White House Disavows Justice Memo on Interrogation Tactics
President Bush's aides disavowed an internal Justice Department opinion that torturing terrorism suspects might be legally defensible, saying it had created the false impression that the government was claiming authority to use interrogation techniques barred by international law.
Responding to pressure from Congress and outrage around the world, officials at the White House and the Justice Department derided the August 2002 legal memo on aggressive interrogation tactics, calling parts of it overbroad and irrelevant and saying it would be rewritten.
In a highly unusual repudiation of its department's own work, a senior Justice official and two other high-ranking lawyers said that all legal advice rendered by the department's Office of Legal Counsel on the subject of interrogations will be reviewed.
The administration also declassified and released hundreds of pages of internal documents that it said demonstrated that Bush had never authorized torture against detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
-- Mike Allen and Susan Schmidt
Supreme Court Says Juries
Only May Extend Sentences
A bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled that only juries, not judges, may increase criminal sentences beyond the maximums suggested by statutory guidelines, a decision that throws into doubt sentencing procedures used by nine states and possibly the federal government.
By a vote of 5 to 4, the court said a trial judge in Washington state violated the Constitution when he sentenced a convicted kidnapper to 90 months in prison rather than the 53-month maximum prescribed by state law. The judge was following a provision of the law that permits judges to impose higher sentences when they find that the facts warrant harsher punishment.
But the court said the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a jury trial in felony cases means that any facts that would result in a sentence above the range of sentences specifically mentioned in the law must be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
The ruling was the latest application of the court's 2000 ruling in Apprendi v. New Jersey, in which the court roiled criminal law by holding for the first time that factual findings a court uses to increase sentences must be made by a jury rather than by a judge.
The court used Apprendi in 2002 to strike down state laws that call for judges, rather than juries, to decide between life imprisonment and death in capital cases. But in a separate case Thursday, the court limited the impact of that ruling by declaring that it would not apply retroactively, clearing the way for the eventual execution of more than 100 death-row inmates in four states. The court said that its ruling two years ago was not such a fundamentally new rule of law that its benefits should flow to everyone, including those whose death sentences became final before then.
-- Charles Lane
Justices Uphold Nevada's
The Supreme Court also upheld a state law that makes it a crime to refuse to tell the police one's name when stopped for suspicious behavior, a ruling that strengthens the ability of law enforcement officers to detain citizens even where they lack enough evidence for a full arrest.
By a 5 to 4 vote, the court ruled that Larry Dudley Hiibel's constitutional rights to be free of unreasonable arrest and to remain silent were not violated when Deputy Lee Dove arrested him for refusing to give his name after Dove stopped Hiibel and questioned him near Winnemucca, Nev., on May 21, 2000. Hiibel was convicted of violating Nevada's "stop and identify" law and fined $250.
Hiibel and his supporters, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, had urged the court to strike down the Nevada statute, arguing that it effectively criminalizes a citizen's silence. Advocates for the homeless said that laws such as Nevada's could be used to harass homeless people, who are often mentally ill or lack identification cards.
But the author of the majority opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, made it clear that he regarded the disclosure of one's name, the only piece of information the Nevada law specifically requires, as a modest intrusion on privacy.
-- Charles Lane
Doubts Over War in Iraq
Cut Bush Approval Ratings
Public anxiety over mounting casualties in Iraq and doubts about long-term consequences of the war continue to rise and have helped to erase President Bush's once-formidable advantage over Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) concerning who is best able to deal with terrorist threats, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Exactly half the country now approves of the way Bush is managing the U.S. war on terrorism, down 13 percentage points since April, according to the poll. Barely two months ago, Bush comfortably led Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by 21 points when voters were asked which man they trusted to deal with the terrorist threat. Today the country is evenly divided, with 48 percent preferring Kerry and 47 percent favoring Bush.
The survey shows that Americans are coming to a mixed judgment about the costs and benefits of the war. Campaign advisers to Bush and Kerry believe voters' conclusions about Bush and Iraq will play a decisive role in determining the outcome of the November election.
The shift is potentially significant because Bush has consistently received higher marks on fighting terrorism than on Iraq, and if the decline signals a permanent loss of confidence in his handling of the campaign against terrorism, that could undermine a central part of Bush's reelection campaign message.
Bush's marks for handling the economy and Iraq both rose slightly over the past month, but his overall approval rating remains below 50 percent. Kerry leads Bush in a test that includes independent Ralph Nader, and is seen as more honest and trustworthy than the president, but those surveyed question whether he has his own plan for Iraq.
-- Richard Morin and Dan Balz
Gender Discrimination Suit
Against Wal-Mart to Proceed
A federal judge in San Francisco ruled that a gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. could proceed to trial as a class action because of evidence the nation's largest employer paid female workers less and gave them fewer promotions than men.
The suit could include as many as 1.6 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees, in what would be the largest private employer civil rights case in U.S. history.
U.S. District Court Judge Martin J. Jenkins found that attorneys for the six named women who filed suit in 2001 "present largely uncontested descriptive statistics which show that women working in Wal-Mart stores are paid less than men in every region, that pay disparities exist in most job categories, that the salary gap widens over time even for men and women hired into the same jobs at the same time, that women take longer to enter into management positions, and that the higher one looks in the organization, the lower the percentage of women."
Wal-Mart said it would appeal.
-- Amy Joyce
AOL Employee Charged
In E-Mail Address Theft
Jason Smathers, a software engineer at America Online Inc., was arrested on federal charges that he hacked into the company's computers to steal 92 million e-mail addresses that were later sold and used to bombard AOL members with spam.
Smathers, 24, is accused of illegally obtaining the e-mail addresses of nearly all of the Internet provider's customers in May 2003. Smathers allegedly sold the names for $100,000 to Sean Dunaway, 21, who ran an Internet gambling business in Las Vegas, prosecutors said.
Dunaway then sold the list to spammers, who used it early this year to send millions of e-mails peddling herbal penile enhancement products, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York.
-- Jonathan Krim and David A. Vise