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News Briefs

Justice Department Terrorism Conviction Numbers Inflated

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, found that the number of terrorism convictions reported in 2002 was inflated by 46 percent because of inaccurate and unreliable information from U.S. attorneys. At least 132 of 288 cases the GAO examined were misclassified as terrorism-related, the agency told Congress.

The numbers are an important tool for Justice and Congress in assessing the performance of law enforcement in pursuing terrorism cases.

“We found that DOJ does not have sufficient management oversight and internal controls in place ... to ensure the accuracy and reliability of its terrorism-related conviction statistics,” the GAO concluded.

The Justice Department said it agreed with the GAO’s findings and plans stronger oversight of terrorism conviction data sent to Washington.

The GAO examined the conviction numbers after the Philadelphia Inquirer accused the DOJ of inflating them in its fiscal year 2000 performance review.

North Korean Jet Briefly Enters South Korean Airspace

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

A North Korean fighter jet briefly crossed into South Korean airspace Thursday morning over the Yellow Sea, prompting the South Korean air force to send six fighter planes of its own and put ground-to-air missiles on alert.

The two-minute incursion ended without incident, but nonetheless raised tensions at a time that nerves are already on edge over the North’s nuclear program and its threat to pull out of the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

The South Korean military said it was the first such incursion by since 1983 and that it would lodge an official protest.

“We are analyzing the intentions behind this incursion and planning to protest after the analysis is completed,” said a spokesman for its joint chiefs of staff.

Another spokesman said that the Soviet-made MiG-19 crossed the northern limit line that is effectively the maritime border between the Koreas at 10:03 a.m., flying seven miles into South Korea airspace before retreating.

Search For Columbia Debris Moves to Nevada

THE WASHINGTON POST -- HOUSTON

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board said Thursday that investigators are searching the area around Caliente, Nev., for what may be a piece of the space shuttle that was tracked by air traffic control radar as it fell to Earth on Feb. 1.

The Civil Air Patrol began searching the rugged desert and mountain area, and other means may be used in the search, the report said.

No piece of the shuttle has been found west of Fort Worth, and finding a piece of wreckage that separated from the shuttle early in its breakup, and was large enough to have been tracked by radar, could provide a significant clue as to what triggered the disaster.

Most wreckage has been located from Fort Worth to Louisiana so far, but witnesses and data suggest the breakup started much earlier, perhaps as the shuttle crossed the California coast.

The investigation board’s status report, released late Thursday, said trajectory and ballistics experts pinpointed the Caliente area by using video imagery to analyze the trajectory of individual shuttle pieces.