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Park Forest Man Charged With Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault of Child

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Donald Anderson is charged with predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. (Photo: Park Forest Police Department)

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– On today’s date, Park Forest Police charged 42 year old, Donald Anderson, of 22115 Central Park Av., Park Forest with two counts of Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault of a Child, a Class X felony, when an investigation uncovered a sexual relationship with a 12 year old girl. Anderson appeared in Markham bond court today. Bond was set at $500,000.

On Saturday, March 17, 2007, the Park Forest Police Department was notified by a northwest suburban Police Department that a twelve year old female was missing from her home and thought to be in the company of a forty-two year old family friend.  The Park Forest Police went to the Central Park address but there was no answer at the door.  It was later learned that Anderson had driven the young girl home.  The girl’s mother brought her daughter to a local hospital for an exam, where her daughter admitted to medical personnel that she has an ongoing sexual relationship with the older man.

A Victim Sensitive Interview (VSI) was conducted at LaRabida Children’s Advocacy Center in Park Forest.  During the interview, the young girl stated the assault had occurred in Park Forest.  Park Forest Police Detectives arrested Anderson after the interview.

The release says that Donald Anderson allegedly gave statements to Police that he had sex with the child, on at least three occasions in his Park Forest home.

According to the release, Wednesday morning Park Forest Police Department detectives executed a search warrant of Anderson’s home.  Computers and additional items were seized in an attempt to locate further evidence of the crime, including digital computer images.  Park Forest Police have requested technical assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Crime/ Child Exploitation Unit with evidence recovered from the computer.

eNews Park Forest will update this story as more information becomes available. 

Park Forest Man Victim of Internet Fraud

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A Park Forest man was a victim of an Advance Fee Solicitation Scam initiated by a woman claiming to live in Ghana, Africa. (Photo: BigFoto.com)

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)— Many people surfing the Internet have come across the infamous Nigerian emails claiming that the sender was in possession of large sums of money and needed a bank account off-shore to launder the money. While most probably delete these solicitations or filter them to a SPAM folder, many people have believed these stories and lost large sums of their own money.

One Park Forest resident recently fell victim to a similar scam, and lost a big chunk of change in the process, according to a police report on the incident.

On March 9, a resident came to the Park Forest Police Station to lodge a fraud complaint. A Park Forest police officer took the resident's complaint.  The victim reported that approximately eight months prior, he began to corresponding online who claimed to be a woman.  She related that she lived in Ghana, Africa, and had inherited $300,000 in gold from her mother.  She claimed that she attempted to leave the country with the gold to meet the Park Forest resident, but was allegedly arrested by customs agents in Ghana and the gold was confiscated, according to the police report.

At this point, the resident came in contact with another person on the Internet who identified himself as a Mr. Edwards. Edwards claimed to be a friend of the female subject, and he agreed to pay $25,000 to bribe the customs agents to release the gold.  The money was to come from a third individual named Mr. Richie in Canada.  Richie sent a check for $25,000.78 to the Park Forest resident.  The resident was instructed to send $25,000 to an account in the Netherlands.  Through this account, Edwards would get the money and pay off the officials in Ghana.  Once the officials were paid off, the detained woman would come to America to meet the resident.  The plan was that they would sell the gold to pay Edwards and Richie, keeping most of the money for themselves.

The resident deposited this check into a checking account.  Approximately two days later, the bank released $4,900 to the him.  The resident then sent the $4,900 to an account in the Netherlands via Western Union.  The bank then contacted the victim and advised him the $25,000.78 check did not clear.

“Something should have screamed to the victim that something wasn’t right here,” one police officer commented about the case. However, such fraud cases are not rare, and are becoming more common. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's website refers to this crime as an Advance Fee Solicitation Scam. According to the website:

Consumers also should be aware that there has been an upsurge in advance fee solicitation scams in northern Illinois originating from Kazakhstan and other former Soviet Republics. Additionally, consumers should be on the watch for similar advance fee solicitations from scammers pretending to be soldiers in Afghanistan.

In these solicitations, persons purporting to be American military personnel claim to have found cash belonging to terrorists and solicit the assistance of the recipient of the e-mail in bringing the money into the United States so that it will not fall into the hands of terrorists again.

The consequences for some have been very dire:

The U.S. Department of State cautions against traveling to destinations as requested in solicitation letters and reports that people who have responded to these advance fee solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered.

Madigan's site advises those who receive such solicitations to forward them to the Federal Trade Commission at [email protected]. The site advises anyone who has lost money to one of these schemes to send copies of their documentation to the U.S. Secret Service, Financial Crimes Division, 950 H Street, N.W., Room 402, Washington, D.C., 20223.

There were no arrests in this case. Police continue to investigate.

Village Attorney Mat Delort Appointed Associate Judge

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Judge-elect Mathias Delort (Photo: rsnlt.com. Used with permission.)

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)— Park Forest Village Attorney Mathias Delort is one of 31 new associate judges, selected in a vote of Cook County Circuit Court judges.  The names were released March 5 by Cynthia Y. Cobbs, Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts.

Ballots listing the names of 62 finalists, chosen from 242 candidates, were distributed to 273 circuit judges. Ballots were due March 2, 2007.

The Alliance of Bar Associations and the Chicago Bar Association evaluated the candidates.  Each candidate was interviewed by a nine member nominating committee, comprised of Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans of the Cook County Circuit Court and eight presiding judges.

