Navy Boards to Assess

Detainees for Release

The Defense Department announced yesterday that Navy Secretary Gordon R. England will oversee annual reviews for enemy combatants detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, a process that could lead to the release of prisoners held there indefinitely during the war on terrorism.

England said that military review boards will begin to assess the current threat level of each of the 600 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as soon as next week.

The hearings are not legal proceedings; England said the boards will not seek to determine "guilt or innocence." Detainees will be allowed to speak to the three-member panels, and a military officer assigned to assist each detainee will seek input from the detainees' family members and home governments.

England will decide whether a detainee will be held for another year, transferred to another country or released.

Justice Dept. Is Sued

On FBI Competence

A watchdog group sued the Department of Justice and Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, challenging the department's classification of documents that allege FBI incompetence in detecting warnings of possible terrorist activity.

The suit, filed here by the Project on Government Oversight, centers on allegations made by whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, who was fired from her FBI linguist job after complaining that the translation unit where she worked was mishandling important information.

The FBI presented the information in two unclassified briefings held by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2002 and Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) mentioned the allegations in letters to Department of Justice officials. Those letters were posted on the senators' Web sites, but were removed after the department reclassified the information in May.

Spokesman Charles Miller said the department declined to comment.

Bill Would Mandate

Stem Cell Research

The U.S. government would be forced to fund embryonic stem cell research, which supporters say has the potential to produce cures for a number of severe medical problems, under legislation introduced in Congress.

Republican and Democratic members of the House joined forces to introduce a bill that would require the Health and Human Services Department to press ahead with funding the research.

In August 2001, President Bush limited the use of federal monies on such research to the few stem cell lines that existed at the time.

HUD Moves to Recoup

Fraudulent Payments

A Department of Housing and Urban Development contractor accused of filing fraudulent expense reports has agreed to pay an $11,000 penalty and be prohibited from doing business with the government for two years, HUD officials said.

HUD said John E. Gilchrist, an Arizona-based consultant, collaborated with Albert F. Trevino, a former assistant HUD secretary, to submit false lodging invoices for reimbursement when Gilchrist was living in Trevino's rented Georgetown townhouse.

The department had sought $50,240.50 from the men, including civil penalties and recovery of $14,120 in improper payments.

Stricter Rules Urged

On Mercury Emissions

A bipartisan group of 184 House members wrote to Environmental Protection Administrator Michael O. Leavitt, urging him to retool proposed regulations that would govern mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. The plan has sparked intense opposition from Democrats and environmental groups.

The letter, signed by 160 Democrats, 23 Republicans and one independent, said the lawmakers "remained concerned . . . that the final regulations will nevertheless fail to satisfy the mandates of the Clean Air Act's hazardous air pollutants provisions."

The Bush administration plan would cut mercury emissions by 29 percent by 2010, and by 70 percent by 2018. Sens. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) have a competing proposal to reduce emissions by 90 percent by 2009.

-- Compiled from Staff Reports and News Services