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News Briefs

Ashcroft Orders Widespread Information Sharing Plan


Attorney General John Ashcroft directed the Justice Department Thursday to share the names of suspected terrorists to help prevent them from sneaking into the United States, prompting concerns from civil rights advocates that it could lead to police harassment of innocent people.

Ashcroft’s order covers all Justice Department agencies, including the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

They will enter the names into a State Department computer database used to screen visa applicants and a U.S. Customs database that checks travelers at ports of entry across the United States. They will also go into the National Crime Information Center, a database used by 650,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, Ashcroft said.

“Information is the best friend of prevention,” Ashcroft said. Law enforcement officials at all levels of government “must work together, coordinating information and leveraging resources in the joint effort to prevent and disrupt terrorist activity,” he added.

Ashcroft also directed the Justice Department agencies to seek similar information from foreign governments and to add those names as well.

U.S. Not Among Nations Cheering World Tribunal


As dignitaries from around the world gathered here Thursday to celebrate the ratification of the International Criminal Court, State Department officials said the United States would take steps to “divorce” itself from the new global tribunal.

“A page in the history of humankind is being turned,” Hans Corell, the U.N. Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, said as the United Nations received ratification documents from 10 more nations in a ceremony here, passing the threshold of the 60 countries needed to put the court in business.

The Bush administration would like to see that page turned back, U.S. officials said a few hours later. The “crimes against humanity” that the new court intends to prosecute -- including genocide and war atrocities -- would be better handled nationally, argued Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. ambassador at-large for war-crimes issues, in a conference call with reporters covering the ratification here.

In the packed U.N. chamber where delegates gathered Thursday morning to witness the ceremony, the U.S. seat was left conspicuously vacant -- a deliberate signal, Prosper said, of U.S. disaffection. “We felt there was no role for us to play, and no need for us to attend,” he said. “Our intention is to be divorced from the process.”