- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2009

GAO

Gun buyers named on terror watch list

Government investigators say several hundred background checks for gun purchases over the past five years matched names on the terrorist watch list.

And the Government Accountability Office says existing gun laws allowed more than 800 of those purchases to go through.

Under federal law, being on the terror watch list is not among the nine factors that disqualify someone from purchasing a gun - such as a felony conviction.

The GAO - which is the watchdog arm of Congress - provided updated statistics in a report released Monday.

The GAO issued a report on the watch-list loophole in 2005, but no changes have been made to the law.

FBI

Name-check backlog shrinks

DALLAS | FBI name checks on people seeking to work or live in the U.S. or become citizens are getting completed more quickly, slicing through a backlog that had left some petitions pending for more than a year, immigration officials said Monday.

The FBI hired more workers, beefed up its training programs and upgraded its technology to handle the average of 6 million to 7 million applications that stream through the agency each year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials said.

The delays came during the FBI’s routine checks for possible criminal backgrounds and national security questions. But now, nearly all name-check requests submitted to the FBI are being answered within 30 days. The remaining 2 percent are finished within 90 days, USCIS officials said.

SUPREME COURT

Plame’s lawsuit won’t be heard

The Supreme Court will not revive a lawsuit that former CIA operative Valerie Plame brought against former members of the Bush administration.

The court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Mrs. Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

A lower court last year threw out the lawsuit in which Mrs. Plame and Mr. Wilson accused former Vice President Dick Cheney and several former high-ranking administration officials of revealing her identity to reporters in 2003. Mrs. Plame and Mr. Wilson said that violated their constitutional rights.

The lawsuit named former presidential adviser Karl Rove; Mr. Cheney’s former top aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby; and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that Mrs. Plame and Mr. Wilson did not meet the legal standard for constitutional claims, in part because the lawsuit hinges on purported violations of the Privacy Act - a law that does not cover the president or the vice president’s offices.

Mr. Armitage was the original source for a 2003 newspaper column identifying Mrs. Plame as a CIA officer. At the time, her husband was criticizing the Bush administration’s prewar intelligence on Iraq and had become a thorn in the side of the White House. Mr. Rove also discussed Mrs. Plame’s employment with reporters.

SATELLITES

DHS to kill domestic satellite spying

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to kill a program begun by the Bush administration that would use U.S. spy satellites for domestic security and law enforcement, a government official said.

Miss Napolitano recently reached her decision after the program was discussed with law enforcement officials, and she was told it was not an urgent issue, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it.

The program was announced in 2007 and was to have the Homeland Security Department use overhead and mapping imagery from existing satellites for homeland security and law enforcement purposes.

The program, called the National Applications Office, has been delayed because of privacy and civil liberty concerns.

The program was included in the Obama administration’s 2010 budget request, said Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat and House Homeland Security Committee member who was briefed on the department’s classified intelligence budget.

Mrs. Harman said Monday she had not been given final word that the program would be killed. She said she would talk to Miss Napolitano on Tuesday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

WHITE HOUSE

Rose Garden press conference scheduled

President Obama has scheduled his first Rose Garden press conference.

The White House on Monday said Mr. Obama would take questions from reporters at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Mr. Obama previously engaged in formal press conferences during prime-time television hours and on international trips. This would be his first extended questioning in the White House’s Rose Garden.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama would open the session with remarks on health care reform, energy legislation and Iran’s disputed elections.

SEC

Firm, four people face fraud charges

Federal regulators have charged a brokerage firm called Cohmad Securities and four people with securities fraud, accusing them of funneling billions of dollars from investors into Bernard Madoff’s pyramid scheme.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the civil fraud charges on Monday against Cohmad, its chairman, Maurice Cohn, chief operating officer Marcia Cohn and broker Robert Jaffe. Also named in the SEC’s lawsuit was California-based investment adviser Stanley Chais, who purportedly oversaw three funds that invested all of their assets - nearly $1 billion - with Madoff.

Madoff secretly controlled New York-based Cohmad and used it to procure a constant stream of funds for his multibillion-dollar fraud scheme, the SEC said.

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