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Controversial U.N. ambassador to step down
Law & Politics | 2006/12/04 18:45

Unable to win Senate confirmation, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment expires within weeks, the White House said Monday. President Bush named Bolton to the position on an interim basis last year through a recess appointment that will expire when the new congressional session begins in January. A September vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on whether to confirm Bolton's nomination as the permanent US ambassador to the UN was delayed  in what the Bush administration called a "political" block due to old grievances, not his performance as ambassador. Bolton's nomination to the position in 2005 was stalled on the Senate floor after the Foreign Relations Committee declined to endorse the nomination. Senate Democrats at the time said Bolton "lacked credibility" due to accusations that he took advantage of intelligence analysts through his role as the head US diplomat for arms control and Bolton's inaccurate statements on a confirmation process questionnaire.

President Bush, in a statement, said he was "deeply disappointed that a handful of United States senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving the up or down vote he deserved in the Senate."

"They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time," Bush said. "This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation."

Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess. Under that process, the appointment expires when Congress formally adjourns, no later than early January.

The White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination last month. But with Democrats capturing control of the next Congress, his chances of winning confirmation appeared slight. The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, said he saw "no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again."

Sailor faces life for selling laptop secrets
Court Feed News | 2006/12/04 18:43

A sailor accused of stealing a Navy laptop computer and peddling its classified contents to an undisclosed foreign government pleaded guilty Monday to espionage, desertion and other charges.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ariel J. Weinmann, 22, of Salem, Oregon, faces a sentence of life in prison without parole, a dishonorable discharge from the Navy and forfeiture of all pay.

Under a plea agreement, Weinmann pleaded guilty to one count each of espionage, desertion, failing to properly safeguard and store classified information, copying classified information, communicating classified information to a person not entitled to receive it, and stealing and destroying a government computer.

Weinmann pleaded guilty to trying to transmit classified information related to national defense to a representative of a foreign government on October 19, 2005 while he was in or near Vienna, Austria.

He pleaded not guilty to two additional espionage counts, one accusing him of giving classified information to an agent of a foreign government in March of 2005 in Bahrain and another accusing him of trying to deliver confidential information on March 19, 2006 in Mexico City.

Weinmann told the judge, who had yet to accept the plea, that he deserted the Navy in July 2005 because the service did not meet his expectations.

"I had a very idealized view, basically what amounted to a World War II Navy," Weinmann told the judge.

Weinmann, a fire control technician, had been stationed on the Connecticut-based submarine USS Albuquerque.

He said he did not report for duty aboard his submarine on July 3, 2005. He moved to Austria and never planned to come back to the United States, but changed his mind and was arrested in March at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Weinmann told the judge he believed his actions could hurt morale and security.

"I believe if it fell into the wrong hand, sir, the information could be detrimental to the United States," Weinmann said.

He said he made copies of classified material on a laptop computer, which he brought with him to Austria. He said he printed one document and copied other information onto CDs and said he had unclassified, classified and secret information sitting on a table in his apartment in Austria.

The military has not said what it believes Weinmann might have sought in exchange for the information.

Serbs Concerned Over Serbian Nationalist
Legal Career News | 2006/12/04 14:02

Some 30,000 Serbs gathered in front of the US embassy in Belgrade on Saturday insisting that the United States and the United Nations are trying to kill ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader and war crimes defendant Vojislav Seselj. Seselj is currently on the twenty-second day of his hunger strike; he had been refusing medical attention but on Friday agreed to a medical exam by an "independent" team of doctors. The SRS, which denied the protest is a pre-election stunt, accused the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of acting on American instructions and "jeopardizing Seselj's life". SRS Deputy Leader Tomislav Nikolic described the hunger strike as a "fight against injustice and humiliation."

Seselj was transferred to a Dutch prison hospital adjoining the tribunal's detention center at Scheveningen near The Hague Wednesday so that his medical condition could be more closely monitored. When Seselj went on hunger strike in early November, he demanded that the ICTY dismiss his court-appointed lawyers, who he calls "actors" and "spies," and allow him to conduct his defense to nine war crimes charges. The court later stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself after he failed to appear in court. Seselj is accused of establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the SRS, which are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Seselj has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

US House to vote on Mexico offshore drilling bill
Headline News | 2006/12/03 00:49

Republicans in the US House of Representatives agreed Friday to vote on a compromise offshore drilling bill on Tuesday under special rules that limit amendments and generally speed up proceedings, but require a two-thirds majority for approval. If passed, the bill would allow oil and gas drilling in about 8.3 million acres of federal waters in the eastern-central Gulf and boost federal royalty shares from two percent to 37.5 percent in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Environmental leaders, however, oppose the measure, especially in light of the GOP's pending loss of majority rule.

The Senate passed the compromise bill, 71-25, in August, limiting offshore expansion to the Gulf of Mexico. The bill passed by the House in June, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, would have ended the offshore drilling moratorium on 85 percent of the coastal waters surrounding the US.

New Hampshire GOP phone jamming case settles
Legal Career News | 2006/12/02 23:49
The lawsuit brought against the New Hampshire Republican State Committee for the jamming of Democratic phone lines in the 2002 Senate race has been settled, according to a statement Friday from GOP state Committee Chairman Wayne Semprini. The New Hampshire Democratic Party filed civil suit for compensation for the 800 hang-up phone calls that were placed to interfere with Democratic get-out-the-vote campaigns. The settlement comes just as trial was set to start Monday in Hillsborough County Superior Court on issues of phone system interference and compensation, after the trial judge dismissed 5 of the initial 8 counts in the complaint. Democrats sought $4 million compensation for the cost of the seven-month voter turnout campaign, while Republicans wanted damages to be limited to the $4,974 spent on phone rentals and use. A judge ruled Wednesday that damages above phone rentals could be sought, though not the full $4 million, and that the Democrats had the right to allege that the phone jamming thwarted their efforts to increase voter turnout. The settlement amount has not been disclosed. In a statement Saturday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party said that although the settlement "closes one chapter of the litigation stemming from the shameful and criminal Republican campaign to rob people of their fundamental right to vote, the federal criminal investigation will continue."

New York Times seeks dismissal of anthrax libel lawsuit
Court Feed News | 2006/12/02 20:48

The New York Times has asked US District Judge Claude M. Hilton to dismiss a libel lawsuit brought by Dr. Stephen J. Hatfill, a former Army germ-warfare researcher who was named a "person of interest" by the FBI in its investigations of anthrax mailings shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Hatfill sued the Times for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress after the newspaper published a story stating that the government's decision not to further pursue Hatfill as a suspect was the result of "poor investigation." The newspaper moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that as a public speaker on bioterror, Hatfill is a public figure and therefore must prove a higher standard of defamation. The "public figure" must prove that the defamatory actions were taken with "actual malice", a standard which the Times motion contends Hatfill has failed to meet.

Hatfill's suit against the Times and columnist Nichols Kristoff was initially dismissed by a trial court, who ruled the columns were an ongoing report about a government investigation, not libel. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed, ruling that a jury should decide that issue. In March, the Supreme Court refused to grant certiorari in the case. Hatfill has also sued the government for related claims.

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