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Senator offers Guantanamo Bay deal if 9/11 trials move to military tribunals

Monday, March 8, 2010; A02

TERRORISM

Senator offers a deal to shift 9/11 trials

A Republican senator is offering the White House a deal on terrorism trials.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) said that if President Obama agrees to try alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four accused henchmen in military tribunals, he will press fellow Republicans to vote to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Graham, interviewed Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," said reversing a plan by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to try the suspected terrorists in a civilian court in New York would be seen by the public as an act of leadership.

The White House is reviewing Holder's plan, and no new recommendation has been presented to the president. A decision is not expected for several weeks.

Beyond Mohammed's case, Graham also said a new legal framework is needed to deal with the most dangerous detainees at the U.S. military prison.

"We need a legal system that gives due process to the detainee but also understands they didn't rob a liquor store," he said.

Closing Guantanamo Bay was a key promise Obama made when he took office, but it remains unfulfilled as he battles pressure from both sides of the political aisle.

In a full-page ad in Sunday's New York Times, the American Civil Liberties Union said that if Obama does not back Holder, he will be extending the policies of the George W. Bush administration. The ad shows an image of Obama on the left and in subsequent panels moving to the right, the image morphs into a portrayal of Bush, who set up Guantanamo Bay for suspected terrorists.

"As president, Barack Obama must decide whether to keep his solemn promise to restore our Constitution and due process, or ignore his vow and continue the Bush-Cheney policies," the ad states.

-- Associated Press

TRANSPORTATION

Obama to nominate new head of TSA

President Obama plans to nominate retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding to head the Transportation Security Administration after his first pick withdrew under political pressure, an administration official said Sunday.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planned nomination has not been announced.

Before retiring from the military, Harding was deputy to the Army's chief of intelligence and previously served as director for operations in the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The TSA job requires Senate confirmation and Obama's first nominee, Erroll Southers, withdrew after Senate Republicans raised concerns that he would try to unionize the workforce that is responsible for screening passengers at U.S. airports.

-- Reuters

SPACE

Obama to explain his new direction

President Obama will speak directly to space program contractors and employees April 15 in Florida during a White House-sponsored conference that will give him a forum to explain and defend his decision to change the program's direction and long-term priorities, the White House announced Sunday.

The administration's proposed cancellation of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration's Constellation Program to return astronauts to the moon has been jarring for the industry and its supporters in Congress. Obama proposed instead to increase NASA's budget by $6 billion but redirect its efforts toward the development of technologies suitable for the long-term exploration of many planets and the creation of a vibrant private industry devoted to human spaceflight.

The aim of the conference, according to the White House, is to "focus on the goals and strategies in this new vision, the next steps, and the new technologies, new jobs and new industries it will create."

Administration officials will also describe the implications for the economy of Florida, the long-standing host of the Kennedy space launch center and a key prize in federal elections.

-- R. Jeffrey Smith

Many Kansas City schools could be shuttered: The Kansas City (Mo.) School District is considering a plan to close nearly half its schools to keep the district from plowing through what little is left of the $2 billion it received as part of a groundbreaking desegregation case. A final plan presented last week calls for closing 29 of 61 schools to avoid a projected $50 million budget shortfall.

-- From news services

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