Judge Evans certified the 62 finalists to the Administrative Director on February 2, 2007.
In accordance with the 1970 Illinois Constitution, the Administrative Office conducted the election pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 39 which directs that twice as many candidates as vacancies be nominated.

Reached by phone, Delort commented on the appointment, "The voters elect the circuit judges. The circuit judges appoint the associate judges. Technically the 31 new judges have been appointed for a three month term. We expect that we will all be retained next July for a full 3 year term." 

Delort further explained the appointment, "We have a unified court system. The associate and circuit judges are assigned by chief judge wherever he wants to send them. An associate judge cannot hear certain kinds of felony cases, except by special permission." He said that in September of 2005, almost 300 lawyers applied for an appointment. There was then a period of a year and a half of interviews and screening. Every candidate received ratings during the process. "I did not get a negative rating from any bar association," Delort said. This followed with another interview, and the field was narrowed to 62 candidates. "I found out I was on the 'short list' in February," Delort said. This was followed with what Delort termed "mini-interviews" with almost every circuit court judge in Cook County. 

Cook County Associate judges serve a four year term and receive an annual salary of $147,074. By Supreme Court Rule, however, the term for all associate judges will expire on June 30, 2007, regardless of when they were appointed. The thirty-one judges just appointed, as well as those associate judges currently serving, must be reappointed July 1, 2007. Cook County seats 121 associate judges.

Delort, a Chicago resident, was admitted to the Bar November 7, 1985.  He attended DePaul University in Chicago, receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in 1981.  He attended the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, receiving his J.D. (Juris Doctor) in 1985.  He currently works with Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton, & Taylor, Ltd., the firm which represents the Village of Park Forest.  Delort said he expects his firm will carry on with the Village of Park Forest.

The official installation of the entire group of 31 new judges (all at once) will be on Wednesday, April 11, 2007 at 11:00 a.m. in the Auditorium in the lower level of the Thompson Center, 100 West Randolph Street, Chicago.  This event will be about one hour in length.  This event is open to the public.

Delort is currently running for the Appellate Court. See his campaign Web site here.

Police Report – March 19, 2007

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Photo: Morguefile.com

Editor's Note: We continue our reporting on news from police reports.  Besides covering the many stories from around Park Forest that otherwise might go unnoticed, we want to bring more complete coverage of police reports than is reported by other local media.

An arrest does not mean that a person is guilty.  All those arrested are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  It is the policy of eNews Park Forest to not remove items in the public record from publication.  If your name is listed in the police reports, we will only add information relevant to the final disposition of the case at hand, e.g. "Mr. Smith was subsequently acquitted," or "All charges against Mr. Smith were subsequently dropped."  We will do so upon receiving and verifying proof of such disposition.

We will always include some introductory comments before the first item.  While everything that follows is a matter of public record, we do not believe it is necessary to have names on page one.

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)—

Kyle D. Norton, 20, 18234 Wentworth, Lansing, IL, was arrested on March 8 and charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol and possession of cannabis when the vehicle he was driving was radar clocked at 55 mph on Sauk Trail near Orchard Blvd.

On March 9, police were called to the PFPD lobby in reference to a report of harassment.  There were no arrests.  Police continue to investigate.

Thomas Demetrius, 24, 8525 S., Morgan, Chicago, was arrested for an outstanding warrant in Coles County and was also charged with unlawful possession of cannabis, driving while license suspended, operation of a vehicle with suspended registration (non-insurance), disobeying a traffic control signal, and operation of an uninsured motor vehicle on March 10, when an officer on patrol traveling northbound on Forest near Lakewood Boulevard stopped the vehicle he was driving for making an illegal U-turn.

Jermaine Hudson, 21, 138 Lester, Park Forest, was arrested on March 10 and issued an M-citation for possession of cannabis when an officer observed a car parked in a fire lane in the 100 block of Forest.

On March 10, police were dispatched to the 100 block of Shabbona to investigate a burglary.  Items reported stolen included a blued Uberti 1860 .44 caliber Colt Revolver, a non-functioning blued Police Positive Special .38 caliber Colt Revolver with a 4” barrel, a blued side latch Mauser 1910 .25 auto pistol with walnut grips and a broomhandel Mauser C96 commercial pistol, a home-assembled AR-15 assault rifle, and a Daisy .22 caliber rim fire rifle with a 20” barrel and seven-round magazine, and a college graduation ring.  Police continue to investigate.

Michael E. Polka, 39, 440 Niagara, Park Forest, was arrested on March 10 and charged with domestic battery, interfering with the reporting of domestic violence, and possession of cannabis when police were called to the 400 block of Niagara to investigate a domestic disturbance.

Curtis A. Neely, 34, 302 Sheridan, Park Forest, was arrested on March 10 and charged with two felony counts of possession of a controlled substance, one count of possession of cannabis, speeding-over statutory limit, and illegal transportation of alcoholic liquor, when the car he was driving was pulled over in the 2900 block of Western Ave. for traveling at a high rate of speed.

On March 10, police were dispatched to Indianwood at Sauk Trail to investigate a battery complaint.  No arrests were made.  Police continue to investigate.

Jennifer A. Mrozowski, 33, 183 Dogwood, Park Forest, was arrested on March 10 and charged with neglect of a child when police were called to a business in the 0 – 100 block of Main St. in reference to a female subject who allegedly appeared to be intoxicated and was not attending to her children, according to the report.

