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National Govt & Politics

    A former CIA officer has been arrested and charged with illegally retaining classified records, including names and phone numbers of covert CIA assets.Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, was arrested Monday night after arriving at JFK International Airport. He made an initial appearance Tuesday in federal court in New York, but will face charges in northern Virginia, where the CIA is located.According to court documents, Lee, a Hong Kong resident, served in the CIA from 1994 to 2007 as a case officer. He worked in a variety of overseas offices and was trained in surveillance detection, recruiting and handlings assets and handling classified material, among other things.A court affidavit states that in 2012, after Lee had left the CIA, he traveled from Hong Kong with his family to northern Virginia, where he lived from 2012 to 2013. When he flew to Virginia, for reasons that are not explained, the FBI obtained a warrant to search Lee's luggage and hotel room. Agents found two small books with handwritten notes containing names and numbers of covert CIA employees and locations of covert facilities, according to the affidavit.A CIA review of the information in the books found information at Secret and Top Secret levels of classification, according to the affidavit.The eight-page FBI affidavit makes no allegations of espionage against Lee, only alleging illegal retention of documents. Any conviction on that offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.The affidavit indicates Lee was interviewed five times by FBI agents in 2013, but never disclosed that he possessed the books.Court records do not list an attorney for Lee.Dean Boyd, a CIA spokesman, declined comment on the case Tuesday, citing Lee's ongoing prosecution.Court records indicate Lee is a naturalized U.S. citizen and an Army veteran.
  • Legislation extending a government program established to gather information from foreigners overseas has cleared a key Senate hurdle.The Senate voted 60-38 to limit debate on the six-year reauthorization of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program.Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill's vote to limit debate got supporters to the threshold needed for the Senate to move to a final vote.Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had pushed Democrats to oppose limiting debate, saying lawmakers from both parties should get an opportunity to offer amendments.Schumer says the legislation will stand for six years and 'that is too quick for too much.'The House has already passed the measure, which includes a new restriction on when the FBI can dig into the communications of Americans swept up in foreign surveillance.
  • Five officers involved in two Navy ship collisions last year that killed a total of 17 sailors are being charged with negligent homicide, the Navy said Tuesday.A Navy spokesman, Capt. Greg Hicks, said the charges, which also include dereliction of duty and endangering a ship, will be presented to what the military calls an Article 32 hearing to determine whether the accused are taken to trial in a court-martial.The disciplinary actions were decided by Adm. Frank Caldwell and are the latest in a series of moves the Navy has made in the aftermath of the deadly collisions, which investigators concluded were avoidable. It fired several top leaders, including the commander of the 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, and several other senior commanders in the Pacific.The Navy has been reeling from tough questions arising from the two collisions. The destroyer USS Fitzgerald struck a commercial ship off the waters of Japan in June, killing seven U.S. sailors. The destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in coastal waters off Singapore in August, killing 10 U.S. sailors.The Navy said it is filing at least three charges against four officers of the Fitzgerald, including the commanding officer, who was Cmdr. Bryce Benson at the time. Benson suffered a head injury in the collision and was airlifted to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Yokosuka, Japan. A Navy investigation found that Benson left the ship's bridge before the collision. Also facing charges are two lieutenants and one lieutenant junior grade, whose names were not disclosed. The Navy said all four face criminal charges, including negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and endangering a ship.Fewer officers from the McCain are being charged. The Navy said the ship's commander at the time, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, is being charged with negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and endangering a ship. A chief petty officer, whose name was not disclosed, faces a charge of dereliction of duty.In a statement, Hicks said the announcement of charges Tuesday is 'not intended to and does not reflect a determination of guilt or innocence related to any