Cohen Vows to Fight Bias in Military

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said yesterday that the armed services will take every step necessary to eliminate racial bias in the ranks, after the release of a Pentagon survey in which large numbers of blacks and other minorities complained of offensive behavior and discrimination.

"There is no place for racism in our society," Cohen said at a Pentagon news conference. "There is certainly no place for it within the military."

The congressionally mandated survey found that whites have a fairly positive view of race relations in the military, but about three-quarters of minority service members said they had experienced verbal abuse or other racially offensive incidents.

The survey also had bad news about military procedures. Nearly one-fifth of black service members, for example, reported that they had suffered setbacks in promotions and assignments because of racial bias.

Herman Testifies Before Grand Jury

Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman spent a full day testifying before a federal grand jury investigating allegations that she solicited illegal campaign contributions and engaged in influence-peddling.

Herman, who has denied any wrongdoing, had no comment yesterday. She is scheduled to resume her testimony today, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Independent counsel Ralph I. Lancaster Jr. has elicited testimony from numerous witnesses in his probe, including President Clinton, who was questioned for an hour in September at the White House. Clinton has said that he believes Herman will be cleared once Lancaster's work is complete.

Reno Still Mulling Egyptian's Release

Attorney General Janet Reno delayed deciding whether to release Nasser Ahmed, an Egyptian national incarcerated in New York for 3 1/2 years because of secret evidence linking him to terrorists.

In July, Immigration Judge Donn Livingston found that Ahmed had successfully refuted evidence that he had engaged in illegal activities and terrorism while working for Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind Muslim cleric who was convicted with nine others in 1995 of conspiring to blow up the United Nations and other New York landmarks.

The Board of Immigration Appeals upheld Livingston's order to release Ahmed last week, but Immigration Commissioner Doris Meissner filed an appeal with the attorney general, citing "national security concerns." Reno was to have made a decision on Ahmed's release by 5 p.m. yesterday, but she instead extended her deadline until Monday, "in order to permit opportunity for further review," she said in a brief statement.