The U.S. Supreme Court next week will hear arguments in a case that may determine how far the government may go in detaining people as material witnesses. The court will hear a government appeal of a lower court decision upholding the right of Abdullah al-Kidd to sue former Attorney General John Ashcroft over Kidd's arrest and detention in early 2003 as a material witness in the prosecution of a terrorism suspect. Kidd was detained for about two weeks as a witness against Sami Omar al-Hussayen, who was accused of using his computer skills to aid terrorists. A jury in Idaho acquitted Hussayen on that charge in 2004, but deadlocked on other minor counts. Hussayen agreed to be deported to avoid retrial on those lesser charges.
President Obama is expected to sign a three-month extension of three provisions of the USA Patriot Act after Congress easily passed the measure, despite spirited opposition from congressional Democrats and a significant portion of the constitutionalist wing of the Tea Party movement.
As calls for cuts in the defense budget increased, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates knew what he would have to do: throw the cutters a bone, and then dig in against any further reductions. By admitting that he could shave $78 billion out of the defense budget over the next five years, Gates then went to work defending any further suggested incursions into the future spending plans by the military-industrial complex.
One of the most notable developments since Republicans assumed control of the House of Representatives in January is the shift in congressional attitudes toward the United Nations. While not yet considering or proposing legislation that would effectively end U.S. membership in the internationalist body, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla., photo, left) has proposed a number of bills that would end American taxpayer funding for several United Nations agencies and departments.
The Reign of the Czars, at least in the executive branch of the U.S. government, may be near an end. Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) offered an amendment that would block funding for the various "czars" — policy advisers appointed by the President who did not have to face formal confirmation by the U.S. Senate, and who cannot be impeached by the House of Representatives. The amendment (to the continuing resolution which keeps the federal government operating) passed the House February 17 by a vote of 249 to 171.