Alfred P. Savage, 41, 234 Arcadia, Park Forest, was arrested on March 10 and charged with possession of a controlled substance and processed on an outstanding warrant in Park Forest when police were dispatched to the area of the Park Forest Animal Hospital to investigate a report of a person walking in the area smoking cannabis.

Joshua T. Olivan, 17, 112 Willow, Park Forest, was arrested on March 10 and charged with underage consumption of alcohol by a minor when police were called to the 100 block of Willow in reference to a domestic problem.

On March 11, police were called to the 200 block of N. Orchard to investigate a report of criminal damage to property.  The front and rear driver’s side tires of an automobile were slashed.  Police continue to investigate.

On March 12, a police officer was dispatched to the Park Forest Police Department to investigate a delayed domestic disturbance.  No arrests were made.  Police continue to investigate, and advised the complainant of the procedure for obtaining an order of protection.

On March 12, police were called to the 21800 block of Central Park in reference to a missing juvenile.  The juvenile’s name was entered into LEADS as a missing person.  Police continue to investigate.

On March 12, a police officer was dispatched to a school in the 100 block of Algonquin to investigate a report of two juveniles bringing knives to school.  Two boys, age 8, allegedly pulled knives on a 7 year old girl.  Police found two steak knives with approximate 4” blades from the students’ backpacks.  The principal, Caletha White, told police the students were to be suspended for 10 days with recommendation of expulsion.  Due to the young age of the suspects, this matter will be handled by the school officials, according to the report.

On March 12, police were dispatched to a residence in the 100 block of Indianwood Blvd. to investigate a report of a runaway.  The juvenile was entered into LEADS.  Police continue to investigate.

On March 13, police were called to a school in the 200 block of Wilson St. to investigate an unlawful use of a weapon incident.  A juvenile’s locker was searched, and police recovered a steak knife with approximately a four inch blade.  The principal reported to police on March 16 that she is working on an expulsion package for the juvenile, and the student is suspended from school pending the outcome of the expulsion package.

A juvenile was arrested and charged with battery and resisting a peace officer on March 13 when an officer working as a Police Liaison Officer at a school in the 300 block of Sauk Trail was alerted to a disturbance in the cafeteria.

On March 13, police responded to the 0 – 100 block of Krotiak to investigate a report of a juvenile runaway.  The juvenile was entered into LEADS as a runaway.  Police continue to investigate.

Tammi L. Bednarek, 30, 3400 Sally Drive, Steger, was arrested on March 13 and charged with retail theft when police were called to a business in the 100 block of S. Orchard to investigate a retail theft incident.  Bednarek allegedly attempted to take a 750ml bottle of Smirnoff vodka, allegedly placing the bottle in her right coat sleeve, according to the report.

On March 13, police were dispatched to the PFPD to investigate a deceptive practice.  A resident reported that a business checking account had been opened through a bank using his personal information.  The resident was provided with an Identity Theft brochure and advised to contact the credit bureaus to flag his credit information.  Police continue to investigate.

Kevin Hall, 35, a homeless man, last known address 13743 Eggleston, Riverdale, was arrested on March 13 and charged with retail theft.  He allegedly stole two CD players valued at $20 each from a store in the 400 block of Norwood Square.

James W. Mines II, 26, 3328 Western Ave., Park Forest, was arrested on March 13 and charged with driving on a suspended driver’s license and possession of cannabis when police were dispatched to the area of Forest and Lakewood to investigate a report of disturbance.

On March 14, a juvenile was charged with resisting a peace officer when a police officer on patrol observed four juveniles walking on the roadway in the 400 block of Hamlin St.  The juveniles appeared to be of school age, and school was in session.  One juvenile was transported to Rich East High School and released to administration.

On March 14, police were called to the 0 – 100 block of Indianwood in reference to a domestic disturbance.  No arrests were made.  Police continue to investigate.

On March 14, a Park Forest Police Officer and K9 Officer Aron were dispatched to 15th and Ellis, Ford Heights, to assist the Cook County Sheriff’s Office with a reported shooting.  Subjects had gone to the Ford Heights Police Station and reported that they had been shot in the area of 15th and Drexel by two men, one armed with an AK-47 and one armed with a chrome revolver.  During the search of a residence, two suspects were taken into custody.  Deputies also recovered an AK-47, a .22 caliber long rifle, and a .357 revolver handgun.  The Park Forest Police Officer and K9 Aron were asked to conduct a narcotics search.  K9 Aron did not alert during the search.

Andre L. Webster, 21, 308 N. Boston, Chicago Heights, was arrested on March 15 and charged with driving with no lights, failure to signal right turn, parking in a designated handicap zone, driving with an expired driver’s license, operation of an uninsured motor vehicle, and possession of cannabis when the vehicle he was driving was observed driving with no lights on Western Ave. near Main St.  In the same incident, Antoine L. Argue, 26, 316 Boston, Chicago Heights, a passenger in the car, was turned over to the Chicago Heights Police Department for an outstanding warrant.

On March 15, police were called to the 300 block of Ash St. to investigate a report of burglary to auto.  Five bags of stuffed animals, each containing twenty stuffed animals were reported stolen, in addition to a jar of U.S. currency coins containing approximately $38.40.  Police continue to investigate.

