Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pentagon Closing Talon Database

The Pentagon said yesterday that it will shut down its Talon database, which has been criticized for improperly storing information on peace activists and others whose actions posed no threat.

Army Col. Gary Keck said that the Pentagon database, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will be shut down Sept. 17 -- not in response to criticism but because the amount and quality of information being gathered had declined.

"The analytical value of it was pretty slim," he said. "The Talon database was a perfectly legal system -- nobody ever said it wasn't -- but it just was not meeting our needs anymore."

In April, the Pentagon's new intelligence chief, James R. Clapper Jr., recommended ending the program.

New Review Ordered For NIH Official

The director of a high-powered institute at the National Institutes of Health will leave his position temporarily while senior NIH officials review management practices and allegations of conflict-of-interest problems during his tenure, the agency announced.

David A. Schwartz, head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, has been accused of breaking government spending rules and disregarding ethics guidelines by making decisions that affected Duke University, where he used to teach. His involvement as an expert witness in multimillion-dollar asbestos-injury cases also raised concerns.

An internal NIH ethics review found that Schwartz spent $2,000 of institute money for personal purposes but cleared him of other wrongdoing. Several members of Congress say that review was incomplete and have pressed for more details. NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni said that in response, he ordered the new review.

Schwartz will continue to serve during the review as a senior adviser to Zerhouni and as a senior official at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

House Panel to Probe GOP Political Team

The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee demanded of 18 federal agencies and agency heads all records that detail their efforts to coordinate federal activities with the White House through the "asset deployment" team set up by outgoing Bush adviser Karl Rove.

The team, formed shortly after President Bush took office in 2001, coordinated political appointees' travel, government announcements, and the rollout of grant money for maximum promotion of the Republican agenda and candidates, The Washington Post reported this week.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), has been investigating political briefings that White House officials have given at federal agencies over the years.

Waxman asked the agencies and executives to "provide the committee with documents relating to any 'asset deployment' activities involving your agency, including any documents relating to meetings of the asset deployment team or communications about asset deployment with White House officials."

-- From Staff Reports and News Services

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