshoe tactic could not be used on House offices, because those computers share an Internet address, according to Wikipedia and Wikinews).

This crime-scene-style investigation points to staff members of at least five offices: Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

In all cases the edits removed factually accurate but unflattering descriptions of the lawmakers, and in many cases they added some beautifying language describing awards or glorifying legislative records.

An entry for Feinstein removed references to her net worth and a $190,000 fine she paid for not disclosing that her husband, Richard C. Blum, had guaranteed her gubernatorial campaign loans in 1990.

Edits allegedly made by Burns's staff removed references to his calling Arabs "ragheads," inserting a paragraph instead called "A Voice for the Farmer" that touted his advocacy for agriculture.

"I don't know why this is a story," said James Pendleton, a spokesman for Burns. "There is no sanctity in Wikipedia. Somebody will always come and change it." He declined to comment on Wikipedia's assertion that some of the changes came from his office.

The edits to Feinstein's entry were done by a former staffer acting alone, said Howard Gantman, a spokesman for the senator. "Online encyclopedias are prone to errors," he said, but staff members have been directed to coordinate changes with the senator's communications people, who are to contact Wikipedia directly.

Wikipedia maintains that, by soliciting edits from all volunteers, the site generally arrives at a neutral description of people and events -- a contention challenged by some on the Hill.

"There were several factual things that were wrong," said Tom Steward, a spokesman for Coleman, defending the staff's changes to the senator's voting record. "There are some subjective things in there, but obviously, as the editors of their site, they have the final say in what they write."

The edits to Biden's entry removed and altered references to incidents of alleged plagiarism. Biden spokesman Norm Kurz said changes that were "made to Biden's site by this office were designed to make it more fair and accurate."

Harkin's spokeswoman, Allison Dobson, said that the alterations were made by a junior staff member and that the office has reemphasized a policy that any changes must be authorized.

Saewyc, the Wikinews editor, said he solicited comment from the senators' offices but has not received any replies.

Meanwhile, some congressional offices are doing their own sleuthing. Staff members for Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) traced one offending change -- inserting that "he likes to beat his wife and children" -- to an Internet address in Omaha. But the person couldn't be identified from the general address, said Jen Rae Hein, a spokeswoman for the congressman.

Instead, the office called Wikipedia, which put a temporary freeze on edits on Terry's entry and took down all references to the offending edit.


Senator Hillary Clinton Urges Democratic Candidates to Speak Out on National Security Issues

ABC News
Sen. Clinton Urges Democrats to Speak Up
Sen. Hillary Clinton Urges Democratic Candidates to Speak Out on National Security Issues
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday accused Republicans of "playing the fear card" of terrorism to win elections and said Democrats cannot keep quiet if they want to win in November.

The New York Democrat, facing re-election this year and considered a potential White House candidate in 2008, said Republicans won the past two elections on the issue of national security and "they're doing it to us again."

She said a speech by presidential adviser Karl Rove two weeks ago showed the GOP election message is: "All we've got is fear and we're going to keep playing the fear card."

In that speech, Rove suggested Republicans can prevail in 2006 by showing Democrats had undermined terrorism-fighting efforts by questioning Bush's authority to allow wiretapping without getting court approval first.

Clinton said a convention of United Auto Workers that Democrats should not be afraid to question Bush's handling of the war.

"I take a back seat to nobody when it comes to fighting terrorism and standing up for national homeland security," she said.

Referring to fugitive al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Clinton said, "You cannot explain to me why we have not captured or killed the tallest man in Afghanistan."

She added, "Since when has it been part of American patriotism to keep our mouths shut?"

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius responded: "It sounds like from reports that the political season is certainly starting early for some."

President Bush, he said, wants to address rising health costs, energy costs and the war in Iraq in a bipartisan way "and keep the political bomb-throwing to a minimum."

Clinton also said the Bush administration was allowing U.S. manufacturing to wither away and that the only way for workers to protect those jobs was by electing Democrats.

She was cheered by the auto workers, a few of whom shouted, "Hillary for president."

The bulk of her 30-minute speech focused on economic issues and the troubled U.S. auto industry, which is losing market share to foreign manufacturers and bracing for tens of thousands of layoffs.

Clinton said the administration has not done enough to keep America globally competitive. She urged a new long-term effort by the government and private oil companies to fund research and development, particularly in energy-saving technologies.

Speaking to an enthusiastic Democratic crowd that increasingly sees jobs moving overseas, Clinton said Thailand should not be granted access to the U.S. auto market.

The U.S. is in negotiations with Thailand on a trade pact that might eliminate or reduce a 25 percent tariff on trucks made there.