On March 16, police were called to the 200 block of Berry to investigate a stolen auto incident.  The car, a black 2003 Lexus ES 300 with Illinois registration 4836972, with chrome wheels and black matching interior, was entered into LEADS as a stolen vehicle.

On March 17, police were called to the 200 block of Early St. to investigate a report of residential burglary.  Police observed damage to a door frame.  Nothing appeared to be missing from the residence.  There were no arrests.  Police continue to investigate.

47 Year-Old Man Dies in Police Custody

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Park Forest Police Chief Thomas Fleming issued a press release Sunday regarding the death of 47 year old David Brown, who died while in police custody Saturday.

The release states that on March 17, 2007 at 8:19 p.m., Park Forest Police were called to a single family residence in the 200 block of Shabbona, in reference to an aggressive forty-seven year old subject with a history of mental illness, later identified as David Brown, who had severely battered his eighty-one year old father and forty-six year old brother.  Officers arrived at the home within two minutes of the dispatch to find that Brown had fled on foot from the home. 

The family later related that David Brown is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and is prescribed several antipsychotic medications. The elderly father was immediately transported and admitted to the hospital due to his injuries. The brother was later treated and released from the hospital, according to the release.

At 8:42 p.m., according to the release, David Brown was located by a Patrol Officer several blocks from his home.  When the Officer approached Brown to inquire about his condition, Brown charged the officer, tackling him, striking and clawing his face and head.  The officer struggled with Brown for several minutes while waiting for backup units to arrive.  The officer unsuccessfully deployed his Taser in attempts to control Brown. The officer’s K-9 partner then was deployed to assist the officer.  Brown punched and struck the police dog which allowed the officer to get to his feet. Additional Park Forest Police officers responded to assist taking Brown into custody, according to the release.   He was forcibly placed in handcuffs and paramedics responded to transport David Brown to a mental health emergency facility. 

While Brown was being placed in the ambulance, he experienced cardiac difficulties.  Park Forest Fire Department paramedics treated him on the way to the hospital and turned over care to emergency room staff at St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights.  Brown later expired at the hospital.  The Police Officer was treated for his injuries and released.

At 10:00 p.m., Park Forest Police Administration requested the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Unit and the Cook County Medical Examiner respond to investigate the in-custody death of David Brown. An autopsy will be performed by the Medical Examiner’s Office and a cause of death will be forthcoming, according to the release.

League of Women Voters of the Park Forest Area Newsflash

Park Forest Public Library

announces showing of 

An Inconvenient Truth 

On Thursday March 29 at 6:30 pm there will be a showing of the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth in the Ringering Room of the Park Forest Public Library, 400 Lakewood Boulevard, Park Forest.

The history and perils of global climate change are explored in this popular and controversial movie featuring former vice-president Al Gore.

The public is invited to this showing which will be followed by a short discussion.   This program is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Park Forest Area.  There is no charge for admission.


How long will my name be listed online in the police reports?

It is the policy of eNews Park Forest to not remove items in the public record from publication.  If your name is listed in the police reports, we will only add information relevant to the final disposition of the case at hand, e.g. "Mr. Smith was subsequently acquitted," or "All charges against Mr. Smith were subsequently dropped."  We will do so upon receiving and verifying proof of such disposition.

Press Briefing by Tony Snow: 3-15-07

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

White House Conference Center Briefing Room

12:49 P.M. EDT

MR. SNOW: Hello. The President this morning had a good meeting with the Iraqi Vice President, Adil Abd Al-Mahdi. Among other things, the Iraqi Vice President noted that the ongoing security plan in Iraq is going, as he said, better than expected. But he also noted that we've got a long way to go. There are a lot of issues — politically, economically, and in terms of security — to address within Iraq. As he said — he talked about the hydrocarbon bill and deBaathification. But it was an important and a good meeting.

And it, incidently, comes at a time when the United States Senate is debating a resolution that would pull the rug out from under the Iraqi people by trying to set artificial deadlines when it comes to U.S. military commitments. If that bill comes before the President, he will veto it.

The Vice President also — that is the Iraqi Vice President — also noted that yesterday he visited soldiers in the hospital, and he was impressed by the high spirit they had — "better morale than I had," he said, talking about their mission. And in trying to bind the hands of the administration would pull the rug out from under them, as well. So we do have some business going on on Capitol Hill today.

Questions.

Q The Judiciary Committee today approved subpoenas — authorized subpoenas for five Justice Department officials as they look into the prosecutors case. What's the administration's reaction?

MR. SNOW: Well, I refer you to the Department of Justice on that. I know that they've had some conversations, but I'll refer you to DOJ on that.

Q Why would that be? Why wouldn't the White House —

MR. SNOW: Because it's subpoenas for the DOJ, and the Department of Justice will respond. The Department of Justice has also had ongoing conversations with people on Capitol Hill. I don't want to be their fact witness on this one, but, again, I suggest you give their office a call.

Q But you said Fred Fielding is talking with the Hill to see about —

MR. SNOW: Yes. I said he's been talking with people on the Hill. He was up on the Hill yesterday. I don't know if he'll be up —

Q Still no resolution of that?

MR. SNOW: No. But, again, what we're trying to do is to make sure they get the information they need in a manner that's consistent with presidential prerogatives.

Q Tony, it's getting hard to find a Republican around town who says that Gonzales will survive this. Is there any feeling inside the White House that Attorney General Gonzales will survive this?

