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News Briefs

Judge Rejects Bush Appointee To Civil Rights Commission


A federal judge Monday rejected the Bush administration’s most recent appointment to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, backing the agency’s majority against the White House in an increasingly partisan fight over the agency’s role and direction.

In a 20-minute oral ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler said there was no place on the commission for Peter Kirsanow, a conservative Cleveland lawyer whom Bush named in December, because the term of commissioner Victoria Wilson, an independent who often sympathized with the panel’s Democrats, had not expired.

Wilson was appointed in January 2000 by President Clinton to replace a deceased commission member. In Monday’s ruling, Kessler found that Wilson had the right to serve a full six-year term even though her letter of commission expired Nov. 29, 2001.

The Justice Department immediately promised to appeal the decision, which would add another round to a political scrimmage that has reached beyond an appointment to a $9 million federal agency that investigates complaints and issues reports but has no enforcement powers.

.Biden Calls for U.S. Peacekeeping Troops in Afghanistan


The United States should send troops to Afghanistan to help keep the peace after the terrorist-hunting mission there is over, the ranking Senate Democrat on foreign affairs said Monday, asserting that Afghanistan’s future might depend on it.

Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) challenged President Bush’s decision to leave Afghan peacekeeping to other countries. He said the failure to establish a solid national government could create a “lawless safe haven for anti-American terrorists.”

“Security is the basic issue in Afghanistan,” Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a Washington speech. “Whatever it takes, we should do it. History will judge us harshly if we allow the hope of a liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we failed to stay the course.”

Bush told Afghanistan’s interim leader, Hamid Karzai, last week that the United States will decline peacekeeping duties but will take the lead in training an Afghan army and police force designed to lend stability to the battered country. The administration pledged $297 million in economic aid.

Biden and other Democrats have recently been treating foreign affairs with caution, wary of being seen as trying to undermine a president who has received tremendous public support for his handling of the war.

Bar Association Says Prisoners Deserve Legal Protections


Rebuffing an appeal from the Bush administration, the nation’s largest lawyers’ group resolved Monday that any alleged terrorists tried by military commissions should enjoy legal protections similar to those provided American servicemen in military courts-martial.

Meeting in Philadelphia, the House of Delegates of the 408,000-member American Bar Association voted, 286-147, that those convicted by the commissions should have the right to appeal their cases all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lawyers’ organization also urged consultation on the commissions between the White House and Congress -- which so far has taken only a minor role in the process -- and said U.S. policy on prosecuting terrorists should take into account the possible impact of the commissions on the treatment of Americans accused of crimes in other countries.

“The resolution basically says that if we have tribunals, let’s have them according to the American way,” ABA President Robert Hirshon said.