Al Qaeda has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001," a US counterterrorism official familiar with a classified National Intelligence Estimate discussed at the White House Thursday told the Associated Press. A summary of the appraisal said that the terrorist group has used the safe haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities.

A sting operation by undercover investigators readily acquired a license to buy enough radioactive materials to build a "dirty bomb," according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday. A fake company set up by the investigators was able to obtain a valid license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission "without ever leaving their desks."

In the latest effort to normalize relations with Libya, President Bush nominated Gene Cretz, deputy chief at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, to serve as ambassador to a government the US listed as supportive of terrorism until 2006.

The White House refused to provide a politically charged House Judiciary panel hearing Wednesday with an explanation of President Bush's July 2 commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence. Libby was convicted of obstructing justice in a probe of CIA operative Valerie Plame's leaked identity.

South Dakota carried out the state's first execution in 60 years late Wednesday with a lethal injection administered to Elijah Page, who tortured a teenager during a robbery in 2000.

A steering system failure caused an oil tanker carrying 450,000 barrels of oil to run aground Thursday off New York City's Coney Island, but there was no spill immediately reported, the Coast Guard said.

Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, who died Wednesday in Austin, Texas, was known as a champion of highway beautification and the environment. She also strongly supported the civil rights and antipoverty causes of her husband, Lyndon Johnson.

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