- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

TERRORISM

Gates: Gitmo debate heats up

Federal authorities began what is expected to be hotly contested discussions this week on where in the United States to send Guantanamo detainees who cannot be put on trial or transferred to another country, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday.

Mr. Gates told senators that he realizes that virtually every member of Congress will file legislation prohibiting the United States from sending the detainees to a facility in their own state.

He said the Justice Department is still trying to determine how many of the 241 detainees at the military prison in Cuba will not be taken by other countries or put on trial, and there is no decision yet on where the remainder will go. Mr. Gates said that total would likely be between 50 and 100.

Pressed to give senators a hint on locations under consideration, Mr. Gates demurred. He added that although no final decision has been made on the fate of the detention facility, he thinks it will be “mothballed” once all the detainees there have been removed.

WHITE HOUSE

Immigration rules focus on employers

The Obama administration is pursuing employers who knowingly hire and exploit illegal workers, a policy not significantly different from the Bush administration’s, according to a copy of the guidelines obtained by the Associated Press.

The guidelines for immigration agents will impose fines and criminal charges against employers who break the law.

The priority is to go after employers, but the policy says agents will continue to arrest illegal workers. The administration’s approach stresses that humanitarian guidelines will be followed more broadly than under President George W. Bush.

The new policy was being circulated Thursday to special agents at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is part of the Homeland Security Department.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said the agency will focus on “renewing a priority on employers who are making money off of these illegal immigrants and giving them jobs that should be going to American workers, as opposed to just counting numbers.”

HATE CRIMES

Legislator regrets ‘hoax’ reference

RALEIGH, N.C. | A North Carolina congresswoman says she made a poor choice of words when she called the murder of a gay Wyoming student a “hoax” to justify passing hate crimes bills.

Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx said during debate in the House that the 1998 death of Matthew Shepard shouldn’t be used to justify a hate crimes bill because it wasn’t a hate crime. Mrs. Foxx said Mr. Shepard was killed during a robbery.

The bill approved Wednesday by the House would expand a federal hate crimes law to include acts motivated by sexual orientation.

“We know that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay,” Mrs. Foxx said during debate. “The bill was named for him, the hate-crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”

Mrs. Foxx later said her comments didn’t convey what she meant to say.

“The term ‘hoax’ was a poor choice of words used in the discussion of the hate-crimes bill,” Mrs. Foxx said in a statement. “Mr. Shepard’s death was nothing less than a tragedy, and those responsible for his death certainly deserved the punishment they received.”

WHITE HOUSE

Obama names interim director

Anita Dunn, a loyal adviser to President Obama during his campaign, will join the White House as his communications director.

A White House aide confirmed that Ms. Dunn will start Monday as interim communications director, a position that can be powerful in shaping the president’s message. Ms. Dunn, a Democratic consultant, assumes the post that was left vacant last week when Ellen Moran said she was instead going to work for the Commerce Department.

It’s a move that elevates a top member of Mr. Obama’s inner circle, and she is one of the only key allies who did not move to Washington to work in the White House because she didn’t want to take time away from her family.

Ms. Moran left her post to become chief of staff for Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Ms. Moran, who was rarely seen by White House reporters, was the only top press aide who did not work on the Obama for America campaign and one of the few women in the press shop. It’s thought that Ms. Dunn will work well with the press team because she already knows everyone.

TRANSPORTATION

Rail systems seen as decaying

More than one-third of the trains, equipment and facilities of the nation’s seven largest rail transit agencies are near the end of their useful life or past that point, the government said Thursday. Many have components that are defective or may be critically damaged.

A report by the Federal Transit Administration estimates it will cost $50 billion to bring the rail systems in Chicago, Boston, New York, New Jersey, San Francisco, Philadelphia and the District, into good repair and $5.9 billion a year to maintain them.

Those seven systems carry 80 percent of the nation’s rail transit passengers, or more than 3 billion passenger trips a year. They also include some of the oldest subways and commuter railroads. Some of their facilities date back more than a century.

“In a period of rising congestion and fuel prices, these services and the infrastructure and rolling stock that support them, are critical to the transportation needs and quality of life of the communities they serve,” the report said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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