Court Splits in Decisions
On Ten Commandments
The Supreme Court issued a split decision on the public display of the Ten Commandments on government property, forbidding framed copies on the walls of two rural Kentucky courthouses while approving a 6-foot-tall granite monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol in Austin.
In a pair of 5 to 4 votes, the court ruled that the commandments were put up in Kentucky six years ago with the unconstitutional purpose of favoring monotheistic religion but that the Texas monument, erected in 1961, is a less blatantly religious statement tinged with secular historical and educational meaning as part of a group of similar markers on the grounds.
Yet the net result of the decisions may have been to leave the law more or less unchanged, legal analysts said. The court did not scrap complicated legal balancing tests it has used to evaluate the constitutionality of governmental religious statements, as some supporters of the public display of the commandments had urged. Nor did it rule out the official embrace of popular religious symbols, as some opponents of the displays had hoped.
In other decisions announced on Monday, the last day of the term, the court also:
* Found that distributors of popular software for sharing of music and videos online can be held responsible for theft if they encourage or induce their users to illegally swap copyrighted works. The decision hands movie and recording studios a sharper legal weapon in their campaign to try to shut down file-sharing systems that enable hundreds of millions of consumers to bypass retail outlets by electronically swapping music, videos and software programs.
* Refused to hear an appeal from two reporters who say they should not be forced to reveal their confidential sources to a prosecutor investigating whether senior Bush administration officials illegally leaked a covert CIA operative's name. The order leaves New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper facing jail time. They may have to surrender to authorities within weeks if they continue to refuse to answer questions before a grand jury.
Both have declined to identify confidential sources they spoke with in the summer of 2003 about government efforts to discredit a high-profile critic of President Bush's argument for going to war with Iraq: former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, the husband of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
* Ruled 6 to 3 that cable-television operators do not have to open their high-speed Internet lines to rival providers of online access.
-- Charles Lane, Jonathan Krim
and Carol D. Leonnig
House Votes to Undercut
Court Ruling on Property
The House voted to use the spending power of Congress to undermine a Supreme Court ruling allowing local governments to force the sale of private property for economic development purposes.
Last month's 5 to 4 decision has drawn a swift and visceral backlash from an unusual coalition of conservatives concerned about property rights and liberals worried about the effect on poor people, whose property is often vulnerable to condemnation because it does not generate a lot of revenue.
The House measure, which passed 231 to 189 on Thursday, would deny federal funds to any city or state project that used eminent domain to force people to sell their property to make way for a for-profit project such as a hotel. Eminent domain has been used mainly for public purposes such as highways.
The measure would apply to funds administered by the departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said they will push for a more inclusive measure that would apply to all federal funds.
-- Mike Allen and Charles Babington
Canadian House, Spain
Back Same-Sex Marriage
The Canadian House of Commons voted to guarantee full marriage rights to same-sex couples, reaffirming Canada's sharp difference with the United States over the issue of gay rights and promising an alternative destination for American gay men and lesbians to be married.
On Thursday, two days after the vote in Canada, Spain legalized same-sex marriages. It was the third country -- Belgium and the Netherlands are the other two -- to legalize same-sex marriage.
In Canada, opponents acknowledge the legislation approving gay marriage, which has the support of the government, will pass in the Senate. A vote is expected by the end of the month.
-- Doug Struck
Bush Gives Negroponte
More Control Over FBI
President Bush ordered another shake-up of the nation's intelligence services, forming new national security divisions within both the FBI and the Justice Department and, for the first time, putting a broad swath of the FBI under the authority of the nation's spy chief.
Building on previous reforms mandated by Congress, the reorganization cements the authority of the new director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, over most of the FBI's $3 billion intelligence budget. It also gives him the clear authority to approve hiring of the FBI's top national security official and, through that official, to communicate with FBI agents and analysts in the field on intelligence matters.
The plan represents a particularly sharp rebuke to the historically independent FBI, which has struggled to remake itself into a counterterrorism agency since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been the target of withering reviews from both inside and outside the government. The moves also mark a victory for the CIA, which has endured its own blistering critiques but has successfully fought off proposals to cede some of its authority to the Pentagon.
Civil liberties advocates blasted the changes at the FBI, arguing that they represent a radical step toward creation of a secret police force. Many Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents had also fiercely opposed the changes, but were overruled by Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, officials said.
-- Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus
Senate Approves Energy Bill
After Making Bipartisan Deal
The Senate approved 85 to 12 a broad-based energy bill that would provide tax breaks and other incentives to encourage domestic oil and natural gas production but billions of dollars more to boost renewable energy sources, nuclear power and conservation.
After years of bickering, the Senate struck a bipartisan deal that would benefit the booming oil industry but that also begins to address the concerns of Democrats and environmentalists that more needs to be done to conserve energy and develop cleaner energy alternatives. For the first time, the Senate has gone on record calling for mandatory limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases linked to global warming, although the resolution is not binding on the Bush administration, which opposes mandatory controls.
By contrast, the version of the energy bill that the House approved in April is heavily tilted toward providing incentives for traditional energy production. The House bill also includes protection from defective-product lawsuits for manufacturers of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE, which has contaminated drinking water in hundreds of communities.
-- Justin Blum