Newspaper Criticized in Steffen Case

A spokesman for an Internet site said yesterday that a Washington Post reporter may have violated a federal privacy law and the newspaper's ethical code when he used an unidentified person's account to view private conversations that linked a former aide to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's administration to a whisper campaign about a political rival.

"How in good faith could The Washington Post access a private Internet account without the express permission of the account holder?" Kristinn Taylor, a spokesman for the conservative, asked in a morning news conference in front of The Post's offices in Northwest Washington.

In response, R.B. Brenner, The Post's Maryland editor, said: "As part of our reporting, we needed to verify that the chat room postings were authentic. We were authorized to view them, and it was appropriate to do so under the circumstances."

The claims relate to a series of Internet chats in October and November 2004 between Joseph Steffen, then an aide to the governor, and a person using the screen name MD4BUSH. In those postings, MD4BUSH coaxed Steffen into revealing his role in spreading rumors about Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, now a Democratic candidate for governor.

To verify that printouts of the postings he had been given were not fake, Post reporter Matthew Mosk logged onto the site a couple of months later using a password provided by an intermediary who was acting on behalf of MD4BUSH, Brenner said. He said Mosk read the messages and did not post anything on the Web site.

Duncan Drafts Plan on Heating Assistance

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) has proposed a plan to help more low-income residents pay for rising home-heating costs by doubling the county's energy tax rebate program and expanding Montgomery's Earned Income Tax Credit program.

The plan would double the tax rebate for low-income residents, currently $40, and provide for an additional $50 credit under the EITC. Duncan is asking the County Council to approve $1.3 million in supplemental funding to finance the program. He has also asked the state of Maryland for additional money.

Silver Spring Woman Reported Missing

Montgomery County police are asking for help in finding a missing Silver Spring woman.

Marlena Ardell Worthy,31, was last seen in the Rockville area Oct. 28. Her family, of the 10300 block of Nolcrest Drive, said she may not be taking needed medication. She was described as black, 5 feet 2 and 180 pounds. She was wearing a denim cap with a brown band and a denim, waist-length jacket. Police asked anyone with information to call 301-279-8000.

House Fire Takes Life of Man, 76

A 76-year-old man died yesterday in a fire at a house in the Hillcrest Heights-Temple Hills area of Prince George's County, authorities said. The fire started about 9 p.m. in the 3500 block of 23rd Parkway.

Crash, Fire Shut Down Howard Road

A fiery crash of a tractor-trailer and a car closed Route 29 in both directions in Howard County for more than an hour yesterday.

County police said a Mercedes-Benz swerved in front of a Mitsubishi near Route 175 about noon. The Mitsubishi driver braked but lost control. The tractor-trailer driver was unable to avoid the Mitsubishi, and the truck jackknifed and caught fire. No serious injuries were reported.


Pickup Fatally Strikes Bicyclist in SE

A 34-year-old man died late Thursday when his bicycle was hit by a pickup in Southeast Washington, D.C. police said yesterday.

Charles Montgomery was riding east on G Street about 11:30 p.m. when he ran a red light while trying to turn onto Benning Road SE, police said.

FBI Doubts Terror Suspect a True Threat

A terror suspect arrested in England had images of the Capitol and other Washington landmarks on his computer, federal authorities said, but they expressed doubt that there was a threat.

Younis Tsouli, 22, is charged with terrorism offenses, but an FBI official said there was no credible indication of an imminent threat.

MLB, City Still at Odds on Stadium Lease

Two marathon days of negotiating between the District and Major League Baseball over terms of a lease for a new Nationals stadium ended yesterday with no agreement. Officials said they will continue talking next week but added that a resolution is days or perhaps a week away.

The city needs the terms to go to the bond market to get money for building the stadium, and MLB officials said they will not select an owner for the team until the lease is completed.

Election Residency Allegations Rejected

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance yesterday rejected a complaint against Ward 3 council candidate Sam Brooks, saying allegations that he has falsely claimed to live in Ward 3 "cannot be substantiated." Brooks, 26, moved last month from his parents' home in Ward 2 to a room on Tilden Street NW in hopes of winning the Ward 3 seat being vacated by Kathy Patterson (D). Candidates are not required to live in the ward they hope to represent until nominated.


Tribe Gets New Chance in Reservoir Fight

Virginia's Supreme Court told a lower court to consider the claim made by the Mattaponi Indian tribe in its effort to prevent construction of a reservoir in King William County.

The Newport News Circuit court had ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to examine the tribe's claim that the proposed reservoir violates a 1677 treaty.

"It is beyond question that the Constitution grants Congress exclusive authority to govern the District, but does not provide for District representation in Congress. . . . Congress is the District's government, and the fact that District residents do not have congressional representation does not alter that constitutional reality."

-- excerpt from the opinion issued yesterday by the U.S.

Court of Appeals that the District of Columbia cannot impose

a commuter tax without the permission of Congress. -- A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Ray Rivera, Clarence Williams, Del Quentin Wilber, David Nakamura, Martin Weil and Lori Montgomery and the Associated Press.

Marlena Worthy