Saturday, February 7, 2009


Panetta: No prosecution for CIA interrogators

The Obama administration will not prosecute CIA officers who participated in harsh interrogations that critics say crossed the line into torture, CIA Director-nominee Leon Panetta said Friday.

Asked by the Associated Press whether that was official policy, Mr. Panetta said, “That is the case.”

It was the clearest statement yet on what Mr. Panetta and other Democratic officials had only strongly suggested: CIA officers who acted on legal orders from the Bush administration would not be held responsible for those policies. On Thursday, he told senators that the Obama administration had no intention of seeking prosecutions for that reason.

Mr. Panetta, in an interview with the AP after a second day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that he arrived at that conclusion even before he began meeting with CIA officials.

“It was my opinion we just can’t operate if people feel even if they are following the legal opinions of the Justice Department” they could be in danger of prosecution, he said.


Obama family to visit Camp David on weekend

President Obama intends to use the presidential retreat at Camp David this weekend.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says Mr. Obama and his family will spend Saturday night at the retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains. It will be Mr. Obama’s first trip to the country estate as president.

Mr. Gibbs says the Obamas will leave Saturday and return on Sunday. Mr. Gibbs joked that the president was “a bit of a restless soul” who likes walking.

Former President George W. Bush spent many weekends at Camp David with aides and advisers. He spent his final weekend as president there.

The short trip will follow the first couple’s “date night” outing at the Kennedy Center.

The president and first lady were scheduled to attend an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance on Friday night. The show was sold out, but that wasn’t a problem. The White House said the Obamas planned to sit in the president’s box.


Biden to debut on world stage

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday offered a first glimpse of Obama-era foreign policy before leaving on the debut trip abroad by a top power broker in the new administration.

The vice president said Washington would have to be more “aggressive” in promoting political reform in Iraq, called for more help from allies in Afghanistan and promoted a proposed $1.5 billion aid plan for Pakistan.

Mr. Biden is headed for the annual Wehrkunde international security conference in Munich this weekend, seen as the first chance for the administration to make the new U.S. global footprint. He will meet there with leaders of key allies.

On the sidelines of the conference, Mr. Biden will make the first moves in Washington’s ongoing diplomatic chess game with the Kremlin, in talks Sunday with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov.

In a sometimes somber speech to Democratic members of the House on a Virginia retreat, the vice president said last week’s elections in Iraq suggested progress was being made, but more had to be done.


Unions press for Solis vote

Labor unions accused Republicans of seizing on questions about unpaid taxes to stall the confirmation of Labor Secretary-nominee Hilda Solis because they dislike her policies.

The nation’s largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO, along with other unions, women’s and Hispanic groups, began calling and writing lawmakers Friday, urging them to confirm the California congresswoman.

Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO’s legislative director, said the worsening economic climate demands a strong labor secretary.

Tax problems have been a recurring theme for the administration. The discovery posed another political hurdle for a White House already chafing after tax problems and other controversies derailed some administration appointments, including former Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle’s nomination as health secretary.

Ms. Solis’ nomination had already been delayed for nearly a month when a newspaper reported Thursday that unpaid tax liens on a California auto repair business owned by Ms. Solis’ husband were settled this week for about $6,400.


Justice Ginsburg plans quick return to court

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg plans to be back at work for the court’s next public session, less than three weeks after surgery for pancreatic cancer.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Friday that Justice Ginsburg intends to be in court when it hears arguments on Feb. 23.

The 75-year-old justice is recuperating at a New York hospital after undergoing surgery on Thursday.

Justice Ginsburg, who has been on the court more than 15 years, is its only woman.

The diminutive justice underwent surgery for colon cancer in 1999, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, without missing a day on the bench.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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