Soldiers Facing Extended
Tours in Iraq, Afghanistan
Army officials announced that thousands of active-duty and reserve soldiers who are nearing the end of their volunteer service commitments could be forced to serve an entire tour overseas if their units are chosen for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.
The order applies to all Army soldiers who are deployed in the future and means that many troops could face extended terms in the military after their formal contracts expire.
Army officials said the move promotes cohesion by preventing Army divisions from being depleted before they go into battle. But military experts and lawmakers said the decision indicates that the Army is being stretched thin by multiple operations, with some calling the program a draft in disguise.
All 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar are serving under the same stop-loss conditions, but Army officials decided to announce a policy that alerts all troops for the future. The U.S. military intends to keep about 140,000 troops in Iraq through 2005.
-- Josh White
Judge Overturns Ban
On 'Partial Birth' Abortion
A federal judge in San Francisco struck down the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act Tuesday, ruling that the law jeopardizes other legal forms of abortion and threatens the health of women who end their pregnancies.
U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton concluded that the bill -- approved by wide margins in Congress last year and signed by President Bush -- was unconstitutional.
Hamilton adopted most of the arguments put forward by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in finding that the measure was too vague, that it placed an unfair burden on women seeking certain kinds of abortions and that it did not do enough to protect women's health.
The ban on the procedure that critics call "partial birth abortion" was already on hold temporarily as three courts heard legal challenges to it, but Hamilton's decision prohibits the Justice Department from enforcing the law at any of Planned Parenthood's 900 clinics, which perform half the nation's abortions. Planned Parenthood physicians who perform the procedure outside the organization's clinics also are protected.
Doctors call the procedure "intact dilation and extraction." It requires partly delivering an intact fetus, typically during the second trimester, and puncturing the skull. It is unclear how many abortions are performed this way each year, but it is a small percentage.
Many abortion providers argue that it is necessary because it can be lifesaving for some women and can protect the fertility of others. Opponents say that it ends the life of a being that had at least partly left its mother's body.
-- Marc Kaufman
U.S. Details Case Against
Terror Suspect Held Since '02
Jose Padilla, the former Chicago gang member accused of planning to set off a radiological bomb in the United States, also plotted with some of al Qaeda's top operatives to blow up U.S. apartment buildings using natural gas and had sworn to carry out attacks when he was arrested two years ago, according to a release of classified interrogation information by the government.
The summary of the case against Padilla, a U.S. citizen, also alleges that he met repeatedly with senior leaders of the al Qaeda terrorist network, including lieutenant Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, who took a keen interest in Padilla because he speaks English and held a valid U.S. passport.
The allegations were unveiled as part of a defense of the government's treatment of Padilla, one of two U.S. citizens held for long stretches without charges in the United States as "enemy combatants," without access to courts or lawyers. Their cases are pending before the Supreme Court.
Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey Jr. said information gleaned from interrogations of Padilla shows that he was intent on killing innocents in the United States but "would likely have ended up a free man" if prosecuted in the criminal justice system, because his attorney would have advised him to tell authorities nothing.
-- Dan Eggen
Sexual Assault Allegations
In Army Have Been Increasing
Allegations of sexual assault in the U.S. Army have climbed steadily over the past five years, and the problem has been abetted by weak prevention efforts, slow investigations, inadequate field reporting and poor managerial oversight, according to internal Army data and a new report from an Army task force.
The report, sparked by complaints from women's groups and female lawmakers about an apparent increase in reported assaults against U.S. servicewomen in Iraq and Afghanistan, states that the Army lacks "an overarching policy" for dealing with the problem, and that as a result it "does not have a clear picture of the sexual assault issue."
The report also states that the Army lacks a "comprehensive, progressive . . . program to train solders and leaders in the prevention of and response to sexual assault." It said commanders within the region covered by the military's Central Command have not always reported sexual offenses to Army investigators, even when they took action against those involved.
The Army's internal report echoes conclusions drawn in earlier, military-wide assessments. Data released separately by the Army Criminal Investigative Division, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Washington Post, made it clear that the number of sexual assault cases reported to the division increased each year from 1999 to 2003.
-- R. Jeffrey Smith
Former Leader of Haiti Makes
'Temporary Visit' to S. Africa
Deposed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide arrived in South Africa on Monday for an open-ended stay close to one of his most steadfast international supporters, President Thabo Mbeki.
Aristide's exile has taken him across the Atlantic three times since leaving Haiti on Feb. 29 in the face of a rebel insurgency. A South African air force jet had flown him, his wife and their two young daughters from Jamaica, where they had been since March.
South African officials called Aristide's exile here a "temporary visit" and said he had not been granted political asylum.
Aristide was Haiti's first democratically elected president, but after seven months was removed in a military coup in 1991. He was restored to power three years later behind a U.S. invasion.
In 2000, Aristide was elected president again, but opposition parties boycotted the vote as unfair. He has accused the United States of kidnapping him on Feb. 29 and forcing him to leave Haiti -- a charge U.S. officials deny.
-- Craig Timberg