Prosecutors Deny Padilla Torture Claims
"Federal prosecutors on Monday denied claims by suspected al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla that he was tortured during his 3 1/2 years in military custody as an enemy combatant.
"In papers filed in federal court, prosecutors said Padilla provided no evidence to back up his claims and urged that the case against him not be dismissed based on his allegations. They insisted that Padilla was treated humanely while in a Navy brig in South Carolina....
"Padilla's lawyers last month asked a federal judge to dismiss the terror support charges against him based on their allegations that he suffered from "outrageous government conduct" while in military custody for more than 1,300 days. They claimed Padilla's interrogators threatened to execute him, and forced him to wear a hood and stand in stress positions for long periods of time." (AP)
Justice Department: Gitmo Detainees May Not Challenge Their Detention in Court
"The Bush administration said Monday that Guantanamo Bay prisoners have no right to challenge their detentions in civilian courts and that lawsuits by hundreds of detainees should be dismissed.
"In court documents filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Justice Department defended the military's authority to arrest people oversees and detain them indefinitely without access to courts.
"It's the first time that argument has been spelled out since President Bush signed a law last month setting up military commissions for the thousands of foreigners being held in U.S. prisons abroad." (AP)
In Backing Murtha, Pelosi Draws Fire
"House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi's endorsement of Rep. John P. Murtha's bid for House majority leader set off a furor yesterday on Capitol Hill, with critics charging that she is undercutting her pledge to clean up corruption by backing a veteran lawmaker who they say has repeatedly skirted ethical boundaries.
"Pelosi [D-CA] directly intervened in the heated contest between Murtha [D-PA] and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer [D-MD] on Sunday by circulating a letter to Democratic lawmakers. The letter voiced her support for Murtha and put her prestige on the line in a closely fought leadership battle. Some Democratic lawmakers and watchdog groups say they are baffled that Pelosi would go out of her way to back Murtha's candidacy after pledging to make the new 110th Congress the most ethical and corruption-free in history.
"Murtha, a longtime senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, has battled accusations over the years that he has traded federal spending for campaign contributions, that he has abused his post as ranking party member on the Appropriations defense subcommittee, and that he has stood in the way of ethics investigations. Those charges come on top of Murtha's involvement 26 years ago in the FBI's Abscam bribery sting." (WaPo, NY Times, Roll Call, LA Times)
Judge: Libby May Use Classified Data
"Classified information will be key evidence in the CIA leak trial and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald went too far in his proposal to limit its release, a federal judge ruled Monday.
"Former White House aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby is charged with lying to investigators in the case and wants to present classified material at his trial in January to show jurors that he had a lot on his mind and couldn't remember details about the leak.
"U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said Libby has a right to use some classified material at trial in January. Walton has not said publicly what must be allowed, and both sides are arguing behind closed doors over how the information will be blacked out for jurors." (AP)
Nomination Still Stalled For Pentagon Oversight Job
"Even as the Senate moves quickly to consider Robert M. Gates's nomination to be defense secretary, the nomination of the man who would be looking over Gates's shoulder on behalf of taxpayers remains bogged down nearly six months after he was tapped to fill one of the government's most important oversight roles.
"The nominee for Pentagon inspector general, David H. Laufman, is a veteran prosecutor who has vowed to be an aggressive watchdog -- especially of work in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Laufman, nominated by President Bush in June, has met resistance from Democrats who question his independence. Republicans, meanwhile, have done little to advance his nomination since confirmation hearings in July. The inaction has prompted Laufman to take the unusual step of speaking out.
"'Given the nature and magnitude of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the hundreds of billions of dollars at issue in defense acquisition and contract performance, the need for aggressive oversight and accountability at the Department of Defense is critical,' he said yesterday. 'Yet for more than a year, there has been a void of leadership in the Office of the Inspector General and a corresponding absence of essential oversight and accountability.'
"The Pentagon last had a permanent inspector general in September 2005, when Joseph E. Schmitz left to become general counsel for the parent company of security firm Blackwater USA. Since then, the office of 1,250 military and civilian officers and employees has been led by acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble." (WaPo)
GOP Fundraiser Convicted in Coin Scandal
"A former GOP fundraiser was convicted Monday of embezzling from a rare-coin investment fund in a scandal that contributed to the rout of Ohio's Republican Party on Election Day.
"Tom Noe, a coin dealer and former Republican fundraiser, was convicted of 29 of the 40 counts against him, including theft, corrupt activity, money laundering, forgery and tampering with records.
"The corrupt activity charge was the most serious, carrying a mandatory 10-year prison sentence." (AP)
K St. Sees Big Changes At Ways and Means
"No other committee seems poised for as dramatic a transformation in the 110th Congress [as Ways and Means]. These changes weigh heavily on the minds of business interests in Washington, D.C., since Ways and Means arguably has no peer in its impact on the bottom line of American business.
â'It will be hard to find a committee that is going to go under as much change as Ways and Means, in terms of membership, philosophy and leadership style,' said John Jonas, a Democratic lobbyist at Patton Boggs who served as a tax counsel on the Ways and Means Committee during the 1980s. 'The words "radical change" are not uncalled for.'...
"For the lobbyists and industries that had friendly relationships with the Members who are leaving and their staffers, the changes are 'breathtaking,' in the words of one Democratic lobbyist.
For 'a bunch of businesses that were protected, their go-to person, their champion, is gone,' the lobbyist said. For example, [Rep. Nancy] Johnson [R-CT] was known as a champion of the insurance industry, which historically has had a strong presence in her home state of Connecticut." (Roll Call)