- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2009

COMMERCE

Obama press aide switches jobs

President Obama is losing a member of his press shop just shy of his first 100 days in office.

Ellen Moran, White House communications director, will become chief of staff for Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Mr. Obama issued a statement, commending her service.

“I thank Ellen Moran for her leadership during these first critical months of my administration, and I am pleased she will serve as chief of staff at the Department of Commerce,” Mr. Obama said. “Her management and strategic skills will ensure that Secretary Locke, an important member of my economic team, gets off to a fast start.”

Ms. Moran, who was rarely seen by White House reporters, was the only top press aide who did not work on the Obama political campaign.

She had been executive director of Emily’s List and has worked for the Democratic National Committee, the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She also worked on Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s 1992 presidential bid and helped plan two presidential inaugurations for Bill Clinton.

The Associated Press, which broke the news Tuesday, said Ms. Moran will make the jump in the next few weeks.

COURTS

Justice may drop lobbyists’ leak case

The Justice Department is considering dropping its case against two former pro-Israel lobbyists accused of illegally disclosing national defense secrets, government officials said Tuesday.

Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman were charged in 2005 with conspiring to obtain classified documents and sharing them with reporters and former diplomats. Like other cases centered on espionage, a critical issue in pretrial hearings has been how much of the government’s case must be aired in open court.

The trial has been postponed at least nine times as the defense and prosecutors wrangled over the handling of classified information and other issues. The defendants won an appeals court victory on that front in February when a three-judge panel ruled that some classified evidence could be presented at trial.

Two government officials said Tuesday that the Justice Department has been weighing whether to go forward with the much-delayed case. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details of internal discussions.

ILLEGALS

Boycott census, Hispanic group urges

NEWARK, N.J. | A nationwide group of Hispanic ministers has a message for illegal immigrants: Stand up, but refuse to be counted in the 2010 U.S. census.

The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders is urging undocumented immigrants to boycott the census, which is used to calculate everything from federal funding to congressional representation, unless Congress first passes immigration reform.

“The same data that helps the Latino community to seek political empowerment, the same numbers that are used to show how strong we are and prove our growing numbers, that’s the same data the anti-immigrant forces use against us,” the Rev. Miguel Rivera, the head of the coalition, said Tuesday.

Census numbers have been used to target and repress the undocumented in the past, Mr. Rivera said, and the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants need a path to legalization before they agree to have their numbers count.

COURTS

U.S.: Swede planned ‘jihad’ camp

In opening arguments in federal court Tuesday, prosecutors argued that Ousama Kassir, a Swedish man of Lebanese descent, was planning to set up an al Qaeda training camp in the United States.

Mr. Kassir was extradited to the United States in September 2007 from Prague, where he was jailed after his arrest in 2005 during a stopover while flying from Sweden to Lebanon.

“This case concerns a global conspiracy that takes place down here in the United States,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz told Judge John Keenan in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Mr. Kassir, 43, faces charges of conspiring with others to set up a “jihad” camp in Oregon that would offer weapons training for Muslims to fight in Afghanistan.

Mr. Kassir declared his innocence when he was charged last year, and his attorney on Tuesday said Mr. Kassir had “a big mouth,” but was not a criminal.

SALMON

Governors seek aid for fishermen

GRANTS PASS, Ore. | The governors of Oregon and California are asking the federal government to declare another West Coast salmon-fishery failure - the third in four years.

Commercial salmon fishing has been closed off California and most of Oregon because of dangerously low returns of fall chinook to the Sacramento River, the second-largest producer of salmon on the West Coast.

Federal scientists blame it on a combination of climatic conditions, which produced very little food in the ocean, and an over-reliance on hatchery fish, which do not have the genetic diversity to cope with changes to their environment.

If approved by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the declaration would open the way for Congress to appropriate aid for salmon fishermen.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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