offenses. All individuals alleged to have committed misconduct are entitled to a presumption of innocence.'Hicks said that in addition to the criminal charges, additional administrative actions are being taken against unidentified members of both crews, including non-judicial punishment for four from the Fitzgerald and four from the McCain.As a result of the two deadly accidents, at least eight top Navy officers, including the 7th Fleet commander, were fired from their jobs last year, and a number of other sailors received reprimands or other punishment that was not publicly released. Among the senior officers relieved of duty, in addition to Aucoin, were Rear Adm. Charles Williams and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett. Williams was the commander of Task Force 70, which includes the aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers in the 7th Fleet, and Bennett was commander of the destroyer squadron.In a report released last November, the Navy concluded that the two crashes, as well as a third collision in May and a ship grounding, were all avoidable, and resulted from widespread failures by the crews and commanders who didn't quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergencies.A second report called for about 60 recommended changes to address the problems. They ranged from improved training on seamanship, navigation and the use of ship equipment to more basic changes to improve sleep and stress management for sailors.The extensive training and leadership failures prompted the top Navy officer, Adm. John Richardson, to order all naval commanders around the world to review their staffs and ships to see if they had similar problems.The Navy's investigation of the two collisions found that in addition to bad judgment, the crews were not adequately prepared.'In the Navy, the responsibility of the Commanding Officer for his or her ship is absolute,' it said. 'Many of the decisions made that led to this incident were the result of poor judgment and decision making of the Commanding Officer. That said, no single person bears full responsibility for this incident. The crew was unprepared for the situation in which they found themselves through a lack of preparation, ineffective command and control, and deficiencies in training and preparations for navigation.
  • The Latest on Congress' battle over the budget (all times local):10:15 p.m.Conservatives say there's enough Republican opposition to scuttle a plan by House GOP leaders to prevent a government shutdown this weekend.Around half of the roughly 30 members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus met privately late Tuesday. When they emerged, leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said there are not enough Republican votes to push the GOP leaders' measure through the House this week with GOP-only support.The plan by House leaders would temporarily finance government agencies through mid-February. Meadows says conservatives want the measure to allow additional defense spending.Most Democrats are vowing to oppose the bill. They want the two sides to reach agreement on legislation protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.__6:25 p.m.House GOP leaders are looking to delay implementation of unpopular taxes on medical devices and generous employer-subsidized health care taxes as sweeteners for a stopgap spending bill that's needed to avert a government shutdown this weekend.That's according to GOP aides briefed on the measure before its planned introduction Tuesday night.Repeal of the taxes, part of former President Barack Obama's marquee health law, could ease the way for the stopgap measure among some GOP conservatives.The aides spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a plan that wasn't yet public. They also predicted the measure would include a long-delayed renewal of a popular health insurance program for children.Democrats are pressing to attach protections from deportation for younger immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.— By Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor___4 p.m.A deal between President Donald Trump and Congress to protect young immigrants from deportation remains distant. House GOP leaders are discussing plans for a bill temporarily keeping federal agencies open in hopes of avoiding an election-year shutdown this weekend.The continuing firestorm over Trump's incendiary remarks about countries in Africa is roiling partisan relations. The comments were reported by participants and others and denied by Trump. Either way, they're complicating efforts to craft a bipartisan agreement protecting younger immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, plus toughening border security with steps including funds to start building Trump's long-promised border wall.Federal agencies would begin closing if Congress can't enact legislation temporarily financing government by midnight Friday.House Republicans were meeting privately late Tuesday to discuss their plans.
