Wednesday, May 27, 2009


5% of ex-detainees return to terrorism

Five percent of Guantanamo Bay detainees have participated in terrorist activities since their release from the U.S. Navy prison, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

An additional 9 percent are thought to have joined - or rejoined - the fight against the U.S. and its allies, according to Defense Department data released amid a simmering political battle over where to send the detainees if the prison is closed in January as planned.

Constitutional scholars have long cast doubt on the Pentagon’s detainee data, saying it’s not proven that at least some of those who were released were even linked to terrorism in the first place.

The Pentagon maintains that all the suspects held at the detention center at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were captured and, in most cases, held for years, because of suspected ties to al Qaeda, the Taliban or other foreign fighter groups.

“What this tells us is, at the end of the day, there are individuals, that if released, will again return to terrorist activities,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday.

As of April 7, the latest data available, 74 of about 540 detainees who have been released have since taken up the fight, or are at least suspected of doing so.


Obama merges security offices

President Obama announced Tuesday that he is combining White House staffs dealing with international and homeland security, predicting the change will make Americans safer.

Mr. Obama also is creating a new office intended to communicate more effectively with other countries about U.S. security policy.

The Homeland Security Council, created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will be kept as a venue for discussing issues concerning domestic security, including terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, natural disasters and pandemic influenza. Its staff will be integrated into the National Security Council.

“These decisions reflect the fundamental truth that the challenges of the 21st century are increasingly unconventional and transnational, and therefore demand a response that effectively integrates all aspects of American power,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.

The president’s national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, told reporters the reorganization reflects the view that national security has foreign and domestic components.


Lawmakers act to withhold photos

Congress is moving to stop a federal court order that would disclose government information to the public - this time the photos of terrorist-detainee abuse that President Obama no longer wants to release.

Just days after Mr. Obama reversed his position on the photos, Sens. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Lindsay Graham, South Carolina Republican, backed him up by adding a rider late Thursday to the Senate’s version of a $91.3 billion supplemental appropriation covering the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In a 5-year-old lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, a physicians organization and two veterans groups, a U.S. District Court in New York and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that 21 of the photos should be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Earlier this month, Mr. Obama said he reversed his position and would continue to fight the release in court after military commanders persuaded him that the graphic images could stoke anti-American sentiment and endanger U.S. troops.

The Lieberman-Graham provision would allow the defense secretary to certify to the president that release of photos or video taken between Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 22, 2009, of people captured by U.S. forces outside the United States would endanger lives. In such cases, the release could be prohibited for at least three years.


Obama to confer with Saudi king

President Obama will meet with Saudi King Abdullah next week in Riyadh for talks on the Mideast peace process, Iran and terrorism, his spokesman announced Tuesday.

The visit will come at the start of a trip by Mr. Obama that will also take him to Europe and Egypt, where he is scheduled to give a major speech to the Muslim world, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

“The president will meet with his majesty King Abdullah to discuss a range of important issues, including Middle East peace, Iran and terrorism,” Mr. Gibbs said, adding that the talks would be on the evening of June 3.

“The president believes it’s a chance to discuss a lot of important business, and he thought it was a good opportunity to do that,” he said.

After the meeting with King Abdullah, Mr. Obama will make a long-awaited address to Muslims in Egypt on June 4.


U.S., Canada sign border agreement

DETROIT | The United States and Canada adopted an agreement Tuesday to allow law enforcement authorities of both nations to share personnel and cross the border more easily to fight human, drug and weapons smuggling on waterways that separate them.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Canadian Minister of Public Safety Peter Van Loan met to formally sign the pact at a cargo facility at the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit with Windsor, Ontario.

The agreement, known as the Shiprider program, allows officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and U.S. Coast Guard to ride each others’ vessels for joint patrols and specific enforcement operations.

Vessels have been required to stop at the border and call the other nation’s agencies for help, but the pact allows ships carrying joint enforcement teams to operate in each country’s territory.

The signing gives U.S. and Canadian officials the authority to train each other’s officers and establish the program permanently. During a 57-day pilot program in 2007, the joint effort led to the seizure of contraband cigarettes and marijuana and the recovery of an abducted child, Mr. Van Loan said.


Biden plans jobs for ‘green’ housing

DENVER | Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and two Cabinet secretaries have unveiled programs to train workers for “green jobs” that make public housing more energy-efficient.

Mr. Biden, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis announced the plans Tuesday in Denver at a meeting of President Obama’s task force on the middle class.

The officials say some of the $787 billion in economic-stimulus money will be spent on energy improvements to public housing.


EPA to re-examine effects of dioxins

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. | The federal government is taking another look at the long-debated question of how chemicals called dioxins affect human health and the environment.

Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa P. Jackson announced the move Tuesday in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

The EPA’s 2003 assessment of dioxins’ health effects drew criticism from the National Academies of Science, which said the agency didn’t sufficiently justify assumptions it used to evaluate risks.

Mrs. Jackson also said the agency plans a new strategy for cleaning a dioxin-contaminated Lake Huron watershed, which extends 50 miles from a Dow Chemical Co. plant in Midland to Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay.

Dow has acknowledged responsibility for the pollution.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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