- The Washington Times - Friday, April 16, 2010

SENATE

Panel backs review of FOIA delays

Legislation to speed up the government’s response to open records requests is a step closer to becoming law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to send the Faster FOIA Act of 2010 to the full Senate.

The measure would create a commission to investigate government delays in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, and recommend ways to get information out faster.

The panel would also examine why government use of FOIA loopholes to withhold information rose in the last fiscal year. An Associated Press analysis found agencies were more often citing FOIA exemptions to withhold records, even as requests decreased and President Obama ordered more transparency.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that he found the numbers troubling and will look into the issue.

FBI

Solo terrorists rival al Qaeda

Al Qaeda still aims to strike inside the United States but home-grown or unaffiliated extremists now “pose an equally serious threat,” FBI chief Robert S. Mueller III warned U.S. lawmakers Thursday.

“Al Qaeda and its affiliates are still committed to striking us in the United States,” Mr. Mueller told a Senate appropriations subcommittee, pointing to plots to bomb New York City subways and the failed Christmas airline attack.

“Home-grown and lone-wolf extremists pose an equally serious threat,” he said, citing the shootings at the sprawling Fort Hood Army base in Texas.

Experts have warned that a “lone wolf” - an extremist acting alone, without connections to an established network such as al Qaeda - may be the most difficult threat for authorities to thwart.

“We have also seen U.S.-born extremists plotting to commit terrorism overseas,” such as Mumbai attacks planner David Headley, the U.S.-born son of a former Pakistani diplomat and American woman, said Mr. Mueller.

“These terrorist threats are diverse, far-reaching and ever-changing, and to combat these threats, the FBI must sustain our overseas contingency operations and engage our intelligence and law enforcement partners both here at home and abroad,” he said.

WISCONSIN

Former governor not seeking seat

MADISON | Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson will not be running for the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Thompson said at a “tea party” rally Thursday in Madison “it’s time for new voices and new faces.”

There had been rampant speculation the 68-year-old Republican would enter the race to challenge incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.

Mr. Thompson said he’d “love” to take on a Senate race. But he said his family persuaded him not to run.

Mr. Thompson served as governor from 1986 until 2001, when he left to serve as President George W. Bush’s health and human services secretary. He held that post until 2005.

Since then he has flirted with re-entering state politics. He launched a brief run for the presidency but dropped out in 2007 after finishing seventh in the Iowa straw poll.

FED

Banks once again cut borrowing

Banks borrowed less from the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending program over the past week, providing more evidence that credit problems are easing.

The Fed said that banks averaged $6.77 billion in daily borrowing for the week that ended Wednesday. That was down from $7.21 billion in average borrowing in the previous weeks.

Banks have been reducing their use of the Fed’s emergency discount window as financial conditions have improved.

At the peak of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, daily borrowing from the discount window peaked at $110 billion as banks found their normal sources of credit frozen.

With financial and economic conditions improving, the Fed has been dismantling various special-lending programs set up during the crisis.

On March 30, the Fed ended on schedule a $1.25 trillion program to purchase mortgage backed securities held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Economists have expressed concerns that halting this program will push mortgage rates higher and act as a drag just as the housing industry is trying to recover from its worst slump in decades.

On Thursday, Freddie Mac reported that rates for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage edged down slightly to 5.07 percent, compared with 5.21 percent last week. Last week’s average had been the highest since last August.


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