Have a good weekend everyone. Here's our Friday night note……
TERROR TRIALS/KSM TO NY-Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self proclaimed “architect” of the 9/11 attacks and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees will be brought to trial in a civilian federal courthouse in Manhattan. The decision to bring the five to New York from Guantanamo Bay for trial has certainly generated reaction. Pierre Thomas, filing for WORLD NEWS, noted that “today’s decision set off an explosion of emotions from the family members of the 9/11 victims, some praising it…others sharply critical.” Many critics of today’s decision point to the question of security. Thomas tells us that “the suspects will be housed in cells adjacent to the courthouse accessible through underground tunnels.” NY’s current mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the Obama Administration position-releasing a statement which said in part “It is fitting that 9/11 suspects face justice near the World Trade Center site where so many New Yorkers were murdered.” Bloomberg’s predecessor, Rudy Giuliani does not-Thomas says “(he) issued a blistering statement accusing the Obama Administration of a “pre-9/11 mentality.” Security questions aside-can the US get convictions? Thomas: “The government says it’s confident it can win convictions despite questions about whether evidence may have been gathered through torture, which would likely be inadmissible in court.” How would they do that? Thomas: “sources tell ABC NEWS a special team of FBI agents and prosecutors have built cases without using any evidence gleaned from so-called harsh interrogations. And investigators may use the video of Osama bin Laden himself bragging about how those standing trial massacred Americans.” But Columbia Law School professor Matthew Waxman notes “there are pitfalls…meeting the requirements of our federal evidentiary rules in court, and problems of safeguarding critical intelligence information.” Supreme Court reporter and NIGHTLINE anchor Terry Moran agrees with Waxman that there could be problems. Moran: “The biggest one, Pierre mentioned, the harsh interrogations. What do you do with that?” Even if the FBI can build “a clean prosecution” Moran notes, “Defense lawyers, human rights lawyers are going to say ‘you can’t unwaterboard KSM.’ This is what they call the fruit of the poison tree. It’s going to be tainted. And a judge will have to rule on that.” The accused, Moran adds “will have all the protections of an American defendant. There is a risk they will turn this into a circus…it’s a real challenge for the justice system.” A challenge that is not likely to be met right away. Thomas notes that “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could be in New York within 45 days, but any trial is likely more than a year away.”
ATLANTIC SEABOARD NOREASTER- The remnants of Tropical Storm Ida began moving out to sea Friday after churning up the East Coast for three days. The nor'easter caused widespread problems in Virginia and the Carolinas before hitting the Jersey shore. Stephanie Sy spent the day witnessing the effects of storm in Wildwood, New Jersey. She reports that monster waves – up to 20 feet battered the Jersey coast. Bridges into Ocean City and Wildwood reopened by mid-afternoon after being closed for much of the day because of flooding. The Coast Guard has halted the search for three missing New Jersey fishermen whose boat sank in rough seas Wednesday night adding to the death toll which stands at least six deaths across three states. Meteorologists says Saturday morning's high tide would probably be the last to cause concern. (thanks to Jason Volack for this entry)
WATER ON THE MOON-Suddenly the moon looks a lot more exciting tonight. NASA scientists confirmed today what was long suspected of being true – that there is water on the moon. Confirmation came from NASA's Oct. 9 mission involving the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, LCROSS. The lunar crash kicked up at least 25 gallons of water and that's only what scientists could see from the plumes of the impact. The LCROSS spacecraft only hit one spot on the moon and it's unclear how much water there is across the entire moon. Ned Potter reported on World News that this discovery makes the moon attractive for exploration again. Having an abundance of water would make it easier to set up a base camp for astronauts, supplying drinking water and a key ingredient for rocket fuel. (thanks to Jason Volack for this entry)
