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News Briefs

American Captured in Afghanistan May Face Federal Charges


U.S. officials are considering transporting an American-born prisoner from Guantanamo Bay either to a Navy base in Norfolk or to Alexandria, where he could stand trial on criminal charges similar to those filed against John Walker Lindh, the California man captured in Afghanistan, government officials said Thursday.

Yasser Esam Hamdi, 22, who was captured in the same Afghan prison rebellion as Lindh last November, has been telling U.S. interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba for weeks that he was born in Louisiana and moved with his family to Saudi Arabia as an infant. Federal agents recently located his birth certificate in Baton Rouge, La., and government officials are weighing how to handle his case.

U.S. officials say they have not finally confirmed Hamdi’s citizenship, but persons born in this country are automatically U.S. citizens unless they renounce their citizenship. It could not be learned whether he also is a Saudi citizen.

Government officials said it is likely Hamdi will be flown to a detention facility in the United States in the coming days or weeks, but they have not decided where. They also are discussing the legal justifications for continuing to hold him. One option is sending him temporarily to a jail at the Norfolk Naval Station until Justice Department officials decide what charges to file, officials said.

Bush, Congress Draw Battle Lines On Trade Expansion Legislation


President Bush on Thursday gave Congress less than three weeks to act on legislation to expand U.S. trade, but Democrats said no progress was possible until the administration agreed to help workers laid off because of foreign competition.

Bush challenged the Senate to begin work by April 22 on two controversial bills. One would give him “fast-track” authority to negotiate new trade agreements, and the other would grant trade preferences to Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

The president said U.S. credibility and South American stability were at stake. “These bills are good for America, these bills are good for our friends,” Bush said in a speech to State Department officials.

But he was silent on a third measure that Senate Democrats insist must be part of the legislative package: more aid for U.S. workers who lose their jobs because of imports.

Senate Democrats said they were willing to approve the fast-track and Andean trade legislation by Memorial Day but only if the deal included further trade adjustment assistance.