USA

In testimony before the special commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, CIA Director George Tenet said his agency and others "all understood [Osama] bin Laden's attempt to strike the homeland. We never translated this knowledge into an effective defense of the country." Tenet's remark came the day after Attorney General John Ashcroft went further than any administration official yet to blame predecessors in the White House. The national intelligence in place on 9/11 was "destined to fail," he said, because FBI agents were hindered by "government-imposed walls, handcuffed by government-imposed restrictions, and starved for information technology."

Opening statements were scheduled Wednesday in Boise, Idaho, in the trial of Sami Omar al-Hussayen, a University of Idaho graduate student accused of using his computer to help Islamic militants. The case is considered a key test of the USA Patriot Act prohibition on offering help to terrorist groups. The defendant is charged with operating websites and funneling money to militant groups committed to violence against the US.

After seven hours of drilling in the border town of Calexico, Calif., the federal government tentatively concluded Tuesday that there was no drug tunnel in the area. The location was identified by the Department of Homeland Security, using new technology developed by geophysicists. Previously, agents have relied on human intelligence to find smuggling tunnels.

A 10-group alliance of Idaho ranchers, environmentalists, and politicians unveiled a plan Tuesday to protect 511,000 acres of high desert in the state's southwest corner. The Owyhee Initiative, named for a local river, would set aside six parcels populated by bighorn sheep and a rare redband trout, among other species. Congress could take up legislation to preserve the area this summer.

Rescuers found 6-year-old Ruby Bustamante subsisting on dry noodles and a sports drink 10 days after her disappearance in a car accident near Indio, Calif. Doctors said she was dehydrated but otherwise was in good condition. The girl's mother, authorities believe, died shortly after the vehicle she was driving left the road and plunged 300 feet to the bottom of a remote, rocky canyon.

By an almost 2-to-1 margin, Americans prefer balancing the federal budget to cutting taxes, according to results of a new Associated Press poll. It found 49 percent of respondents said their overall taxes - federal, state, and local - had gone up over the past three years, compared to 13 percent saying they'd gone down.

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