- - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

President Obama issued an executive order Wednesday allowing the Treasury Department to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone obstructing the administration-backed political transition in Yemen.

The order could be used against U.S. citizens or residents found trying to interfere with the government transition of power agreed to last fall after an uprising forced then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

“The president took this step because he believes that the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people, along with the urgent humanitarian and security challenges, cannot be addressed if political progress stalls,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

The presidential action is unusual because it’s designed to act as a deterrent and the administration has not determined specific names or organizations it’s trying to target.

With news earlier this month that authorities had thwarted a second attempt by Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to strike the U.S. with a sophisticated underwear bomb, the Obama administration wants to ensure that political chaos in Yemen does not disrupt international counterterrorism efforts and continued cooperation with the government there.

Even though Mr. Saleh resigned after several attempts to remain in power, a number of relatives and supporters tried to hang onto their offices, only leaving when the new president issued a decree forcing them out last month. Mr. Obama’s executive order is aimed at trying to keep them permanently on the sidelines.


Lawmakers consider threats from airport employees

Congress is examining the security risks to passenger planes from the so-called insider threat, terrorists who quietly get jobs at airports so they can attack from within sensitive areas. There has never been such an instance, but a security supervisor at Newark Liberty Airport is facing criminal charges that nearly 20 years ago he assumed the identity of a New York man who later was murdered.

The House Homeland Security Committee conducted an oversight hearing Wednesday.

The acting inspector general, Charles Edwards, told lawmakers in prepared testimony that people who pose a threat can obtain government security badges for U.S. airports because the Transportation Security Administration inadequately investigates the backgrounds of badge applicants. He said this includes missing signs they might be dangerous or not confirming they are American citizens.


Sebelius to address Georgetown despite flap

A planned graduation speech by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Georgetown University is going forward, despite criticism from the archdiocese of Washington that Mrs. Sebelius is an inappropriate choice for the Jesuit school.

The archdiocese on Tuesday said in a statement that Mrs. Sebelius’ actions as a public official “present the most direct challenge to religious liberty in recent history.” Mrs. Sebelius helped shape President Obama’s 2010 health care law, which includes a mandate that requires employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control for workers. Catholic bishops have led opposition to the mandate.

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