  • President Donald Trump is in excellent health and likely to finish his term in office without any medical issues, a presidential doctor said Tuesday at a news conference, four days after the president underwent a physical exam. >> Read more trending news “The president's overall health is excellent,' White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson said Tuesday. Here are six things to know about the results of the president’s physical: Jackson: ‘He had great findings across the board’ Trump is in “very, very good health,” Jackson said Tuesday.  “(I have) no concerns for his heart health,” the presidential physician said. “There are many good things that came from his exam, I think he had great findings across the board. “ >> White House physician releases official report Jackson said Trump’s good health is likely to last through “the remainder of this tern, and even for the remainder of another term, if he’s elected.” He said he based his assessment on the president’s cardiac results. “He falls into a category that portends years of event-free living,” Jackson said. “He has incredibly good genes, and that’s just the way God made him.” Cognitive screening showed no issues Jackson said he conducted a cognitive screening on Trump at the president’s request, although he felt the test was unnecessary. “I’ve spent almost every day in the president’s presence,” said Jackson, whose office is near Trump’s. “I’ve got to know him pretty well and I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or neurological functions.” He said that in all his conversations with Trump, the president has been “very articulate.” “I’ve never known him to repeat himself around me,” Jackson said. “He says what he wants to say and speaks his mind.” Infamous slurred speech incident might have been caused by medication A December incident in which the president sounded as though he was slurring his speech while announcing a policy shift in Israel was probably due to a medication, Jackson said. >> Related: Trump’s slurred speech: Is it loose-fitting dentures, dry mouth or something else? “We evaluated him, we checked everything out and everything was normal,” Jackson said, adding that the incident was likely caused because the president needed water. He said prior to the Dec. 7 incident, he gave Trump Sudafed, which might have “inadvertently dried up his secretions.” Trump working to lose 10-15 pounds At 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, the president has a body mass index of 29.9, just under the number that would designate him as obese, according to information released Tuesday. “The president, he and I talked and... I think a reasonable goal over the next year or so is (to lose) 10 or 15 pounds,” Jackson said, adding that a nutritionist would be meeting with White House chefs in the coming weeks and that Trump would be put on an exercise routine. “He’s more enthusiastic about the diet,” Jackson said. Jackson not concerned about Trump’s stress levels Despite concerns from the public and reports that have painted a chaotic White House, Jackson said that he has no concerns about the president’s stress levels. “I talk to him sometimes about stress just because I think it’s my job as his physician to bring it up on occasion,” he said. “I’ve never seen the president stressed out too much. ... He has a unique ability to push the reset button and he just gets up and he starts a new day. (I think it’s) made him healthier from a stress standpoint.” Jackson did not test Trump’s hearing Jackson said he didn’t have enough time to test Trump’s hearing, although he planned to conduct such a test in future physicals.
  • The Justice Department on Tuesday threw its support behind the Archdiocese of Washington in a court fight to have its Christmas fundraising ads displayed on D.C. buses.The archdiocese sued Metro in November, arguing the transit agency's refusal to sell ad space violated its First Amendment rights. But a federal judge rejected its request to force Metro to post the ads, which showed a biblical Christmas scene and the message, 'Find the Perfect Gift,' encouraging charitable donations and church attendance.The Justice Department's Tuesday court filing calls Metro's ban on ads that promote or oppose religion unconstitutional and urges an appeals court to overturn the judge's decision. It's in keeping with the Trump administration's efforts to prioritize what it considers religious freedom cases, and comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions in October issued a sweeping directive to government agencies to do as much as possible to accommodate those who say their religious freedoms are being violated.'As the Supreme Court has made clear, the First Amendment prohibits the government from discriminating against religious viewpoints,' Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand said in a statement. She said the transit agency engaged in 'viewpoint discrimination' by allowing non-religious Christmas-themed ads but rejecting those from the archdiocese.The Justice Department said it expects to support other groups in similar cases.
