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SECURITY CLEARANCE BACKLOG LEADS TO RISKY INTERIM PASSES
WASHINGTON (AP) – A government backlog of 700,000 security clearance reviews has led agencies like the Defense Department to inadvertently issue interim passes to criminals – even rapists and killers – fueling calls for better and faster vetting of people with access to the nation’s secrets. The pileup, which is government-wide, is causing work delays for both federal and private intelligence efforts. It takes about four months to acquire a clearance to gain access to “secret” information on a need-to-know basis, and nine to 10 months for “top-secret” clearance. Efforts to reduce the backlog coincide with pressure to tighten the reins on classified material. In recent years, intelligence agencies have suffered some of the worst leaks of classified information in U.S. history. Still, calls for a faster clearance process are getting louder.
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TRUMP ADMINISTRATION APPEALS TO SUPREME COURT ON REFUGEE BAN
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration is back at the Supreme Court, asking the justices to continue to allow strict enforcement of a temporary ban on refugees from around the world. The Justice Department’s high court filing Monday follows an appeals court ruling last week that would allow refugees to enter the United States if a resettlement agency in the U.S. had agreed to take them in. The appellate ruling could take effect as soon as Tuesday and could apply to up to 24,000 refugees. Justice Anthony Kennedy issued a brief order Monday that will keep the ruling on hold for the time being, at least until the ban’s challengers submit written arguments by midday Tuesday and the full court has a chance to act. The administration is not challenging the part of the ruling that applies to a temporary ban on visitors from six mostly Muslim countries. The appeals court ruled that grandparents and cousins of people already in the U.S. can’t be excluded from the country under the travel ban
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CATHOLIC LEADERS DECRY DEMS’ QUESTIONING OF JUDICIAL PICK
WASHINGTON (AP) – Roman Catholic leaders are objecting to Democratic senators’ line of questioning for one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, arguing the focus on her faith is misplaced and runs counter to the Constitution’s prohibition on religious tests for political office. The outcry stems from the questioning last week of Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor tapped to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Democrats focused on whether her personal views would override her legal judgment, especially with respect to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told Barrett that dogma and law are two different things and she was concerned “that the dogma lives loudly within you.” Feinstein’s comments upset Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, who wrote a letter this past weekend to the senator and the Judiciary Committee, calling the questioning “chilling.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the challenge to Barrett was a painful reminder of a time when “anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order.”
NORTH KOREA WARNS OF HARSH RESPONSE IF NEW SANCTIONS IMPOSED
TOKYO (AP) – North Korea says it will make the United States pay a heavy price if a proposal Washington is backing to impose the toughest sanctions ever on Pyongyang is approved by the U.N. Security Council this week. The North’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement early Monday saying it is watching the United States’moves closely and threatened it is “ready and willing” to respond with measures of its own. The United States has called for a vote Monday, New York time, on new U.N. sanctions against North Korea. Last Tuesday, the U.S. circulated a draft resolution proposing the toughest-ever U.N. sanctions on North Korea, including a ban on all oil and natural gas exports to the country and a freeze on all foreign financial assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong Un. Security Council diplomats, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly because talks have been private, said the U.S. and China were still negotiating the text late Sunday.
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ACCESS TO WHITE HOUSE RESTORED AFTER ITEMS THROWN OVER FENCE
WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. Secret Service has restored access to the White House and surrounding areas after objects were thrown over the fence….
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MCCAIN TO NORTH KOREA: AGGRESSION WILL LEAD TO ‘EXTINCTION’
WASHINGTON (AP) – Sen. John McCain says the U.S. needs to step up actions against North Korea and send a message to lead The Senate Armed Services chairman spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union.” McCain says Kim needs to know that “if he acts in an aggressive fashion, the price will be extinction.” The Arizona senator says the U.S. should provide missile defense in South Korea and continue working with China “to put the brakes on Kim Jong Un” and his efforts to develop nuclear weapons. McCain stressed a need to strengthen ties with allies Japan and South Korea.