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News Briefs

Enron Documents Show Manipulation of Calif. Electricity


Enron Corp. actively manipulated the California electricity market by such maneuvers as transferring energy outside the state to evade price caps and creating phony “congestion” on power lines, according to internal Enron documents released Monday.

The techniques described in two memos written by lawyers for Enron in December 2000 were given names such as “Fat Boy,” “Death Star,” “Get Shorty” and “Ricochet.” The company turned the documents over to federal regulators, who made them public.

The evidence of their use contradicts denials Enron made at the time and provides impetus to several ongoing investigations of the bankrupt energy giant’s role in the California crisis.

California power system operators ordered rotating blackouts on six days early in 2001. That followed a ten-fold surge in power prices that began the previous summer, hitting the state’s utilities with billions of dollars in excess electricity charges.

Lindh Case Could Falter Over Witness Interviews


A federal judge warned Monday that if the government’s national security concerns prevent John Walker Lindh’s attorneys from interviewing detained witnesses who might help clear him, the Justice Department might have to drop its case against the man captured with Taliban fighters.

At a hearing in Alexandria, Va., U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III also told the defense that he did not think the Constitution’s fair-trial guarantees require the government to allow Lindh’s attorneys to go to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to interview 14 suspected al-Qaida and Taliban fighters being held there.

Ellis suggested that a videoconference hookup might be a reasonable compromise between Lindh’s right to exculpatory information and the government’s need to gather as much anti-terrorism information as possible from the 384 detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

He gave both sides until May 28 to work out a deal. At that point, he said, he will rule on the defense request for face-to-face interviews.

Lindh, 21, arrived at the half-hour hearing with neatly trimmed hair and, for the first time, thick-rimmed glasses that further distance him from the unkempt, bearded man captured in northern Afghanistan late last year. His mother, Marilyn Walker, attended the hearing, but his father, Frank Lindh, was absent for the first time since his son was flown to this country in January.

The hearing gave the first clear indication how Ellis intends to handle the complicated national security concerns that will likely dominate Lindh’s trial later this year. Lindh is charged with conspiring to kill Americans abroad and aiding terrorist groups. He faces a life sentence if convicted.