MR. SNOW: The President has confidence in the Attorney General. He's made that clear, both privately to the Attorney General, and he made it clear yesterday in the press conference.

Q But if you have an ever-growing number of Republicans on the Hill calling for resignation or expressing strong —

MR. SNOW: Well, you're asking me if; we have one publicly declared.

Q You do have more Republican opinion that Gonzales should not keep his job.

MR. SNOW: Well, again —

Q That's got to factor into an administration who wants to do business with Republicans on the Hill to get a domestic agenda done, if nothing else.

MR. SNOW: Well, we're working with people on both sides of the Hill, and, Jim, one of the things the President said is that the Attorney General is going to be going to Capitol Hill to talk about some of the mistakes that were made in terms of providing notification on U.S. attorneys. And furthermore, the information was provided to people within the Department of Justice when they went to testify on the Hill. So the Attorney General also is going to have an opportunity to speak with members of Congress and address their concerns.

Q At this point, the Attorney General —

MR. SNOW: The President has confidence in the Attorney General.

Q He had confidence in Rumsfeld, too.

Q Will the President let current and former officials, like Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, testify on Capitol Hill?

MR. SNOW: As I said, Fred Fielding is busy conducting talks with people in the House and Senate, with Democrats. And I'm not going to tell you what's going to be decided. I'm going to let them go ahead and have their conversations. Again, we're going to give them the information they need in a manner that's consistent with presidential prerogatives.

Q Without them having to subpoena?

MR. SNOW: Again, you're trying to get me to jump ahead and do negotiations. Not going to do it.

Q Was the Mohammed on the front pages subjected to any torture in the secret prisons?

MR. SNOW: We don't — again, the policy of this government is we do not engage in torture.

Q And so you can guarantee that he was not tortured in all the years of secret —

MR. SNOW: I'm telling you the policy is that we don't do torture, and furthermore, that there are — very specific guidelines have been laid down in terms of the questioning of people who, in fact, have been in U.S. custody.

Q But after it was all revealed. How do we know — I mean, this is — why would you send them to secret prisons in the first place?

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to — Helen, we have been through long conversations about that. There was a big debate on Capitol Hill about this. We're not going to relitigate it.

Q So you're saying he was not —

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Tony, let me talk about the Judiciary Committee decision to authorize the subpoenas before these talks with Fielding are completed — do you feel that's premature?

MR. SNOW: Well, you're talking about Department of Justice subpoenas, those are not White House subpoenas. That's a separate issue.

Q Tony, Leahy said that he would subpoena Rove, Miers, if there was not voluntary cooperation.

MR. SNOW: Well, as I said, I'm not going to get up here and act as if — Fred Fielding is having conversations. I think it's advisable to let those proceed.

Q But if he does subpoena, is there anything the White House can do to stop —

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to play the "if" game. Let's just wait and see. Rather than trying to answer hypotheticals, we will deal with facts as they arise.

Q Do you think the White House made any mistakes in this whole matter of the discussions over the firings? And particular, I'm wondering if Attorney General Gonzales was making statements to members of Congress, beginning in January, that later proved to be not exactly in line with the facts, weren't people in the White House aware of that?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into extensive sort of fact witnessing. Let me make a simple point. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, and these were proper decisions to remove seven U.S. attorneys. And the Department of Justice went through its own process, and I'll let the Department of Justice speak for the metrics, and so on, that it used. But it's certainly within the right of the President to replace people.

Furthermore, as you know, with U.S. attorneys, they've got a four-year term. Each of these folks had fulfilled the four-year term. There are holdover provisions, but it is well within the President's executive authority to replace people.

Q Tony, two quick questions. One, there has been so much written so far now as far as terrorism, threat of terrorism is concerned in Afghanistan and also here in the U.S. And The Washington Post former prime minister of Pakistan is writing that now that a clear story has come that General Musharraf is not doing enough as far as what he was accepted by the President — and even not only President — satisfied with what's happening with what's going on. And where do we stand now as far as Osama bin Laden and all those —

MR. SNOW: Goyal, you're asking me to answer a question that involves highly classified matters, and I can't do that. I'm not going to do —

Q Not classified —

MR. SNOW: There's not a lot of unclassified information about what we're doing with regard to Osama bin Laden. The fact is that this administration remains determined to prosecute the war on terror on all fronts.

Q Second, on immigration. As far as presidential trip is concerned, he had — immigration as far as Mexico is concerned — so he said that he will double his efforts as far as the immigration bill is concerned in the U.S. Senate. So what is he going to do now? Is it what Democrats want, or what —

MR. SNOW: No, the President laid it out yesterday — working with Republicans to come up with a largely accepted Republican view, and then work with Democrats to get a bill passed. I mean, he's been pretty straightforward about the approach. But the President — make no mistake, the President is committed to this cause. He delivered a nationwide address from the Oval Office. It certainly was something we discussed at every stop along the way. He thinks it is vital for making this nation more secure, this nation more prosperous, and incidentally, also for making our friends and allies in the neighborhood more secure and prosperous. It's good for both sides.

And as a result, he wanted to make sure that everybody understood that this was a real firm, profound and personal commitment on his part.

Q — you can clear very quickly. Fred Fielding is negotiating with members on the Hill on possible subpoenas of White House staff. Does that mean he's not talking to them about the possible Justice Department subpoenas?

