Al Qaeda Capabilities Unclear

U.S. counterterrorism agencies have not detected a significant al Qaeda operational capability in the United States since the 2003 arrest of a truck driver who was in the early stages of plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.

Nevertheless, al Qaeda's capabilities are not clear and the group remains dangerous, the new principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Kevin Brock, said in an interview.

The uncertainty reflects the tension facing national security officials even though the country has gone four years without a domestic attack from al Qaeda.

Brock was the FBI's special agent in charge of the Cincinnati office that investigated Iyman Faris, now serving a 20-year prison sentence for aiding and abetting terrorism and conspiracy. Faris, a Kashmiri who became a U.S. citizen in 1999, was exploring whether he could destroy the Brooklyn Bridge by cutting the suspension cables.

"We have to assume that they remain a very viable and very dangerous threat," Brock said.

U.S. Impatient With N. Korea

U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said he would not sit still for endless talks with North Korea in an effort to stop its nuclear weapons program. "We can't just sit there stalemated session after stalemated session," he said.

Hill said he assumed bargaining would reopen around January, and that preliminary meetings might be held in South Korea, one of the six nations engaged in the talks. Besides the United States and North Korea, the others are China, Japan and Russia.

No One Home at HUD

Congressional investigators found spotty performance from the start in how federal and state officials handle complaints of housing discrimination: Sometimes they do not answer the phone or return the calls.

To assess enforcement of the federal Fair Housing Act, the Government Accountability Office made test calls last year to 10 regional offices of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and to 36 statewide housing agencies authorized to process bias complaints.

"Our test calls revealed some potentially serious lapses," the GAO reported. In five of the 46 calls, the agency did not return a message left by a test caller alleging discrimination, even after three attempts.

Floyd O. May, HUD general deputy assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, wrote GAO that his agency has several initiatives underway to improve the handling of complaints.

Head of POW Affairs Resigns

A senior Pentagon official who has been under internal investigation, accused of abusive management practices, told his staff he was retiring for health reasons.

Jerry D. Jennings, 65, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW and MIA affairs since August 2001, was investigated this year by the Pentagon inspector general for allegations that include reprisals against subordinates and sexual harassment of a female employee. The status of the probe has not been made public.

Jennings told his staff by letter that he was retiring, effective today.

-- From News Services