OBAMA IN ASIA: It’s Saturday morning in Tokyo where President Obama has begun the second day of his first major trip to Asia. He’s already given a speech to 15-hundred prominent Japanese and is now on his way to the Imperial Palace, where he will have lunch with the Emperor and Empress of Japan. On Friday, the President met with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, followed by a joint news conference. Jake Tapper, who is traveling with the President, says there was one subject Mr. Obama couldn’t escape: “The president is in Japan, but it's Afghanistan that's on his mind. The first substantive discussion he had here in Tokyo with the new Prime Minister was to thank Japan for its $5 billion pledged for Afghan reconstruction, and for a different pledge of $1 billion in assistance to Pakistan, which the president later said "underscores Japan's prominent role within a broad international coalition that is advancing the cause of stability and opportunity in Afghanistan and Pakistan."” Prime Minister Hatoyama was just elected in September on a platform of asserting greater Japanese independence in its dealings with the U.S. So it wasn’t surprising that President Obama set a conciliatory tone in his Saturday speech: “Since taking office, I have worked to renew American leadership and pursue a new era of engagement with the world based on mutual interests and mutual respect. And our efforts in the Asia Pacific will be rooted, in no small measure, through an enduring and revitalized alliance between the United States and Japan.” On a subject of great importance to Japan, the President said this about North Korea: “The path for North Korea … is clear: a return to the Six-Party Talks; upholding previous commitments, including a return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and the full and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” In a few hours, President Obama will depart Japan, headed for his second stop – Singapore. There he will attend a summit of Asian Pacific leaders. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
BALLOON BOY HOAX-Prosecutors are pushing for some jail time for Richard and Mayumi Heene. The couple pleaded guilty in a Colorado court today to charges related to a hoax last month, when they told authorities their 6-year-old son had floated away aboard a giant helium balloon. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled two days before Christmas. Clayton Sandell notes that “Defense attorney David Lane asked the judge for permission for (Richard) Heene to be able to travel to New York to pursue a job opportunity. The judge allowed it.”
ARMY STUDY SHOWS LOWER MORALE FOR U.S. TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN-From Kirit Radia: “The Army’s 6th Mental Health Assessment Team issued its findings today, which showed the stresses of multiple deployments in an increasingly hostile territory. And it also found more mental health problems among troops in Afghanistan than those in Iraq. The report saw lower unit morale and higher combat exposure than previous years… and that soldiers with 3+ deployments reported higher rates of behavior health and marital problems.”
LETHAL INJECTION/OHIO CHANGING METHOD-Ariane DeVogue says this is a big deal and reports: “Ohio has become the first state to adopt a one drug method for lethal injection. You’ll recall that in September a death row inmate was spared execution after nurses failed—in 18 attempts—to find a suitable vein. Since then Ohio stopped all executions…while reviewing the protocol.
Today the state said it would switch from the three drug cocktail to a one drug cocktail that has never been tested.
Last year the Supreme Court ruled that a three drug protocol (although not the one used in Ohio) was constitutional. Justice Stevens agreed with the majority on the method, but said that he had come to the conclusion that the death penalty itself was unconstitutional.”
FRIDAY NIGHT BANK FAILURES- Regulators shut down two banks in Florida and one in California on Friday, boosting to 123 the number of U.S. bank failures this year as loan defaults rise in the worst financial climate in decades. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over Orion Bank, based in Naples, Fla., with about $2.7 billion in assets and $2.1 billion in deposits, and Sarasota-based Century Bank, with $728 million in assets and $631 million in deposits. Pacific Coast National Bank in San Clemente, Calif. was also shut down. It had $134.4 million in assets and $130.9 million in deposits. IberiaBank, based in Lafayette, La., agreed to assume all of Orion Bank's deposits and $2.4 billion of its assets, as well as Century Bank's deposits and $706 million of its assets. The FDIC will retain the rest for eventual sale. (AP)
–DUDE! SEPTUAGENARIAN TAGGER BUSTED-Some kids never learn…some of their grandparents apparently never learn either. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 74-year-old man for allegedly putting “slap tags” on the inside of MTA buses. Deputies have been looking for the man who plasters “Who Is John Scott?” stickers on buses for some seven months…Mr. Scott’s reason for doing this? “Fame and notoriety”-the same motivation as Mr. Scott’s (much) younger tagging cohorts, according to the gendarmes. (Michael Kreisel)
–FORMER CONGRESSMAN JEFFERSON SENTENCED-Former Louisiana congressman William Jefferson, a Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using his influence to broker business deals in Africa. (Seiko Hayashi/AP)
–ALAMO SENTENCED- Evangelist Tony Alamo was sentenced Friday to 175 years in prison for taking underage girls across state lines for sex, effectively punishing him for the rest of his life for molesting children he took as "brides" in his ministry. (Robin Reese/AP)