  • The new U.S. Embassy in London, criticized last week by President Donald Trump as too expensive and poorly located, opened its doors to the public Tuesday for the first time.The gleaming embassy, in the formerly industrial Nine Elms neighborhood in south London, replaces the embassy in Grosvenor Square that had for decades been associated with the U.S. presence in the United Kingdom. That building has been sold to a Qatari government investment fund planning to turn it into a luxury hotel.U.S. officials say it would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade security at the older building and bring it up to modern safety standards.Trump tweeted last week that he would not come to London to open the new embassy because it represented a poor investment.The president's tweet read: 'Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for 'peanuts,' only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!'There were no ceremonies to mark the public opening of the facility and some landscaping features were still being put in place. A line of evergreen trees was being planted at the edge of the site, and only a relatively small number of people showed up on official business.The formerly rundown neighborhood is littered with cranes as a number of major towers are shooting up in the blocks surrounding the embassy, which is helping the area's rejuvenation.Visa processing was beginning in a 'soft' rollout of the new facility. Officials said 50 applicants were processed Tuesday.The embassy initially planned to process 200 people per day for the rest of the week, but doubled that figure to 400 late Tuesday afternoon because the procedures had worked well during the day.Though Trump blamed predecessor Barack Obama for the expensive new embassy in his angry tweet, the project was in fact announced in October 2008 during the presidency of George W. Bush.Trump's plans to visit Britain have met resistance from some politicians and activists who disagree with his policies on a number of fronts, including his actions on immigration and climate change. Substantial protests were expected.London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who Trump has repeatedly criticized, said Trump seems to have 'got the message' that many Londoners find his policies to be intolerant and wrong.Trump is still invited for a state visit — to be hosted by Queen Elizabeth II — but no date has been set. The invitation was extended by the British government nearly a year ago during Trump's first days in office.U.S. officials say the new embassy cost $1 billion (1.38 billion pounds) and was paid for entirely with money raised by the sale of other U.S. government properties in London.The new building, with its distinctive cube shape, is nearly twice as large as the Grosvenor Square facility. It is the single most expensive embassy building ever built by the United States.Robert Johnson, appointed by Trump as U.S. ambassador to Britain, called the new energy-efficient embassy a 'bargain' during a pre-opening tour for journalists last month. He said the embassy, which does not have a perimeter fence, is both welcoming and secure.
  • Chelsea Manning's high-profile bid for the U.S. Senate threatens to upend the 2018 Maryland Democratic primary.The former U.S. Army private convicted of leaking over 700,000 classified documents has an uphill battle to defeat Sen. Ben Cardin. But Manning's international fame will almost certainly prevent the two-term senator from ignoring his primary challenger in the heavily Democratic state.Cardin won the Senate seat in an open race in 2006 and hasn't faced a serious threat since. The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he plans to focus on his own candidacy and looks forward to a 'strong campaign' against Manning or any other contenders.When asked specifically about Manning, Cardin said: 'Each person brings their unique qualifications. I'm sure she will do what she needs to to try and articulate those.'Already Manning's intention to compete against Cardin has generated headlines and international attention.The transgender woman, known as Bradley Manning when she was convicted in 2013 of leaking a trove of classified documents, was released from military prison in May after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence. President Barack Obama commuted her sentence to time served plus 120 days in the final days of his administration.Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland, said Manning is sure to generate much media coverage due to her 'sheer notoriety' but expects the political novice will face a tough time trying to chip away at Cardin's support.'It's really hard to see how voters would cast him aside for someone who spent time in military prison for violating the Espionage Act. I mean, that's a lot to expect voters to be willing to do,' Eberly said by phone Tuesday.Eberly said Maryland has never been an 'unabashedly liberal' blue state, describing it as a place with a 'tendency to be far more pragmatic when it comes to electing folks.' It is home to numerous federal employees, including those at the headquarters of the U.S. National Security Agency in Fort Meade, and a Republican occupies the governor's office.Manning, 30, is already hinting at a no-holds-barred challenge. In a tweet, she called Tuesday for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agencies to be abolished, saying 'the reign of terror must end.'She confirmed on Sunday that she's a candidate for U.S. Senate, three days after making her intention known to federal election authorities. A campaign video on her Twitter page weaves together images of white supremacists holding tiki torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as protesters clashing with police elsewhere.'We don't need more or better leaders,' Manning said in the voiceover. 'We need someone willing to fight. We need to stop asking them to give us our rights. They won't support us. They won't compromise.'Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, was convicted in 2013 of leaking a trove of classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. She came out as transgender after being sentenced.The Oklahoma native has been registered to vote in the Washington, D.C., suburb of North Bethesda since mid-August, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.She's yet to file for the primary with the state elections board, which she must do in person by Feb. 27, according to the board's website.Cardin is also yet to file. But campaign finance reports show that his organization had nearly $2 million cash on hand in late September.A spokesman for Maryland's Republican Party didn't return an email seeking comment about whether Manning's entry changes the GOP's electoral strategy. Currently, no Republican candidates have filed to run.___David McFadden on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dmcfadd