MR. SNOW: What I'm not going to do — what he's talking about is — and I'm not even going to engage — what you've done is jump to negotiating about subpoenas. What we're talking about is getting information to them that they need in a manner that's consistent with our prerogatives. And that can cover a lot of ground. I am not privy to the precise conversations, but Fred is having conversations with them, and I don't want to characterize them.

Q You seem to be pushing off — you seem to be pushing our questions on subpoenas —

MR. SNOW: Because the Department of Justice has been, in fact, having its own conversations with those committees.

Q Does the White House have no opinion about whether Justice Department officials should — honor subpoenas?

MR. SNOW: That's sort of the backdoor way of getting into the conversations that Fred may be having with folks on the Hill. Let's just let these talks play out, and then once we get to a point where there's resolution, then you can ask me and I can give you a much more direct answer. We're dealing at a highly hypothetical level right now and that kind of musing doesn't give us much to go on.

April.

Q Tony, going to another subject, the Pentagon. Is the President now going to start embracing the words "civil war," to a certain extent as it relates to Iraq?

MR. SNOW: What you're talking about is the 90/10 report that came out. That, April, reflects the language that was used in the National Intelligence Estimate. As you'll recall, the National Intelligence Estimate said there are some things that are characteristic of a civil war, some that are not. So this is — there's not new language, or for that matter, new analysis.

Q It's not new language for the NIE, but it's new language for the President —

MR. SNOW: No, no, the President — what the President is focusing on is succeeding in Iraq. And again, you've got evidence that there has been progress. I don't want to oversell it because it is tough and there's along way to go. We're still busy moving forces into Iraq. We're still working with the Iraqis to develop capability. They've been stepping up and taking on tough decisions. The oil law has been passed by the council ministers; it is going before the legislature. What I'm telling you, April, is there's a lot of stuff going on. And what you're asking about is a phrase used in a National Intelligence Estimate.

Q Don't diminish it, because for months you, from that podium, have been dancing around the words, "civil war," and sectarian —

MR. SNOW: Right, but what you are trying to say is that that is a label that is attached as an absolute — that is being used to describe accurately what's going on. And if you take a look at the NIE, it said it has some characteristics and some that are inconsistent. So we're not going to use the term.

Q So you're not going to use the term, the President is not?

MR. SNOW: No, but the President — the National Intelligence Estimate says that there are some characteristics that are consistent and some that aren't.

Q Okay. And lastly, on the Sudan, why did it take so long for this administration to come out with the issue of sanctions, financial sanctions? From my understanding, this administration had been looking into that issue for months.

MR. SNOW: This administration has been working for months — I would flip it around — this administration — and the President was the first person to call this genocide — he has been working and he has been very aggressive on the diplomatic track, trying to get people in the neighborhood, within the African Union and also the United Nations to step up. This needs to be addressed.

Q Well, why has it taken the sanctions — as you said, he's called it genocide; he's even called it outrageous. But why has it taken so long? I got word of it last year, towards the end of summer, that they were looking at sanctions. Why are we now in March, and they're talking about sanctions —

MR. SNOW: We have been trying to work, April, to make sure that we have the ability of players in the region to have some influence on the government, which, in the Sudanese government, has consistently rejected overtures, and that becomes a forcing event to get others involved.

Q Back on the prosecutors. Has the White House been in touch with Harriet Miers to see if she has further information in this case?

MR. SNOW: I don't know.

Q The President said, "I've heard those allegations about political decision-making; it's just not true." How can he say that when he hasn't seen all the emails, emails continue to come out, and of those that have already come out, some of them clearly seem to show that at some level, at least, there was political decision-making?

MR. SNOW: I'm not — how would you define "political decision-making"?

Q Well, decision-making that involves politics.

Q How would you define it, Tony?

MR. SNOW: Well, it's a loaded term. I mean, I think what the President — what the President is saying is that there is no — that in evaluating U.S. attorneys, this is based on performance. And the important thing to do — and furthermore, the Department of Justice made recommendations that the President has accepted. Also keep in mind, the President has the authority to remove people and put other folks in the job. That is at his discretion. That's presidential power.

Q But is he saying that he was so in the loop, then, that he definitely knew there was nothing political, or was he, in fact, removed, as you indicated this morning?

MR. SNOW: No, I think — again, what the President has — the Department of Justice has made recommendations, they've been approved. And it's pretty clear that these things are based on performance and not on sort of attempts to do political retaliation, if you will.

Q Tony, thank you. Thousands of veterans are coming from all over the country to make sure on Saturday that a rally organized by a group called Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism does not deface the Vietnamese War Memorial like the Capitol was spray-painted by another mob. My question: Does the President have any welcome for these veterans protecting our war memorial?

MR. SNOW: The President welcomes all veterans and thanks them for their service.

Q Since it has been my impression that Vice President Cheney has always been loyal to the President, could you tell us the President's reaction to the Time Magazine cover story that described Mr. Cheney as, "the administration's enemy within," "an independent operation inside the White House that has done more harm than good" and one of Bush's biggest liabilities?

MR. SNOW: That would be inaccurate.

Q Wait a minute, one last one, because you've been away for a week.

Q Welcome back.

MR. SNOW: Yes, this is my welcome back. (Laughter.)

