- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 28, 2009

TRANSIT SECURITY

Report says TSA has too few inspectors

The agency responsible for transportation security has too few inspectors to make sure rail and mass transit employees are doing enough to guard against terrorists, a government report says.

The report by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general says the Transportation Security Administration’s request for 102 more inspectors is insufficient to get the job done right.

The review of TSA’s inspection program, obtained by the Associated Press, was conducted between last year February and July.

The report says the 175 transportation security inspectors, spread nationally across 54 offices, pale in comparison with other federal agencies. The Transportation Department has about 1,350 safety inspectors. The Coast Guard has about 1,000 inspectors assigned to the maritime industry.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has acknowledged that TSA needs to do more to secure mass transit and subway systems. Shortly after she took over, she ordered a review of transportation security and whether resources are being used most efficiently.

The House Homeland Security Committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, said the inspector general’s report raises serious concerns. With President Obama and Ms. Napolitano pledging to address mass transit security, Mr. Thompson said he is confident that there will eventually be enough inspectors to do the job.

A 2010 budget proposal issued by the White House on Thursday highlights transportation security as a funding priority but provided nothing specific on safety inspectors.

WIRETAPS

Court rejects bid to stop lawsuit

The Obama administration has lost its argument that a potential threat to national security is a good enough reason to stop a lawsuit challenging the government’s warrantless wiretapping program.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday rejected the Justice Department’s request for an emergency stay. The Obama administration, like the George W. Bush administration, cited the so-called state secrets privilege as its defense. The government claimed national security would be compromised if a lawsuit brought by the U.S. chapter of an Islamic charity was allowed to proceed.

The case was brought by the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a defunct charity with a chapter in Oregon.

The decision by the three-judge appeals panel is a setback for the new Obama administration as it adopts some of the same positions on national security and secrecy as the Bush administration.

The case began when the Bush administration accidentally turned over documents to Al-Haramain attorneys. Lawyers for the defunct charity said the papers showed illegal wiretapping by the National Security Agency.

The documents were returned to the government, which quickly locked them away, claiming they were state secrets that could threaten national security if released.

FBI

Stanford CIO freed on bail

The chief investment officer of troubled Stanford Financial Group appeared in federal court Friday as new details emerged showing that CEO R. Allen Stanford borrowed $1.6 billion from the troubled company’s assets.

Laura Pendergest-Holt, 35, was arrested Thursday on charges that she obstructed a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of the Stanford scandal by lying about her knowledge of the firm’s activities and by omitting key details.

She did not enter a plea in Friday’s hearing at a federal court in Houston. She was released on a $300,000 bond on the condition that she would wear an ankle bracelet.

Mrs. Pendergest-Holt, along with Mr. Stanford, another executive and three related companies, have already been accused in civil court of perpetrating an $8 billion fraud through selling scam “certificates of deposit.” Many well-known athletes and celebrities are among the apparent victims.

Mr. Stanford, who ran his financial empire from Houston and Antigua, has not been charged with a crime, but has been under FBI investigation since June, according to court records.

“She is looking forward to working with the government to get all the facts out and put this behind her,” said Mrs. Pendergest-Holt’s attorney, Brent Baker.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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