CIA Runs Joint Operations

In Several Countries

The CIA has established joint operation centers in more than two dozen countries where U.S. and foreign intelligence officers work side by side to track and capture suspected terrorists and to destroy or penetrate their networks, according to current and former American and foreign intelligence officials.

The secret Counterterrorist Intelligence Centers are financed mostly by the agency and employ some of the best espionage technology the CIA has, including secure communications gear, computers linked to the CIA's central databases, and access to highly classified intercepts once shared only with the nation's closest Western allies.

The Americans and their counterparts at the centers make daily decisions on when and how to apprehend suspects, whether to whisk them off to other countries for interrogation and detention, and how to disrupt al Qaeda's logistical and financial support.

The network of centers reflects what has become the CIA's central and most successful strategy in combating terrorism abroad: persuading and empowering foreign security services to help. Virtually every one of the more than 3,000 suspected terrorists captured or killed since Sept. 11, 2001, outside Iraq, was traced as a result of foreign intelligence services working in tandem with the agency, the CIA deputy director of operations told a congressional committee in a closed-door session earlier this year.

-- Dana Priest

Baseball Reaches

Agreement on Steroids

Major League Baseball and its players union announced tougher penalties against steroid use that include a lifetime ban for players who repeatedly test positive.

Under the new rules, players will be suspended for 50 games after one positive test, 100 games for a second offense and banned for life if they test positive a third time. The rules still must be ratified by both sides,

Baseball has been under fire for more than a year since some of the game's most prominent sluggers were linked to steroid use as part of the federal investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. The Burlingame, Calif.-based lab distributed so-called designer steroids, which were undetectable in testing at the time.

In March, current and former players were called to testify before the House Government Reform Committee about steroid use in the game. One of the players who testified that he had never used steroids, Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles, tested positive a few months later and was suspended.

-- Les Carpenter

and Juliet Eilperin

Rice Negotiates Deal

To Open Border Crossings

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a comprehensive agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian governments designed to ease the Gaza Strip's isolation by allowing more reliable access for its goods and people to Israel and the outside world.

The deal sets out the terms of operation for Gaza border crossings used to move cargo and people, resolving a deadlock that has frustrated a team of international negotiators for weeks. It also establishes a system of bus convoys to shuttle Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, the two territorial components of what is envisioned as a future Palestinian state.

The agreement allows the Palestinians to begin work on Gaza's seaport, and assures donors that Israel will not interfere with its operation. It leaves unclear when the port would open and under what guidelines, but work to get it running will take at least three years, Palestinian officials said. The deal says discussions on renovating and reopening Gaza's international airport will continue.

Although Israel ended its 38-year presence inside Gaza in mid-September, the government has maintained tight control over the crossing points that have been closed frequently during the past two months of sporadic violence.

-- Robin Wright and Scott Wilson

Justices Back Schools

On Special Education

The Supreme Court ruled that parents of special-education students disputing proposed instructional plans for their children have the burden of proving why the plans are inadequate.

The case, brought by a Maryland couple who wanted the burden of proof shifted to the school system, had been closely followed by educators and parents throughout the nation. The 6 to 2 ruling maintains Montgomery County's practice of putting the burden on parents, which is the practice in most states.

Parents had argued that school systems were better suited to bear the burden of proof in disagreements about special-education plans because they have more resources and information. But public school educators said parents challenging a plan should have to prove the schools were wrong, and said they were worried a change would cost millions of dollars in new litigation.

A federal law, the Individuals With Disabilities in Education Act, guarantees disabled students an education tailored to individual needs -- and gives families a right to a formal hearing before a neutral decision-maker if they believe school officials have not come up with a good enough plan.

The case attracted attention from disability rights advocates and educators across the country, because more than 6.4 million children -- or about 13.4 percent of the national public school population -- receive special education under the disabilities act.

-- Charles Lane and Lori Aratani

Alito Distancing Himself From

Views on Abortion in '85 Letter

As a young lawyer in the Reagan administration, Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," declared his firm opposition to certain affirmative action programs, and strongly endorsed a government role in "protecting traditional values."

The comments came in a job application to then-Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III in 1985, when Alito, at the time an assistant in the Office of the Solicitor General, was seeking to bolster his conservative credentials and move up at the Justice Department. Alito was subsequently promoted to deputy assistant attorney general.

This week, Alito sought to distance himself from those staunchly conservative views, but some liberals and conservatives said they view the comments as the best indication yet of the judicial philosophies he would bring to the bench.

In meetings with Democratic senators, Alito suggested that his comments in the job-application letter do not necessarily indicate how he might rule on sensitive cases.

-- Jo Becker

and Charles Babington

Regular Workouts Could Add

Almost Four Years to Life Span

People who exercise regularly really do live longer. In fact, people who get a good workout almost daily can add nearly four years to their life spans, according to the first study to quantify the impact of physical activity this way.

The researchers looked at records of more than 5,000 middle age and elderly Americans and found that those who had moderate to high levels of activity lived 1.3 to 3.7 years longer than those who got little exercise, largely because they put off developing heart disease -- the nation's leading killer.

Being physically active reduces the risk of being overweight and of developing many illnesses, improves overall quality of life and lowers the mortality rate. But the new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is the first to directly calculate the effect on how long people live.

-- Rob Stein