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News Briefs

Detainee Will Not Be Charged


Justice Department officials have decided not to charge the American-born prisoner who was transferred from a U.S. military prison in Cuba to a Navy brig in Norfolk last week, concluding that the U.S. government lacks enough incriminating information about him to support a criminal prosecution, officials said.

That leaves the detainee, Yaser Esam Hamdi, 22, in legal limbo as government lawyers try to determine whether there is a way to charge him under U.S. military law. Another option is to turn him over to authorities in Saudi Arabia, where he has lived most of his life, government officials said.

Hamdi was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan five months ago while fighting for either al-Qaida or the Taliban, and since then he has told interrogators he was born in Louisiana. Federal agents recently located his birth certificate in Baton Rouge, and last week authorities flew him on a heavily guarded military transport to the Norfolk Naval Base.

International lawyers said the fact that Hamdi is a U.S. citizen grants him a number of rights not available to the 299 detainees still held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base -- and also limits the U.S. government’s ability to hold him. Government officials did not describe the legal basis they would cite for detaining a U.S. citizen who has not been charged.

House Expected to OK Easing Donation-Reporting Rules


The House is poised this week to approve legislation that would ease donation-reporting rules for a broad class of political groups, opening a new front in the campaign finance debate.

Critics say the measure, coming just weeks after the enactment of a landmark law to limit donations to national political parties, could encourage certain groups to receive huge contributions from wealthy donors while escaping effective scrutiny.

The groups in question are tax-exempt political organizations that claim not to be involved with federal campaigns. While many focus on purely local matters, some of the groups do align themselves with parties or advocate positions on important social issues, such as abortion rights or gun control.

Some campaign reform advocates fear these groups will soon become new magnets for the unlimited political donations known as soft money. Under the new law, federal candidates and national parties will no longer be able to raise soft money after this fall’s elections.

But this latest twist in the campaign finance debate has more to do with disclosure rules than with donation limits.

Nearly two years ago, Congress passed a law requiring these political groups -- known as “527 committees” for the section of the tax code that governs their activities -- to report their sources of financial support and their expenditures to the Internal Revenue Service.