- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Justice defends secrecy on tactics

The Justice Department is defending Bush administration decisions to keep secret many documents about domestic wiretapping, data collection on travelers and U.S. citizens, and interrogation of suspected terrorists.

In a half-dozen lawsuits, Justice lawyers have opposed formal motions or spurned out-of-court offers to delay court action until the new administration rewrites Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guidelines and decides whether the new rules might allow the public to see more.

In only one case has the Justice Department agreed to suspend a FOIA lawsuit until the disputed documents can be re-evaluated under the yet-to-be-written guidelines. That case involves negotiations on an anti-counterfeiting treaty, not the more controversial, secret anti-terrorism tactics that spawned the other lawsuits, as well as President Obama’s promises of greater openness.

“The signs in the last few days are not entirely encouraging,” said Jameel Jaffer, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed several lawsuits seeking the Bush administration’s legal rationales for warrantless domestic wiretapping and for its treatment of terrorism detainees.


Senator moves guns from under bed

NEW YORK | Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, whose pro-gun stance has attracted criticism from fellow New York Democrats, has moved two rifles she kept under her bed for protection because of news reports about the weapons.

In a Newsday interview published earlier Monday, Mrs. Gillibrand said she and her husband, Jonathan, kept the rifles to protect their upstate New York home. The couple has two young children.

Gillibrand spokesman Matt Canter told the newspaper in a story posted on its Web site Monday evening that the rifles were removed for security reasons because their location had been reported. Gillibrand representatives didn’t return a telephone call from the Associated Press on Monday evening.

Mr. Canter said the rifles were not loaded and that the Gillibrands follow gun-safety procedures.


Obama phones Turkish leaders

President Obama on Monday called Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and had two “warm and productive” conversations, the White House said.

Mr. Obama and the Turkish leaders talked about Iraq, the need to work together on Middle East peace efforts and his administration’s review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the White House said.

“The president emphasized the importance of the United States‘ alliance with Turkey and said he looks forward to working with both President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan on a broad agenda of mutual strategic interest.”

“The president emphasized his desire to strengthen U.S.-Turkish relations and to work together effectively in NATO.”


Governor reconsiders death penalty

SANTA FE, N.M. | New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Monday he has softened his stance on the death penalty and may sign a repeal bill if it reaches his desk.

The Legislature is considering a measure that would abolish capital punishment and replace it with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Mr. Richardson, a Democrat, said he would have vetoed such a bill just a few years ago. “Right now, I’d say it’s probably a 50-50 proposition,” the second-term governor told the Associated Press. “I’m struggling with my position, but I definitely have softened my view on the death penalty.”


U.S. backs pact on mercury reduction

NAIROBI, Kenya | The Obama administration reversed years of U.S. policy Monday by calling for a treaty to cut mercury pollution, which it described as the world’s gravest chemical problem.

An estimated 6,000 tons of mercury enter the environment each year, about one-third of it generated by power stations and coal fires. Much settles into the oceans, where it enters the food chain and is concentrated in predatory fish like tuna.

Daniel Reifsnyder, the deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and sustainable development, told a global gathering of environmental ministers in Nairobi, Kenya, that the U.S. wants negotiations on limiting mercury to begin this year and conclude within three years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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