- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

USA Today backs off major claim of story

USA Today could not establish that BellSouth or Verizon contracted with the National Security Agency (NSA) to provide it with customer calling records, as the newspaper previously had reported, the paper said in a note to readers yesterday.

The newspaper reported yesterday that lawmakers on House and Senate intelligence committees have said cooperation with the NSA by telephone companies was not as extensive as USA Today initially reported on May 11.

But USA Today spokesman Steve Anderson yesterday said the NSA is collecting phone call records of millions of Americans, calling it the “heart” of the report.

Verizon and BellSouth say they have never contracted to provide the NSA with records of their customers’ phone calls. AT&T; has neither confirmed nor denied the newspaper’s report.

Tribe ousts leader over abortion clinic

PORCUPINE, S.D. — A Sioux tribe ousted its president for proposing an abortion clinic on the reservation, which would be beyond the reach of South Dakota’s strict new abortion ban.

By a 9-5 vote late Thursday, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council determined Cecelia Fire Thunder had pursued the clinic for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation without council approval, and she was immediately replaced.

“The bottom line is the Lakota people were adamantly opposed to abortion on our homelands. The president was involved in unauthorized political actions,” said Will Peters, the council member who filed the complaint.

Boy who died on ride had heart defect

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The 12-year-old boy who died after riding a Walt Disney World roller coaster had a congenital heart defect, a medical examiner ruled yesterday.

The autopsy of Michael Russell was done one day after he passed out while riding Disney-MGM’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

“No evidence of injury was found but congenital heart abnormalities were detected, which will be further evaluated,” the Orange County medical examiner’s office said.

Disney World reopened the ride yesterday after determining that nothing mechanical caused the boy’s death.

Nine indicted in drug ring

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A federal grand jury indicted nine members of an international drug-trafficking ring accused of importing and trafficking at least $10 million worth of marijuana during the past five years.

The new indictment, brought as part of an ongoing investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), brings the total number of persons charged so far to 15.

“This particular case shows that the DEA and our partners in law enforcement are committed to going after members of drug-trafficking organizations whether they reside locally or abroad,” said Special-Agent-in-Charge Rodney Benson, who heads agency’s field office here.

The indictment said the traffickers obtained marijuana from suspected Canadian sources of the marijuana, or “BC Bud,” which was shipped to buyers in the United States.

Border operation uncovers drug scheme

U.S. and Canadian law-enforcement authorities have dismantled a drug-smuggling organization that used aircraft to ferry tons of narcotics across the border, dropping many of the loads in daylight at remote wooded locations in Washington and British Columbia.

“The criminals involved in this scheme literally took cross-border smuggling to new heights,” Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of homeland security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said at a press conference Thursday in Bellingham, Wash.

The ongoing investigation, known as Operation Frozen Timber, began in November 2004 and, so far, has resulted in 45 indictments and 40 arrests. In Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have made six related arrests.

In total, U.S. and Canadian authorities have seized roughly 8,000 pounds of marijuana, 800 pounds of cocaine, three aircraft and $1.5 million in U.S. currency.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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