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Washington in brief

Passenger profile plan fails test

By Wire services
Published February 12, 2004

The government has not adequately addressed security and privacy concerns in its plan to use personal information to rank airline passengers as potential security threats, congressional investigators say.

The Bush administration has said it wants to begin testing a new program this spring and put it in place during the summer. The findings by the General Accounting Office, in a draft report obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press, could delay the rollout of the system.

Congress has said the government may not spend any money for testing or putting the program in place until the GAO reports that eight concerns were satisfied. Those include assurances that the system is accurate, that the technology ensures privacy, that safeguards exist to prevent abuse and that passengers who think they were mistakenly identified as a threat have some recourse.

Bush press secretary says military records suffice

The White House hardened its defense of President Bush's National Guard service Wednesday, saying people who seek records are "trolling for trash."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Wednesday that a 13-page stack of military pay records released the day before showed Bush fulfilled his requirements. He stopped short of saying the White House would never release any more information to document Bush's record, especially a several-month period when he was assigned in Alabama.

"If there is new information that comes to our attention we will let you know - if it's relevant to this issue," McClellan said.

House speaker clashes with White House on jobs

House Speaker Dennis Hastert took a swipe Wednesday at one of President Bush's aides for describing the shipping of American jobs abroad as "just a new way of doing international trade."

The unusual attack by Hastert, R-Ill., on an administration official of his own party underscored the sensitivity the issue of jobs has acquired. Hastert used a four-paragraph written statement to criticize Gregory Mankiw, the chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. Mankiw made his remarks Monday.

"I understand that Mr. Mankiw is a brilliant economic theorist, but his theory fails a basic test of real economics. An economy suffers when jobs disappear," Hastert said.

Boeing CEO courts tanker deal critic

Boeing's chief executive, who has been spending time at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill trying to repair the aerospace giant's reputation, met Wednesday with one of the company's leading critics, Sen. John McCain. Both sides said the private meeting was productive.

Harry Stonecipher has said his sessions with defense officials and lawmakers are intended "to deal with this perception that we're a bunch of crooks."

He took over Chicago-based Boeing in early December amid questions about the way Boeing pursued a multibillion-dollar contract to supply 100 jets to the Air Force for use as tankers.

McCain, R-Ariz., has assailed the "incestuous relationship" between Boeing and the Air Force. McCain's spokesman, Marshall Wittmann, said the meeting with Stonecipher included "a frank discussion of a variety of issues."

Justice does not duck question on hunting trip

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia isn't backing down in the face of criticism that he should stay out of a case involving his friend and hunting partner, Vice President Dick Cheney.

The two men went on a duck hunting trip three weeks after the court agreed to hear a White House appeal involving private meetings of the vice president's energy task force. Scalia told a gathering at Amherst College on Tuesday night there was nothing improper about the trip and nothing about the case that made it a conflict for him.

"It did not involve a lawsuit against Dick Cheney as a private individual," Scalia said in response to a question from the audience of about 600 people. "This was a government issue. It's acceptable practice to socialize with executive branch officials when there are not personal claims against them. That's all I'm going to say for now. Quack, quack."

[Last modified February 12, 2004, 01:00:30]


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