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Inside Politics: U.S. to offer millions in bounties al-Shabab leaders

- - Wednesday, June 6, 2012

U.S. officials say the Obama administration will offer up to $33 million in rewards for information about top members of an Islamist extremist group in Somalia linked to al Qaeda.

The rewards for the leaders of the al-Shabab militia movement will be announced Thursday by the State Department, The bounties will be administered by the department's Rewards for Justice program.

It will be first time the program has offered rewards for members of al-Shabab, which is accused of terrorist attacks in Somalia, Uganda and Kenya. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the bounties have not yet been announced.

The program will offer up to $7 million for al-Shabab's founder, up to $5 million each for three of his main associates and up to $3 million each for two other top members.

JUDICIARY

Another judge strikes down part of Defense of Marriage Act

NEW YORK — A federal judge in Manhattan joined a growing chorus of judges across the country Wednesday by striking down a key component of the federal law that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones said the Defense of Marriage Act's definitions "intrude upon the states' business of regulating domestic relations" by re-examining the marriage definitions by the various states — six of which, plus the District of Columbia, recognize gay marriages.

"That incursion skirts important principles of federalism and therefore cannot be legitimate, in this court's view," said Judge Jones, a 1995 appointee of President Clinton.

The ruling came in a case brought by Edith Windsor, a woman whose partner died in 2009, two years after they married in Canada. Because of the federal law, Ms. Windsor didn't qualify for the unlimited marital deduction on her late spouse's estate and was required to pay $363,053 in federal estate tax. Ms. Windsor sued the government in November 2010.

The government declined to comment through Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for government attorneys in Manhattan.

WHITE HOUSE

Carney: McCain leak claim a matter of political gain

The White House is denying claims from Republican Sen. John McCain that it orchestrated leaks of classified information to news organizations to boost President Obama's national security reputation and re-election chances.

White House press secretary Jay Carney says any claim of leaks for political gain is "grossly irresponsible."

Referring to Mr. McCain by name, Mr. Carney said the Obama administration always takes proper precautions to prevent leaks of information that could harm ongoing counterterrorism or intelligence operations. He spoke to reporters traveling with Mr. Obama to the West Coast on Wednesday.

A day earlier, Mr. McCain had accused the Obama administration of selectively leaking classified data on a computer virus attack on Iran and CIA drone strikes.

Mr. Obama defeated Mr. McCain to win the presidency in 2008.

PENTAGON

Two lawmakers denounce gay ceremony at Army base

NEW ORLEANS — Two Republican congressmen Wednesday denounced a same-sex ceremony held at the Army's Fort Polk training base in Louisiana, saying it violated Defense Department policy.

Following last year's repeal of its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the Defense Department said chaplains at military installations can officiate any private ceremony, as long as it's not prohibited by state and local laws. Louisiana law does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.

Fort Polk spokesman Scott Stearns said the two women took part in a commitment ceremony last month. Everyone at the base chapel understood it was not a marriage ceremony, he said.

"This appears to be a case where political agenda has trumped the rule of law, which is absolutely unacceptable," Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri said in a statement claims the ceremony violated Defense Department policy.

A spokesman for Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana said the congressman's office learned of the ceremony from "constituent contact."

"The liberal social experiment with our military continues," Mr. Fleming said. "My frustration is compounded by the fact that a social agenda, which has nothing to do with military readiness or our national defense, is being imposed on our men and women in uniform."

WHITE HOUSE

Obama discusses European economy with Merkel, Monti

The White House says President Obama spoke separately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti about economic conditions in Europe as he traveled to California for campaign fundraisers.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the leaders spoke Wednesday about the importance of taking steps to strengthen the resilience of the eurozone and foster economic growth in Europe. The calls came ahead of the G-20 summit scheduled for later this month in Mexico.

European leaders are trying to take steps to prevent a eurozone meltdown, a move that could weaken the global economy. Mr. Obama discussed the situation in Europe with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday.

NEVADA

Reid donor charged with breaking campaign laws

CARSON CITY — A federal grand jury has indicted a Nevada developer with ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on criminal charges related to campaign contributions.

The indictment Wednesday accuses Harvey Whittemore of devising a scheme to solicit campaign contributions from family members and employees in 2007 and skirt federal election-law limits by reimbursing them.

Federal Election Commission records show Mr. Whittemore, family members and employees of his former company, Wingfield Nevada Group Holding Co., contributing more than $100,000 in a single day to Mr. Reid in March 2007.

Mr. Reid's office said in February that money donated to the Nevada Democrat has been given to charity. Mr. Whittemore also gave money to Nevada Republicans.

HOUSE

Media execs: Progress made in dispute over federal data

Media organization executives are citing progress in their dispute with the Labor Department over its proposal to require news organizations to use government computers to file stories on jobs data.

Testifying to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, Reuters and Bloomberg News officials revealed little detail about the movement they said occurred in talks with administration officials. Dow Jones and the Associated Press have also participated. The news organizations have fought the proposal to use government equipment.

Until now, data are given to reporters in a department "lock-up" room minutes before the official release so they can prepare their stories and then file them when the information is publicly released. The department had originally proposed requiring reporters to use government computers, not their own equipment.

HOUSE

Book: Military had no plans to use tapes of 9/11 planner

A new book says federal prosecutors were stunned to learn three years ago that the U.S. military had secretly recorded incriminating comments that declared Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed made to fellow detainees, but was not planning to use them at military tribunals.

In "Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency," Daniel Klaidman says Mohammed was caught on tape boasting to other detainees about the attacks. According to the book, Mohammed mentioned specific pieces of evidence, documents and computer files that could be tied directly to him to other detainees at the military detention facility at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The statements, voluntarily uttered, would allow the government to get around the problem of using statements made during interrogations that defense lawyers would try to exclude from trial as tainted by torture.

Mohammed's conversations "were intercepted by military spies and mined for intelligence," Mr. Klaidman writes.

It is unclear whether the military has changed its mind and now plans to use the recordings at his upcoming military commission trial. On Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, declined to comment.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports