Tuesday, March 08, 2011

21 priests in sex investigation suspended

Philadelphia archdiocese removes priests from ministry while their abuse cases are reviewed

Sex charges facing church officials

PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia archdiocese suspended 21 Roman Catholic priests Tuesday who were named as child molestation suspects in a scathing grand jury report released last month.

The priests have been removed from ministry while their cases are reviewed, Cardinal Justin Rigali said. The names of the priests were not being released, a spokesman for the archdiocese said.

"These have been difficult weeks since the release of the grand jury report," Rigali said in a statement. "Difficult most of all for victims of sexual abuse but also for all Catholics and for everyone in our community."
Catholic church official faces criminal charges

KYW-TV's Walt Hunter reports that this is a truly historic announcement. The priests will be investigated by handpicked panel from diocese, led by a former prosecutor. Hunter told CBS Evening News that on Ash Wednesday, from the pulpit, parishoners may be able to see whether their priest was suspended.

The two-year grand jury investigation into priest abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia resulted in charges against two priests, a former priest and a Catholic school teacher who are accused of raping young boys. And in an unprecedented move in the U.S., a former high-ranking church official, William Lynn, was accused of transferring problem priests to new parishes without warning anyone of prior sex-abuse complaints.

The district attorney believes Lynn knowingly recommended abusive priests be reassigned, without ever warning the parishes, reports CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano.

"They did in fact re-offend," said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. "They did in fact rape and sodomize other children."
Archdiocese facing multiple lawsuits for child abuse

The grand jury said as many as 37 priests remained in active ministry despite credible allegations of sexual abuse.

After the release of the grand jury report, the second such investigation in the city, Rigali vowed to take its calls for further reforms seriously.

Secret Egyptian Security Service Files Exposed

Egyptians can now go online to view hundreds of documents detailing the horrifying activities of the State Security service. But while the agency is on the run, it could still orchestrate terrorist attacks or sectarian violence, writes Ursula Lindsey.

The State Security compound in the Cairo suburb of Nasr City was a fortress of fear. Like the offices of the dreaded domestic-intelligence service across Egypt, it radiated menace.

“This was a place where just driving or walking by it gave me the creeps,” says Hossam Hamalawy, an activist who was twice detained by State Security (although not at that facility).

On Saturday night, Hamalawy and many others entered the facility—in a way they never expected. “I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I was entering it not as a detainee, not as someone who’s blindfolded.” Instead, he was part of a triumphant, storming crowd, come to hold accountable those they had long feared.

One of the demands of the protesters in Tahrir Square has been the abolition of Egypt’s State Security Investigations Service, which has had free license to spy, kidnap, and torture. Tasked mainly with maintaining the regime in power, it employed at least 100,000 officers and unknown legions of informants.

So far, the authorities here have balked, arguing that the service needs to be reformed and restructured, but remains necessary. This past weekend, Egyptians lost their patience and simply started dismantling it themselves. After reports of documents being burned and moved out by the truckload, crowds converged on its offices in Alexandria, Cairo, and the southern city of Aswan.
Once they broke in, they found hallways knee-deep in shredded paper; empty cells and interrogation rooms; and torture devices. Despite the service’s efforts, not all documents had been destroyed. Activists—some of whom found their own or their friends’ files—picked up armfuls of papers, carried them home and yesterday started posting them online. (One of the main sites is a Twitter feed and Facebook group called SSLeaks.)
Once they broke into security offices, they found hallways knee-deep in shredded paper; empty cells and interrogation rooms; and torture devices.

Egyptians can now browse through pages and pages of documentation of the daily activities of a secret service that controlled everything from university appointments to the guests on TV talk shows to the winners of the next elections to, allegedly, the drug trade. Created mostly to repress an Islamist insurgency in the 1990s, the service morphed into a shadow state that even other government ministries had to pay extortion money to.

Although it’s difficult to verify the authenticity of the documents, the size and timing of the dump and the details it contains suggest that most of them are genuine. A memo from February 2008 gives directions in chilling legalese to keep detainees long enough for them to heal from beatings and torture: “It’s been noticed recently that some of the elements transferred to the Special Operations Group from the administrations and branches of the [State Security] apparatus have injuries... a matter that leads us to request that you examine their state and extend their detention until they are on the way to recovery. Please pay careful attention to the cases that will be transferred to the Special Operations Group and ensure their healthy condition and the absence of any injuries.”

The documents also show the security services were drinking their own Kool-Aid. Another undated but apparently recent memo presenting an “analysis of the state of chaos that the country has witnessed recently” states that the protests against former President Hosni Mubarak were the work of “the United States, the European Union, and the Zionist entity,” which created a “plan aiming at tearing the Arab and Muslim world,” with the goal of “making the Arab world lose its national, Islamic identity and forcing the Arab people to normalize with Israel.”

The documents leaked so far also show the security services wire-tapping opposition figures, orchestrating media campaigns, and managing their vast network of informers.

Many documents also show the security services “arranging” elections—instructing the Muslim Brotherhood not to run in certain districts; throwing their support behind members of the president’s ruling party, and making sure no real election-monitoring takes place.

The documents, much like the interiors of the sprawling State Security complexes, now viewable on YouTube—bland reception rooms full of chandeliers and three-star-hotel furniture; endless hallways; archives full of neatly labeled files—are a study in the banality of evil. They reveal a degree of daily interference in the country’s affairs that is staggering in its minuteness and pettiness.

After the Muslim Brotherhood won 88 seats in parliament in 2005, a document from State Security instructs ministries not to collaborate with the new parliamentarians and to make sure they are unable to improve health, education, and housing services in their districts. In August 2010, a man in the province of Baheira tried to open a branch office of Mohamed ElBaradei’s National Coalition for Change. State Security made a list of his properties and instructed the tax authorities to go after him.

Today, the once-all-powerful service is on the run. “They must be totally demoralized. I’m sure their operations have been largely disrupted,” says Hamalawy. But like many Egyptians, he is still concerned about the damage they could do. “We’re talking about a crime syndicate,” he says. “These guys are armed, they have the contacts with criminals… once they feel totally cornered they will start lashing out or fighting back.” Many fear the security services, with their back against the wall, will orchestrate terrorist attacks, sectarian violence, or a crime wave—anything to distract and frighten the public.

That’s why it’s important to move to swift and comprehensive prosecution, argues Hamalawy. “We go after everybody, from the informers all the way up to the directors... They definitely need to be put on trial.”

So far, the raids on State Security offices haven’t led to the freeing of detainees—to the despair of relatives who rushed to the scene, hoping to find them. There may be thousands of individuals still in the hands of the service, some of whom have been “missing” for years. Human-rights groups have estimated that the service held between 8,000 and 15,000 prisoners in the last decade (a blurry document from the leaked files, dated 2003, seems to confirm this, putting the number of detainees at 9,412).

It’s also likely that the documents that have been found so far are the least incriminating. State Security has been cleaning shop for a while. An order dated January 26 (a day after protests broke out) instructs all “branch offices” to destroy their “secret archives” (by shredding rather than burning, presumably so as to attract less attention) and to “limit their secret libraries to the fundamentals for the future, without maintaining pictures.”

The documents made public do not discuss the rendition program that Egypt operated for the United States; there is no documentation of secret detention facilities, no transcripts of interrogations, no information about how informers were bribed or blackmailed into collaborating. These documents may have been destroyed already; or they may be in secret, secure locations.

Wherever they are, Egyptians are looking for them.

Ursula Lindsey is a Cairo-based reporter and writer.
SIREN: MANCHIN CALLS OUT OBAMA ON SPENDING -- West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who plans to vote against both the Republican and Democratic versions of a long-term continuing resolution, will deliver a floor speech today in which he says President Barack Obama has failed to lead and needs to step up to the negotiating table. '[B]oth our options are extremely partisan and unrealistic. And neither one will pass. The first is a Democratic proposal that doesn't go nearly far enough. This proposal, which calls for $6.5 billion in new cuts, utterly ignores our fiscal reality ... Or, we could choose a second, even more flawed measure: a GOP proposal that blindly hacks the budget with no sense of our priorities or of our values as a country,' he plans to say. 'Why are we doing all this when the most powerful person in these negotiations - our president - has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts that he would be willing to fight for? ... This debate will be decided when the president leads these tough negotiations. And, right now - that is not happening. ... The bottom line is this - the president is the leader of this great nation, and when it comes to an issue of significant national importance, the president must lead. Not the majority leader or speaker, but the president.

GOP RELIEVED AT ENSIGN DEPARTURE -- 'Sen. John Ensign's decision to retire rather than run for reelection in 2012 is a huge boost for Senate GOP leaders, who feared the Nevada Republican was waging an unwinnable battle for a third term and might cost the party a Senate seat,' John Bresnahan and Manu 'The Machine' Raju write for POLITICO. 'Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other top Senate Republicans appear to have played little direct role in forcing Ensign out, but the relief over that decision was palpable in GOP circles on Monday. ... Ensign's announcement will have little, if any, impact on the ongoing investigation by the Senate ethics committee into his affair with Cindy Hampton, a former campaign aide and the wife of Doug Hampton, himself a former top Ensign aide, according to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the committee. Boxer told POLITICO the Ensign investigation 'will continue on course.' ... 'It eliminates some obvious issues in the race, but we still have to see who gets into the primary,' [National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John] Cornyn told POLITICO. 'But the obvious issues won't be involved.'' http://politi.co/eN22Kf

TEA PARTY SOPHISTICATES FOCUS ON REDISTRICTING -- Alex Isenstadt reports for POLITICO on the growing interest in redistricting among top Tea Party activists. 'With state legislators across the country set to redraw the congressional landscape, the tea party is attempting to further the political gains it made last fall when a slate of activist conservatives won House and Senate seats. 'They understand that the way districts are drawn impacts our political culture perhaps more than anything else,' said Mark Meckler, co-founder and coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots,' Alex writes. 'To local groups reorganizing to take on redistricting fights ... there could be nothing more true to the tea party spirit than fighting the sort of tailor-made districts and partisan line-drawing that serve as a once-a-decade incumbent protection plan.' http://politi.co/egyIij

FROSH INVITES DONORS TO TESTIFY -- 'Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) praised the panel of witnesses at a recent Transportation and Infrastructure Committee field hearing in his district, saying, 'The best ideas come from individuals who see and breathe the issues not just from Washington.' But it doesn't hurt if those individuals are also campaign donors,' Roll Call's Jennifer Yachnin writes. 'Among the panel of four private-sector witnesses at the hearing held at Oklahoma City Community College in February, three were donors to the freshman lawmaker's campaign last cycle. There are no rules prohibiting campaign donors from appearing before Congressional committees ... But ... observers said it is remarkable to have so many donors on a single panel. 'When you have these things that are supposed to be representative of the community and everyone is a campaign supporter, that does seem a little bit odd,' said Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation.' http://bit.ly/efHNk7

LOCKE TO CHINA -- President Barack Obama has chosen Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to succeed Jon Huntsman as U.S. ambassador to China - signaling a more focused White House effort to press Asia's emerging economic superpower on trade issues, according to administration officials,' Glenn Thrush writes for the hometown paper. 'Locke, 51, is a third generation Chinese-American with roots in Hong Kong and China's coastal Guangdong province - and the first person of Chinese ancestry to serve as a U.S. governor. He is fluent in Cantonese and didn't speak English until he was five years old.' http://politi.co/eDguuO

SUCCESSOR? NOT CLYBURN -- Ever since President Obama won in 2008, there's been a rumor mill devoted solely to the idea that Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would take a position in the Cabinet. Dormant for a while, it started up again within minutes of the Locke news breaking. Sources in Clyburn's camp say he's not interested.

PERHAPS A REPUBLICAN LAWMAKER -- Idle Huddle speculation here, but with the White House doing more to reach out to the business world -- and to wrap its arms around top Republicans as the election season heats up -- but it could be a post that goes to a Republican member of Congress. Before Locke was appointed Commerce secretary, then-Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) was the White House choice. But Gregg dropped out after a tug-of-war over whether he would have control over the census -- the most partisan issue the department deals with. Since the census won't happen for another decade, that issue is off the table. Could Obama neutralize a foe, help pick up a House or Senate seat, or simply court the business community better by picking a Republican lawmaker? Maybe.

PUSHBACK ON YESTERDAY'S HUDDLE -- A well-informed reader notes that the questions raised about reconciliation only matter if there's a budget agreement between the House and Senate -- and that doesn't appear anywhere on the horizon at moment.

GOOD TUESDAY MORNING, and welcome to The Huddle, where gerrymandering is a four-letter word if you draw the lines just right, Hollywood has been fully eclipsed by Charlie Sheen and it's been 28 years since Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union the 'Evil Empire.'

Please send tips, suggestions, complaints, corrections, the testimony of donors, and sports scores (like Fennville 65, Lawrence 54 in the opening round of the Michigan state high school basketball playoffs) to jallen@politico.com If you don't already, you can follow me on Twitter @jonallendc. Fast Break is @JakeSherman. New followers include @RepLankford and @JoanneDNC.

TODAY IN CONGRESS -- The House is in at 2 p.m., with legislative business beginning at 4 p.m. and votes postponed until 6:30 p.m. Two bills are up for consideration under suspension of the rules, meaning they need a two-thirds majority for passage. They are HR 570, the Dental Emergency Responder Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), and HR 525, the Veterinary Public Health Workforce and Education Act, sponsored by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (R-Wis.). The dental responder bill would require 'the inclusion of dental health facilities in the National Health Security Strategy for purposes of preparedness during public health emergencies.' Here's a CRS summary of the veterinary bill http://politi.co/erGSXj

The Senate's in at 9:30 a.m. with two hours of morning business, 30 minutes of which is devoted to remarks by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). After that, the Senate's back to the patent bill, with an intermission from noon to 2:15 p.m. for party lunches.