  • The Department of Homeland Security will be working with states to ensure they follow proper protocols when issuing safety alerts and can quickly retract incorrect alerts, like Hawaii's warning of a ballistic missile over the weekend, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Tuesday.Sen Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said it's clear that human error initiated the false alert. But she worries that system failures allowed it to go uncorrected for too long, nearly 40 minutes.'That seems to point to some communication and other types of failures we ought to be addressing,' Hirono said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining DHS.Hawaii residents received cellphone alerts Saturday warning of an incoming ballistic missile strike. State officials later said someone doing a routine test during a shift change at the Emergency Management Agency mistakenly hit the live alert button.'This had the potential for being totally catastrophic,' Hirono said.Nielsen said her agency was talking with the state about how it can improve its alert system.'Initial lessons learned, we would work with the states, particularly in this threat, to ensure that they are connected to those who can quickly verify whether that threat is real or not,' Nielsen said. 'In that case, it would be the Department of Defense.'Nielsen said she was unaware the state didn't have protocols in place to address false alerts. Hirono asked her to ensure every state has in place functioning retraction systems.'We will work with states to ensure that, yes,' Nielsen replied.
  • Basic rights and political freedoms in the United States are deteriorating at a faster pace under President Donald Trump, exacerbated by attacks on key institutions like the press and the courts, according to a new report released Tuesday by Freedom House.In its annual global assessment, the think tank slammed the Trump administration for withdrawing from America's 'historical commitment to promoting and supporting democracy,' calling it perhaps the most striking on a 'long list of troubling developments' around the world in 2017. The report criticizes Trump for making false statements, refusing to disclose his taxes and other information, violating basic ethical standards and taking insufficient steps to counter Russian meddling in the 2016 election.Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who ran against Trump in the election, said he believed American institutions were strong enough to withstand attacks, but was concerned about Trump's weak support for NATO, the Iran nuclear deal and other global alliances that serve as bulwarks against authoritarian governments. Previewing the report, Kasich said he was also worried that Trump's frequent disparagement of the press and judiciary could send a signal to autocrats overseas that it's OK to delegitimize those institutions in their own countries.'I would hope that over time, the people who are around the president would make clear that words matter,' Kasich said on a conference call organized by Freedom House. 'Sometimes when you're frustrated, it makes sense to sit on your hands or keep your mouth shut.'Freedom House, based in Washington, describes itself as a non-partisan watchdog group. Its annual report on the state of political freedoms examines countries around the world and has often focused on the decline of democracy abroad.Its assessment of 2017 cites major setbacks in several countries, including a slide toward authoritarianism in Turkey and Hungary, internal repression in Russia and China, and an ethnic cleansing campaign in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims. The report also notes the rise of right-wing populist parties that espouse anti-immigrant sentiments in France, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.Turkey, in particular, was called out for media restrictions, assaults on protesters and political parties, and its response more broadly to a failed coup attempt in 2016. Freedom House said Turkey had moved from its 'partly free' designation to 'not free.'The State Department said it had taken note of Turkey's diminished standing in the Freedom House report. 'We're very concerned about some of the activities taking place in Turkey,' said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.Yet some the toughest language in the report is reserved for the U.S, where Freedom House says democratic norms have been eroding for some time, but at a much faster pace under Trump. 'In 2017 its core institutions were attacked by an administration that rejects established norms of ethical conduct across many fields of activity,' the report said.Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, a Trump critic, said the report highlighted how Trump has undermined America's ability to demand that other countries improve their records on rights and freedoms. She said foreign leaders who come under U.S. criticism often look for opportunities to cry hypocrisy.'We have been left open to not being a great example when our president is praising people who are taking authoritarian measures,' Albright said. 'I do believe we're an exceptional country, but exceptions can't be made for us.'___Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP