Judge Grants 'Dirty Bomb'

Suspect Access to Attorney

A U.S. citizen accused of plotting to explode a radiological "dirty bomb" in the United States must be granted access to an attorney to challenge his detention as an enemy combatant, a federal judge in New York ruled.

The ruling by Michael B. Mukasey, chief judge for New York's Southern District, rejected the Bush administration's view that allowing Jose Padilla access to his attorney would impede intelligence gathering and threaten national security.

Mukasey upheld the president's right to designate enemy combatants -- including U.S. citizens -- in the war on terrorism. However, he dismissed as "gossamer speculation" the government's concerns that Padilla could pass messages to terrorists through a lawyer and said his ability to defend himself would be "destroyed utterly" if he were denied counsel.

Administration officials took heart that Mukasey supported Bush's authority to identify and apprehend enemy combatants within the United States with relatively little judicial review. Such authority is critical, they say, for stopping potentially dangerous terrorists.

But Justice officials conceded privately that the ruling was a blow to the government's argument that Padilla and other enemy combatants should have no access to an attorney, and that the order seemed to leave open the possibility that a federal court would review the case in detail.

-- Steve Fainaru and Dan Eggen

Researchers Find 'Junk DNA'

May Have a Critical Function

The huge stretches of genetic material dismissed in biology classrooms for generations as "junk DNA" actually contain instructions essential for the growth and survival of people and other organisms, and may hold keys to understanding complex diseases such as cancer, strokes and heart attacks, researchers reported.

That is the most striking finding to emerge from the first comprehensive comparison between the complete set of genetic instructions, or genome, of human beings and that of laboratory mice. The new results, published in the journal Nature, suggest that the genomes of both organisms contain at least twice as much critically important genetic material as previously believed, a finding that promises to upend decades of scientific dogma and rewrite the rule book for how nature builds complex creatures.

The availability of a draft genome of a mouse -- the most important experimental organism in biology -- permitted the first broad genetic comparisons between mouse and human.

For decades, scientists have thought that the stretches of DNA between genes were largely useless. The new analysis, however, revealed that those sections contain important genetic instructions but do not, by and large, contain genes, the templates for building the proteins that do most of the work in human or other bodies. The instructions in these stretches of DNA appear to pertain to how the body should use its genes.

-- Justin Gillis

High Court to Rule on Colleges'

Race-Conscious Entry Policies

The Supreme Court said it will decide whether race-conscious university admissions procedures intended to promote diversity illegally discriminate against white applicants, setting the stage for a historic battle at the court over access to higher education in the United States.

At issue are claims by prospective students who say they were rejected by the University of Michigan's undergraduate program and law school because they are white. The applicants say Michigan uses admissions criteria that systematically shut out whites in favor of African Americans and other minorities with the same or lower grades and test scores.

But Michigan says its process considers each applicant as an individual, factoring in race only in an effort to ensure all students have the benefits of learning in an ethnically diverse environment.

A high-profile Supreme Court case over race-based university admissions could rekindle the wider political debate over affirmative action, which became a "wedge issue" pushing many white voters from Democratic to Republican ranks in the 1980s and '90s before receding in recent years.

-- Charles Lane

AOL Forecasts Delay

In Financial Recovery

America Online outlined a broad new strategy to reinvigorate the troubled online service but warned that a precipitous drop in advertising next year would delay its financial recovery until at least 2004.

At a conference with hundreds of Wall Street analysts and investors, AOL Time Warner Inc. executives said advertising and commerce revenue at the online unit likely would plunge 40 to 50 percent next year. The company also reported that the unit's overall profitability, based on one closely followed measure, would fall 15 to 25 percent in 2003.

The financial forecast tempered an otherwise upbeat presentation about plans to enhance America Online's offerings with exclusive new content and premium pay services. Some of the new content will be covered by existing subscription fees, but some of it -- likely, an increasing amount as time goes on -- will cost AOL subscribers extra.

The new strategy follows a difficult year for the Internet unit, which has been beset by slowing subscriber growth, falling ad revenue, and criminal and civil investigations into its accounting practices.

-- David A. Vise

Kerry to File Papers

For 2004 Presidential Run

Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) said he will file the necessary papers to allow him to raise money for a possible run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2004.

Kerry said a formal announcement of a candidacy "is down the road some months. . . . I hope, indeed, I'll be able to do that."

Recently reelected to a fourth Senate term, Kerry is the second Democrat to take the formal steps with the Federal Election Commission to begin a primary campaign. The other is Howard Dean, a physician now in his second term as governor of Vermont.

Kerry, who will turn 59 this week, was a gunboat officer in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War. He was decorated and wounded, and later became an outspoken critic of the war.

"I think on almost every issue, literally on almost every issue facing the country, I believe there is a better choice for this nation," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

-- David Brown

Saudis Detail Reforms

For Policing Charities

Acknowledging that some of the billions of dollars that annually flow through Saudi Arabian charitable organizations may have ended up in terrorist hands, the Saudi government has launched a public relations counteroffensive to demonstrate that it is pulling its weight in the financial war against terrorism.

In a report released in Washington, the Saudis detail a number of steps they have taken since Sept. 11, 2001, to keep better track of charities that the Bush administration, members of Congress and outside analysts believe have been a major source of financing for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

The steps include ordering Saudi-based charitable organizations to establish -- many for the first time -- financial control and audit mechanisms; imposing rules and regulations for the charities and creating a government agency to oversee their operations; setting up a new financial intelligence unit to coordinate among banking, law enforcement and intelligence officials; and establishing strict new rules for sending money outside the country. The report also said the government has frozen 33 bank accounts worth $5.6 million that potentially are tied to terrorists. The total amount of assets frozen by all countries since the attacks is $113 million, according to the Treasury Department.

-- Karen DeYoung