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News Briefs

Ashcroft Says Progress Is Being Made in Finding Leak


U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, under pressure over his handling of the investigation into the disclosure of an undercover CIA officer’s identity, said on Thursday that investigators had made good progress but that he had not ruled out removing himself from the case.

Ashcroft also left open the possibility of appointing a special counsel to take over the case and of approving subpoenas to reporters to find the source of the leak. “I have not foreclosed any options in this matter,” he said.

With the investigation now ending its third week, Ashcroft said: “I believe that we have been making progress that’s valuable in this matter. And we will devote every energy that’s available, and every resource that’s available at the highest level of intensity.”

The attorney general’s comments were his most expansive and forceful to date on the politically charged investigation into whether Bush administration officials illegally disclosed the identity of the CIA officer to the columnist Robert Novak.

Azerbaijan Election Outcome Sparks Violence in Capital


Thousands of soldiers, policemen and special security units charged through the streets of Azerbaijan’s capital on Thursday, clubbing bystanders, members of the opposition and others protesting the outcome of a dynastic presidential election.

According to various reports, at least one person was killed and dozens were injured on both sides of the street battles.

The central election commission announced preliminary results that gave Ilham Aliyev, 42, about 80 percent of the vote to succeed his ailing father, the country’s long-time strongman, Heydar Aliev, 80.

The commission said the chief opposition candidate, Isa Gambarov, had won about 12 percent of the vote in an election that observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said “fell short of international standards.”

The European observers listed violence; excessive use of force; intimidation of opposition supporters, journalists and others; prohibitive restrictions on political rallies and meetings; severely unbalanced media coverage and manipulation of the voting, counting and tabulation processes.

Lawmakers Push Pentagon For Explanation About JetBlue Privacy


The leaders of a Senate committee pressed the Pentagon on Thursday to explain why an Army contractor collected information on more than a million passengers of JetBlue Airways for an antiterrorism study, an act that the lawmakers said may have been in violation of federal privacy laws.

The lawmakers -- Susan M. Collins of Maine, the Republican chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the panel’s ranking Democrat -- said in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the sharing of the passenger information raised “disturbing questions about the reliability of safeguards in place at the Defense Department to protect Americans’ privacy.”

The letter, dated Thursday and also signed by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked Rumsfeld if the Pentagon was investigating “the possibility that Torch Concepts and the Army violated the Privacy Act.”