- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Holder issues information rules

The Obama administration advised federal agencies Thursday to release their records and information to the public unless foreseeable harm would result.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. issued new guidelines fleshing out President Obama’s Jan. 21 order to reveal more government records to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, whenever another law doesn’t prohibit release.

The new standard essentially returned to one issued by Attorney General Janet Reno during the Clinton administration. It replaced a more restrictive policy imposed by the Bush administration under which the Justice Department defended any sound legal argument for withholding records.

“We are making a critical change that will restore the public’s ability to access information in a timely manner,” Mr. Holder said.

BONUSES

Holbrooke served on AIG’s board

Obama administration special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke was on the American International Group Inc. board of directors in early 2008 when the insurance company locked in the bonuses now stoking national outrage.

Mr. Holbrooke, a veteran diplomat who is now the administration’s point man on Pakistan and Afghanistan, served on the board between 2001 and mid-2008. During that period, AIG undertook the aggressive investment strategies that led to a near-collapse and forced a multibillion-dollar federal bailout.

President Obama has insisted his administration was not responsible for AIG’s financial woes, and a White House spokesman said Thursday that Mr. Holbrooke was not aware of AIG’s decision to award retention bonuses to key employees.

“Mr. Holbrooke had nothing to do with and knew nothing about the bonuses,” spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

COURTS

Judge rejects guns in parks

A federal judge has blocked a federal rule allowing people to carry concealed, loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.

A decision issued Thursday by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly overturns a rule issued in the waning days of the Bush administration.

The rule took effect Jan. 11 and allowed visitors to carry a loaded gun into a park or wildlife refuge as long as the person has a permit for a concealed weapon and the state where the park or refuge is located allows concealed firearms. Previously, guns in parks had been severely restricted.

The Obama administration had said it was reviewing the Bush rule but had defended it in court.

SENATE

Kagan wins OK as solicitor general

The Senate has confirmed the nation’s first female solicitor general to represent the United States before the Supreme Court.

Lawmakers approved Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan by a 61-31 vote.

She and President Obama taught at the University of Chicago Law School during the 1990s.

The 48-year-old has never argued a Supreme Court case, but she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. She also worked in the Clinton White House as an associate counsel and policy adviser.

WHITE HOUSE

First lady to plant a garden

First lady Michelle Obama is breaking ground Friday for a garden on the South Lawn that will provide produce for the White House kitchen.

The White House says she will be joined by local elementary school students who will help with the planting and harvesting the crops later in the year.

Such a garden has been a dream of noted California chef Alice Waters.

Miss Waters is considered a leader in the movement to encourage consumption of locally grown, organic foods. And she has discussed her idea for a White House garden with Mrs. Obama.

Miss Waters organized a Washington dinner before President Obama’s inauguration that served foods bought from local producers at an area farmers market.

DEPORTATION

U.S. deports ex-Nazi guard

A former Nazi concentration-camp guard was deported from Wisconsin to Austria on Thursday, despite objections from his lawyer that the guard was simply present at the camp but committed no acts of persecution.

Prosecutors said Josias Kumpf, 83, served as a guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany, the Trawniki labor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and slave labor sites in occupied France.

U.S. investigators charged that he participated in a 1943 mass shooting in Poland in which 8,000 Jewish men, women and children were murdered in pits at Trawniki in a single day.

“Josias Kumpf, by his own admission, stood guard with orders to shoot any surviving prisoners who attempted to escape an SS massacre that left thousands of Jews dead,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita Glavin said.

Peter Rogers, Kumpf’s immigration attorney, said Kumpf was stationed at Trawniki, “but he never laid a finger on anyone, he never shot at anyone.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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