AROUND THE HILL -- The Christian Science Monitor has Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy at its breakfast this morning. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has his pen and pad at 10:30 in H-144. Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has his at 2 p.m. in his office. Reps. George Miller and Rosa DeLauro are talking about workers' rights at 2 p.m. in HVC 215.

SPEAKING OF KERRY SPEAKING -- Kerry will introduce longtime former aide Heather Higginbottom at her Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee confirmation hearing. Higginbottom, who worked for Kerry from 1999 to 2007, has been nominated to the post of deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Here's part of what Kerry will say: 'Neither Washington nor the West Wing has dampened Heather's idealism or spirit of service - she's smarter, tougher, more steeped in all the issues and more versed in the many challenges facing every state that makes up the mosaic of our country, but in every way that adds up to character, Heather is still the person that walked into my office for that first day of work as a legislative assistant in 1999, and that too is a reason why I am proud to recommend her swift confirmation as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.' Higginbottom is currently deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy.

HUDDLE SCOOPLET: TEEN DRIVING SAFETY BILL -- In response to teen car accidents, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Tim Bishop, both Democrats of New York, are unveiling legislation today that would force states to adopt a new set of minimum standards for licensing teen drivers. With the threat of cuts to federal highway funding as a penalty for non-compliance, states would have to adopt a three-tiered licensing process, raise the age for a non-restricted license to 18, prohibit the use of cell phones during the first two stages of licensing and prohibit night driving during the intermediate stage. It would also give the secretary of Transportation the authority to impose additional requirements. States would have three years to become compliant. After that they would lose 3 percent of federal highway funding in the first year, 5 percent in the second year and 10 percent for each additional year. 'This legislation will give young drivers better education and more experience before they get out on the roads, keeping us all safer and saving lives," Gillibrand said. In addition to Gillibrand and Bishop, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are also supporting the effort.

SPLITTSVILLE: GOP LEADERS ON 'RADICALIZATION' OF MUSLIMS -- By Jonathan Allen and Jake Sherman -- 'The top two House Republican leaders are divided over how to handle the bubbling controversy surrounding Homeland Security Chairman Peter King's hearing into "radicalization" in the American Muslim community. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the highest-ranking Jewish member of Congress, is squarely behind King as he takes shots from civil libertarians and religious groups over his decision to target one group in his investigation of the causes of terrorism. ... But Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are keeping their distance from King, perhaps trying to avoid letting this issue become a distraction for the GOP majority. 'Chairman King is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee" is all Boehner spokesman Michael Steel would say when asked about the controversy.' http://politi.co/eUOqtz

NY TIMES EDITORIAL: 'PETER KING'S OBSESSION' -- 'Not much spreads fear and bigotry faster than a public official intent on playing the politics of division. On Thursday, Representative Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is scheduled to open a series of hearings that seem designed to stoke fear against American Muslims. His refusal to tone down the provocation despite widespread opposition suggests that he is far more interested in exploiting ethnic misunderstanding than in trying to heal it.' http://nyti.ms/gn4vrR

SENATE WHIP RACE: ALEXANDER TOO MODERATE? -- Over the weekend, the Nashville Tennessean coupled a National Journal rating of Lamar Alexander as the 30th most conservative of 40 GOP senators with his run to move up from Conference chairman to Republican whip. 'Alexander's reputation for bipartisanship and moderation may hurt him,' Bill Thoebald writes. 'Alexander has one challenger so far, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. Cornyn's conservative ranking: tied for No. 1.' http://bit.ly/eDmAAg

You'll Never Guess Who Beat Out Obama For 'Hottest' Politician In America

Apparently what makes a politic an hot is straight-talk.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who's made a name for himself with his straight talk, beat out President Obama in a Quinnipac poll that asked American voters rate their feelings about politician.

Christie scored 57 degrees, topping President Obama by a full half degree.

Quinnipac notes his heat might have been higher (or lower, depending!) were it not for the fact only 55% of American voters don't yet know enough about Christie to form an opinion.

Christie didn't merit the tops marks however.
 The hottest title belongs to Michelle Obama
(someone alert Rush Limbaugh) who scored 60.1 degrees.
The second hottest was Bill Clinton at 59.2.
Sarah Palin, meanwhile, clocked in at 38.2.