Q Both the Media Research Center, as well as The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial headlined, "The Hubbell Standard: Hillary Clinton knows about sacking U.S. attorneys," deplored the old big media uproar about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, when the Clinton administration fired 93 in one day. And my question: Does the President agree or disagree with The Wall Street Journal and the Media Research Center?

MR. SNOW: I'm not aware that he's expressed an opinion on it. Let me just remind everybody again, U.S. attorneys are —

Q What do you think?

MR. SNOW: It's not my job to get up here and expound my views.

Q I'd love to hear your opinion on it.

MR. SNOW: Well, that's well and good, and I appreciate that. It makes me feel all warm inside. But it's not appropriate for me to do that.

Sarah.

Q Welcome back.

MR. SNOW: Thank you.

Q Tony, has the building of the wall between Mexico and the United States damaged relations between the two countries beyond repair?

MR. SNOW: No. As a matter of fact, the relations are close. And the conversations between President Calderón and President Bush were, as the President said, extremely productive. They were detailed and — the two leaders were honest with each other about things where they agreed and where they disagreed, and maybe the most important thing is that they also committed to taking issues of concern directly to Cabinet-level officers so that they could go ahead and really seize responsibility.

There are a lot of good things that we can do with the Mexican government — border security, drug interdiction, arms interdiction, trying to make sure that the borders are safe, building conditions for greater prosperity in Mexico — that takes pressure off the border and, frankly, greater prosperity within the region. There were educational exchanges. I mean, they talked about a lot of things.

So I would — number one, I would argue that what's happened is that U.S.-Mexican relations have been strengthened as a consequence of the visit; and, also, that the personal relationship between the two Presidents was strengthened by virtue of the fact that they were candid with each other and I think they were both impressed with the seriousness, and also the leadership quality. President Calderón is a leader. He's been in office for a hundred days or so and he is tackling directly a lot of the most important businesses. So, again, to use the term the President did, very productive meetings.

Q Tony, in your answer this morning on the new Palestinian government, you said you hoped that President Abbas could proceed with the ability to follow the Quartet commitments. Can you explain what that —

MR. SNOW: Well, we're really — at this point, let's wait until we have a government fully formed up. But the most important issue, ultimately, in dealing with peace in the region is to have the Palestinians abide by the Quartet conditions. That has been our position and will continue to be our position.

Q Tony, while the President was traveling, New Century fund, one of the biggest mortgage lenders, almost went belly-up, causing a major fall in the stock market. What's troubling investors now is the fact that this housing market, which has been based on some very risky loans, is really holding up the whole stock market situation. And if the bubble blows in the housing market, a lot of people are going to be in trouble, the U.S. economy goes down the tubes. I was just wondering if the President is focused on this problem. And does he have a game plan, aside from the denial and the happy talk that's been coming out of the Secretary of Treasury?

MR. SNOW: Well, number one, I would — if you want to — I would encourage you to take your concerns to the Secretary of Treasury; I'm sure he'll be happy to respond. Hank Paulson is not only an enormously capable, but very realistic Secretary of the Treasury. So, please, try that.

Secondly, we do have — the fundamentals in the economy are sound, but I am not going to get into talking about markets. Any time somebody makes comments from this podium it is something that could potentially influence markets; I'm just not going to do it.

Q If such a collapse — as a follow-up on that — if such a market collapse would occur, would the President be intent on maintaining the value of the dollar?

MR. SNOW: I will refer you to my prior answer. What you're asking me to do now is to accept a premise, the acceptance of which would be a market-moving event.

Q Is the President worried about eroding support for No Child Left Behind?

MR. SNOW: No. The President is deeply committed to No Child Left Behind. And it's important to make sure not only that we have standards for schools, but that we extend to every child — from kindergarten straight through 12th grade — the opportunity and the promise of good education, so that they are equipped to intellectually — they have the intellectual tools and capabilities to deal with a workforce in which they're going to change careers any number of times; that they're going to have the intellectual abilities. And the President is committed to making sure richer, poorer, wherever you live, you're going to have those opportunities. And he is strongly committed to it and he's working with Democrats and Republicans — Republicans first, of course.

Q We know he's committed to it, but what about Republicans who signed on it before, but have now expressed interest in other legislation?

MR. SNOW: Well, I think, again, there are plenty of conversations that are ongoing. But the President feels confident that we're going to get reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, and, furthermore, that it's vital to American students.

Q How soon does the President want the Security Council to vote on the Iran resolution —

MR. SNOW: Well, they're still working it out. I mean, I don't think that the President has a timetable on it, but, obviously, we think it's going to be soon. It's important to realize, though, that we have been working within — we're now going to present it to the full Security Council and I think we're pretty close on it.

Q Well, is the President satisfied with the language then?

MR. SNOW: Well, let's wait until everything is signed. This is another one of these things where we want to make sure it's all wrapped up, signed, sealed and delivered, and then we'll be happy to characterize.

Q On the attorneys, you mentioned that these firings were not done as political retaliation or retribution. If we're going to talk about, kind of, the President's powers, though, if any of the firings were for political retribution, is that within his purview, as well?

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: Again, the President has the authority to remove people who serve at his pleasure. And these are folks who had four-year terms, all of which had expired.

Helen.

Q Is there any plan to commemorate March 19th, four years into war?

MR. SNOW: To "commemorate"? The one thing we do is constantly —

Q Take notice of.

