Nation in Brief

Government strips Web sites of information

The government has been busy removing what it considers sensitive information from agency Web sites, a move that has fueled a growing national debate over the public’s right to know.

The decision to re-examine the information on the sites came soon after Sept. 11. Days later, the Bureau of Transportation statistics restricted access to its “National Transportation Atlas Data Base,” a gallery of maps.

The Environmental Protection Administration removed a database listing chemicals used at 15,000 industrial plants around the country. Critics said the database contained vital information for people who live near industrial sites.

On Oct. 12, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission removed its Web site altogether and returned a stripped-down version that left out information on the operating status of nuclear power plants.

Government officials said the Web site changes were made in the interest of public safety. Opponents said the removal of information was done hastily and in a panic, rather than measured way.

Bush opposes federalized air screeners

President George W. Bush indicated in his radio address Saturday he would reject an air security package that makes baggage screeners federal employees.

Bush said the government should oversee workers but not employ them.

“My approach gives the government the flexibility it needs to assemble a skilled and disciplined screening work force,” Bush said.

On Oct. 11, the Senate unanimously passed a version of the bill that would make screeners federal employees. A House version that Bush supports may be voted on this week.

Bush said not federalizing airport screeners would allow for greater flexibility in disciplining workers, a task that is not as easy within the government’s Civil Service.

Bombing campaign continues with force

U.S. jets continued to bombard Taliban strongholds over the weekend in what locals called the heaviest strikes yet.

The bombing came on the front line at Jom Qadam, 25 miles north of Kabul. In Mazar-e-Sharif, another important front-line city, the Taliban Saturday claimed it pushed back the opposition.

Pakistan’s president openly questioned the bombing campaign in an interview with ABC News. He said the U.S. has not made significant headway in dismantling the Taliban’s resources.

“If the military objectives are such that their attainment is causing difficulty, their identification is causing difficulty, their locations are causing difficulty, then yes, it may be a quagmire,” Gen. Pervez Musharraf said.

On Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross protested a strike that destroyed its warehouse in Kabul. It was the second strike this month on a Red Cross facility. The Pentagon called the bombing an accident.

-Zeb Eckert

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