Bill would shield companies involved in wiretapping
House and Senate leaders have agreed to a compromise surveillance bill that would effectively shield from civil lawsuits the telecommunications companies that helped the government wiretap phone and computer lines after the 2001 terrorist attacks without court permission. The House was expected to pass the bill today, potentially ending a monthslong standoff about the rules for government wiretapping inside the U.S. The Senate passed a bill that immunized the companies from lawsuits, but the House bill was silent on the matter. The White House threatened to veto any bill that did not shield the companies, which tapped lines at the behest of the president and attorney general but without permission from a special court established for that purpose, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Associated Press
Alaska Denali National Park
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Two backpackers rationed peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars, growing hungrier as they wandered for six days in Denali National Park, they said Thursday. Erica Nelson and Abby Flantz were down to their last granola bar Wednesday, the day they were rescued. Trekking through the remote park, they regularly clicked on their cell phone until they finally found reception that led to their rescue. Associated Press
Reporters should be allowed to withhold the identity of their sources in most federal court cases, more than two-thirds of state attorneys general now say. The Newspaper Association of America said Thursday that 37 attorneys general have signed a letter to Senate leaders in support of a media shield bill. A shield bill won passage in the House in October, after a similar measure cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yet it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where there is strong opposition from some Republicans. The White House has threatened to veto the legislation, arguing it would encourage leaks of classified information. Associated Press
Tipsters revealing caches
of weapons in Iraq
Weapons caches are turning up with increasing frequency in public places in Iraq – from a bakery to a fish farm – as recent security gains embolden more civilians to come forward with tips, U.S. and Iraqi military officials say. The odd locations of many of the discoveries reflect the fine line separating civilians from the Shiite and Sunni extremists who don't wear uniforms and often live among them. Many would-be tipsters had previously looked the other way because of intimidation or because they sought protection from local militias.
“These are people who in the past weren't willing to come forth because of the threats from militias,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, the top commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad. “Now they're telling the Iraqi army they've had it with the militia. ‘Don't leave. We want you to stay here.'” Associated Press
The EU has agreed to lift sanctions against Cuba, but it imposed tough conditions on the communist island, officials said Thursday. The decision does not affect the U.S. trade embargo imposed nearly 50 years ago. The EU conditions include the release of political prisoners; access to the Internet; and a double-track approach for all EU delegations arriving in Cuba allowing them to meet opposition figures and members of the Cuban government. Associated Press