MR. SNOW: Well, I think there will be plenty people taking notice of it. The one thing that we want to do is also make sure that people take notice of how vital it is to continue to supply the reinforcement our forces need and the support that the Iraqi government is going to need in order to put all the pieces together that are going to allow that nation to be delivered from an age of tyranny under Saddam Hussein to one of hope and democracy.

Q Well, but is anything going to be done by the President, personally? You don't know.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: Thank you.

END 1:11 P.M. EDT

The OPEN Government Act: An Investment in American Democracy

Sunshine Week Commentary

 America seems to be at the dawn of a golden age of citizen-journalism, that great democratic tradition tracing its historical roots to our founding generation. As the Internet matures and evolves, thousands of activists, enthusiasts and entrepreneurs continue to be empowered to scrutinize the operations of government and report back to their fellow citizens. They often build on, borrow from, adapt or amplify the investigative work of traditional journalists, who are the backbone and basic muscle in enforcing the public's right to know.

The investigative reporting of fiscal hawks, campaign finance watchdogs, and consumer advocates has increased in both quality and quantity in recent years. American democracy can grow healthier as these 21st Century citizen-journalists (exemplified by the new generation of bloggers) contribute to the marketplace of ideas. And we believe that open and transparent government is a key component to helping usher in the goals of more efficient, more responsive, and – ultimately – cleaner government.

Congress can and must do more to keep the windows open and the sunshine pouring in. The President's 2006 executive order on implementing the Freedom of Information Act was a necessary first step. But the FOIA backlogs and other barriers to obtaining information remain, and this problem can and must be addressed by additional legislation.

Our bill, the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007 ("OPEN Government Act"), would strengthen FOIA and close loopholes, by protecting access to FOIA fee waivers for legitimate journalists, regardless of institutional association – including bloggers and other Internet-based journalists.

The OPEN Government Act would also help FOIA requestors obtain more timely responses, by establishing FOIA hotline services, either by telephone or on the Internet, to enable requestors to track the status of their FOIA requests and creating a new FOIA ombudsman to review agency FOIA compliance and to provide alternatives to litigation.

Finally, our legislation would ensure that agencies have strong incentives to act on FOIA requests in a timely fashion, by restoring meaningful deadlines that require agency action on FOIA requests within 20 days of their receipt and imposing real consequences on federal agencies for missing statutory deadlines.

But legislation can only do so much without an administration's top-to-bottom commitment. Open government is an ethic. The citizen on the telephone asking about her 3-year-old FOIA request isn't a nuisance to be placed on hold; in fact, she's the boss.

Beyond our bill there is much more to be done, including striking the right balance when it comes to classified information. Of course, open government cannot mean putting access to information ahead of national security. But there are dangers to over-classification just as there are dangers to under-classification. We pledge to work together to help find that balance.

A democracy is always a work in progress. We believe that an open government is a prerequisite for a free society, and that accountability is only an empty promise without transparency. We intend our legislation to provide reporters, bloggers and other citizen-journalists with the tools they need to continue to improve the ongoing work of defending and refining American democracy.

Sen. Leahy is a Democratic senator from Vermont, Sen. Cornyn a Republican from Texas. For more about the introduction of S. 849, read Sen. Leahy's statement and Sen. Cornyn's remarks online. Photo courtesy of Sen. Leahy.

Changes Needed to be Made to No Child Left Behind Act This Year, Congress Told

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–State board of education members are telling federal lawmakers that changes need to be made to the No Child Left Behind Act this year in meetings today with their congressional delegations on Capitol Hill. The members are in Washington, DC for their annual legislative conference hosted by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

For the past five years, state board members have worked diligently and tirelessly with federal officials and educators within their own states to implement the No Child Left Behind Act. Our efforts have produced a law that is working, and also given us a first-hand knowledge of specific provisions in which changes are needed to make the law work better. We are sharing our expertise and insights with the Congress, the ultimate arbiter of changes to No Child Left Behind, to better coordinate federal and state education reform policies, said Brad Bryant, NASBE President and Georgia State Board of Education member.

The state education leaders are advocating for improvements to the landmark federal education reform law, the No Child Left Behind Act, as Congress considers changes to it during the reauthorization process. State board members conveyed a number of NASBE recommendations to help make the law more effective. Among them:

  • Allow states to use student growth rates to meet federal accountability requirements;
  • Provide flexibility in state testing requirements, especially for students with disabilities and English language learners;
  • Use multiple indicators of student achievement and school performance to evaluate progress;
  • Increase funding for NCLB programs that benefit low-income students and build a states capacity to help turnaround low-performing schools.

A great deal has happened in education nationally and within individual states since NCLB was enacted. Congress seems receptive to learning about these developmentswhat is working and what isnt in their state. For their part, state board members want to be a resource to lawmakers so that the mistakes of the past arent repeated and will be corrected. NASBE and state board of education members will continue work with Congress to improve the No Child Left Behind Act as the legislative process moves forward, said Brenda Welburn, NASBE Executive Director.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings spoke to members during a briefing at Department of Education headquarters.

The conference continues on Friday with sessions on national standards and teacher effectiveness, and presentations by Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, Kimberly Oliver, the 2006 National Teacher of the Year, and Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Childrens Defense Fund.

NASBE, www.nasbe.org, represents Americas state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking; advocate equality of access to educational opportunity; promote excellence in the education of all students; and assure responsible lay governance of education.