The federal government isn't likely to meet its 60-day deadline to screen all baggage, as required under the new aviation security law, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta acknowledged. Too few employees, bomb-sniffing dogs, and explosive-detection machines make meeting the deadline nearly impossible, he said. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, however, said the administration would do everything it can to comply with the tight deadline set by Congress. The government is aiming to whisk passengers through security in 10 minutes or less by speeding up security checks, Mineta said. (Story, page 3.)
Some 603 people have been detained in the government's terrorism probe, including alleged members of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, Attorney General Ashcroft said, pledging to use every constitutional tool to keep suspected terrorists locked up. In his most detailed public accounting of arrests tied to the Sept. 11 attacks, Ashcroft said the actions had removed potential terrorists from the streets. He released names of 104 detainees charged with federal crimes, but refused to provide names of the hundreds held on immigration violations.
Authorities in eastern Michigan, meanwhile, were mailing letters to about 550 young men from Middle Eastern countries, asking them to schedule voluntary interviews with FBI agents in an effort to generate leads in the probe. The Detroit area has the nation's largest concentration of Arabs. The men have been in the US on nonimmigrant visas since January 2000.
The shuttle Endeavour is due to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., tonight on a mission to deliver new crew members to the International Space Station. It also will carry supplies, scientific experiments, and more than 6,000 American flags in tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Security was tighter than ever, with commercial flight restrictions and surveillance in place for the first space shuttle launch conducted while the US is at war.
Congressional leaders left a meeting with President Bush promising to help break the impasse over an economic stimulus plan. Both sides said they were open to a proposal giving workers a one-month holiday from Social Security taxes. Senate Democrats offered to slash their spending demands to beef up domestic security from $15 billion originally sought to $7.5 billion. The House last month approved a more than $100 billion economic plan comprising mostly tax cuts.
A federal court in Denver dismissed all but one of the lawsuits filed by victims of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings against sheriff and school officials, ruling that authorities responded reasonably to a "rapidly evolving violent situation." Two students killed 13 classmates and teachers at the Littleton, Colo., school. District Judge Lewis Babcock allowed a suit by relatives of a teacher who bled to death before he could be rescued. Relatives allege police failed to investigate threats and crimes by the two gunmen a year before the rampage. (Story, page 2.)
The CIA confirmed the death of the first American known to be killed in action inside Afghan-istan since US bombing began in mid-October. Agent Johnny (Mike) Spann was killed during a riot by pro-Taliban captives inside a fortress at Mazar-e Sharif last weekend, the CIA said.