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Inside Politics: Panetta hints punishment for bin Laden book author

- - Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is suggesting that a retired Navy SEAL be punished for writing a book giving an insider's account of the U.S. raid that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Asked in a network interview if he thinks the writer should be prosecuted, Mr. Panetta replied, "I think we have to take steps to make clear to him and to the American people that we're not going to accept this kind of behavior."

Mr. Panetta was referring to the newly published account of the SEAL raid that led to bin Laden's killing in May 2011 in Pakistan. The book was written by a retired SEAL under the pseudonym of Mark Owen. He was subsequently identified in media accounts as Matt Bissonnette.

In the interview, broadcast Tuesday on "CBS This Morning," Mr. Panetta told co-host Norah O'Donnell that if the Defense Department failed to take any action in response to the book, "then everybody else who pledges to ensure that that doesn't happen is going to get the long signal, that somehow they can do it without any penalty to be paid."

Asked if the revelations could put future such operations at risk, Mr. Panetta said, "I think when someone who signs an obligation that he will not reveal the secrets of this kind of operation, and then does that and doesn't abide by the rules, that when he reveals that kind of information, it does indeed jeopardize operations and the lives of others that are involved in those operations."

OHIO

Biden loves Buckeye State, visiting often

CHILLICOTHE — He buddied up with bikers, posed for countless pictures at a pizza place and downed an ice cream cone at a Dairy Queen.

Joseph R. Biden loves Ohio.

The only question now is whether Ohio loves him — and President Obama.

The vice president toured the state by car over the weekend and said rural southern Ohio reminds him of his hometown of Scranton, Pa. Mr. Biden will be back in Ohio on Wednesday, when he campaigns in Dayton — his third trip to the state in two weeks. Besides formal speeches, Mr. Biden also made informal stops at a diner, ice cream shop and restaurant.

Ohio is a crucial battleground in the race for president. Polls show a tight race in the state, with Mr. Obama narrowly ahead of Republican Mitt Romney.

HOUSE

Lawmakers pass bill to strengthen FHA

The House has passed legislation to strengthen the financial position of the Federal Housing Administration, a key source of financing for low-income and first-time homebuyers.

The measure would set a minimum rate for the annual premiums paid for mortgage insurance, exclude unscrupulous lenders from the program and require those who commit fraud to repay the FHA.

The reserve fund of the FHA, which insures more than $1 trillion worth of mortgages, is near depletion.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Judy Biggert, Illinois Republican, sets the minimum rate at 0.55 percent of the mortgage balance and gives the housing secretary discretion to raise that to 2.05 percent.

Last December, Congress agreed to raise the FHA's mortgage-insurance premium to pay for a temporary extension of the payroll-tax cut.

HOUSE

Lawmakers undertake changes in bag screening

The House on Tuesday took steps to eliminate a requirement that passengers flying from certain foreign airports have their checked bags screened a second time when they arrive in the United States and continue on an additional flight.

Current law already stipulates that passengers arriving from one of 14 pre-clearance foreign airports do not need to go through a second full security check when they transfer to a domestic flight. The measure passed by the House on a voice vote would give the Transportation Security Administration the authority to extend that rescreening waiver to their bags as well.

The TSA has determined that those 14 airports — eight in Canada, four in the Caribbean and two in Ireland — have security staff and procedures that are at or above U.S. standards.

Rep. Joe Walsh, Illinois Republican, the sponsor of the legislation, said passengers arriving from those destinations must now claim their bags, have them screened again and then go back through security. "This double security does not equal double safety," he said. "It equals missed flights, more hassles and wastes taxpayer dollars."

MISSOURI

Akin keeps endorsement from state's Farm Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Farm Bureau reaffirmed its endorsement of Missouri Senate candidate W. Todd Akin on Tuesday, weeks after the Republican congressman made remarks about women's bodies being able to avoid pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape."

The Farm Bureau's decision comes just over a month after members of its political action committees voted by an overwhelming 99 percent to support Mr. Akin over the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill. The Farm Bureau did not disclose the exact percentage of support Mr. Akin won in the new vote, but it said the results were similar.

In an unprecedented move for the Farm Bureau, its political committees decided to reconsider their endorsement after Mr. Akin's remarks about rape aired Aug. 19 on a St. Louis television station. Mr. Akin has apologized repeatedly since then and has rejected numerous calls by top Republicans — including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney — to drop out of the Senate race so that the state Republican committee can pick a replacement candidate.

The Farm Bureau held a series of conference calls over the past week to poll its members about Mr. Akin. The organization requires at least a two-thirds vote to make an endorsement.

Since his remarks, Mr. Akin has lost the support of some deep-pocketed political groups, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a super PAC affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. Both entities dropped plans to air millions of dollars of ads in Missouri. Mr. Akin has instead turned to soliciting small-dollar donations over the Internet.

COMMERCE

Trade deficit up slightly in July as exports fall

The U.S. trade deficit grew slightly in July as exports fell at a slightly faster pace than imports.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the trade deficit widened to $42 billion, 0.2 percent higher than June's imbalance of $41.9 billion.

U.S. exports fell 1 percent to $183.3 billion, lowered by weaker sales of autos, telecommunications equipment and heavy machinery. Imports declined 0.8 percent to $225.3 billion as oil imports fell 6.5 percent.

A wider trade deficit acts as a drag on growth because the U.S. is typically spending more on imports while taking in less from the sales of American-made goods.

Weaker growth around the globe is hurting U.S. exports. Exports to Europe fell 11.7 percent. Many European countries are in recession, which has cut demand for American-made goods. The region accounts for about one-fifth of U.S. exports.

The deficit with China grew 7.2 percent in July to $29.4 billion, the largest with any single country. That reflected a 5.6 percent jump in imports, which vastly outpaced a smaller 0.4 percent rise in U.S. exports.

China accounts for about 7 percent of U.S. exports and has the second-largest economy in the world. Still, its economy has weakened this year and may be worsening. On Monday, China reported that its imports from the rest of the world shrank in August.

Exports fell in other big emerging economies. U.S. sales of goods to Brazil fell 4.4 percent, while exports to India dropped 1.2 percent.

From wire dispatches and staff reports