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News Briefs

Panel Suggests Streamlining To Help Fight Terrorism


The federal government has a disorganized patchwork of 148 separate law enforcement entities, making the nation more vulnerable to terrorist attacks and creating an urgent need to streamline and consolidate power, former FBI and CIA director William H. Webster told Congress on Thursday.

Webster, chairman of a congressionally chartered panel that studied ways to enhance the nation’s crime-fighting ability, said the attorney general needs broad new authority over all aspects of federal law enforcement. He recommended empowering the FBI by giving it control over the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as the enforcement functions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is now part of the Treasury Department.

“The risks and probabilities of our experiencing major terrorist threats continue to grow,” Webster told the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on criminal justice oversight. “These suggestions have been made before, but there is increased urgency that they be considered due to terrorism and global crime. It is not an effort to aggrandize one agency over another ... but to create less confusion and more effective results.”

Austrian President Agrees to Form Controversial and Tenuous Coalition


Shrugging off intense foreign pressure, Austria’s president decided to swear members of the far-right Freedom Party into national government Friday after its leader, Joerg Haider, signed a declaration accepting the country’s responsibility for Nazi crimes during World War II.

President Thomas Klestil, forced to choose between threatened diplomatic sanctions and the prospect of rejecting the center-right coalition’s democratic claim to power, announced he would accept the new government.

The declaration, aimed at blunting international criticism of Austria, fell far short of mollifying its partners in the European Union, who announced that they would immediately make good on threats to isolate Vienna.

Dickering went on throughout Thursday in the president’s office at Vienna’s Hofburg palace, from which the Hapsburgs ruled much of Central Europe for centuries before the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in the ruins of World War I.

Federal Government to Fine Tobacco Business For Each Underage Smoker


The federal government would fine tobacco companies $3,000 for each underage smoker if teen smoking isn’t sharply reduced under a plan being devised by President Clinton, who also will propose a 25 cents per pack increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes.

The plan, which Clinton will present as part of his budget proposal on Monday, renews a debate on the degree to which tobacco companies should be held accountable for the millions of Americans under 18 who smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products. Senate Republicans rejected a similar penalty proposal when Congress killed a major antismoking measure in June 1998, although the industry briefly had agreed to pay up to $2 billion in penalties as part of a government negotiation that eventually collapsed.

Since then, the industry has opposed such penalties, and spokesmen vowed Thursday to fight in Congress and the courts if necessary.