The Pentagon is asking Congress for more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo Bay prison that President Barack Obama wants to close.
New details on the administration's budget request emerged on Tuesday and underscored the contradiction of the president waging a political fight to shutter the facility while the military calculates the financial requirements to keep the installation operating.
The budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 calls for $79 million for detention operations, the same as the current year, and $20.5 million for the office of military commissions, an increase over the current amount of $12.6 million. The request also includes $40 million for a fiber optic cable and $99 million for operation and maintenance.
The Pentagon also wants $200 million for military construction to upgrade temporary facilities. That work could take eight to 10 years as the military has to transport workers to the island, rely on limited housing and fly in building material.
The facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba currently holds 166 prisoners, and hunger strikes by 100 of them over their indefinite detention and prison conditions prompted Obama to renew his effort to close Guantanamo. The president is expected to discuss the future of the facility in a speech on counterterrorism on Thursday.
"Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe," the president said at a White House news conference last month. "It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed."
Since his inauguration in January 2009, Obama has pushed for shutting the prison, signing an executive order for closure during his first week in office. He has faced resistance in Congress with Republicans and some Democrats repeatedly blocking efforts to transfer terror suspects to the United States.
The law that Congress passed and Obama signed in March to keep the government running includes a longstanding provision that prohibits any money for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States or its territories. It also bars spending to overhaul any U.S. facility in the U.S. to house detainees.
That makes it essentially illegal for the government to transfer the men it wants to continue holding, including five who were charged before a military tribunal with orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks.
Lawmakers have cited statistics on terror suspects striking again and argued that Obama has failed to produce a viable alternative to Guantanamo.
Some members of Congress counter that U.S. maximum security prisons currently hold convicted terrorists and can handle such suspects. Among those in U.S. prisons is Zacarias Moussaoui, who planned the Sept. 11 attacks.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he favors closing Guantanamo for several reasons, including the expense. Money in a time of deficits could be a factor for other lawmakers, including fiscal conservatives in Congress.
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Obama on Tuesday offering his help to get the facility closed.
Until it is, Smith wrote, "it will continue to symbolize an unjust attempt to avoid the rule of law and to undermine the United States' moral standing in defending its values and protecting human rights."
Smith said al-Qaida continues to use Guantanamo to rally violent extremists to its cause.
A Coast Guard rescue swimmer whose disappearance led to a massive search in Hawaii pleaded guilty to desertion Tuesday, saying he left work one day, decided never to return and spent the next three months camping in the mountains of Oahu.
Petty Officer 1st Class Russell Matthews pleaded guilty to desertion and wrongful use of marijuana during a special court-martial in Honolulu on Tuesday before a Coast Guard judge. In exchange for his guilty plea, the Coast Guard dismissed charges of being absent without leave and causing the Coast Guard to conduct a search when there was no need.
"Your honor, I left work and I didn't have any intention of going back," he testified, describing how he went to pick up his children from school on Oct. 25 and then got into argument with his wife. He then drove to Kaena Point, a remote part of Oahu, and walked on the beach for several hours. Afterward, he camped in the mountains behind his kids' school, he said, where he stayed until he showed up at his wife's home in mid-January.
"That's a long time to be camping," said Coast Guard Cmdr. Kevin Bruen, the judge presiding over the court-martial. "How did you sustain yourself?"
"I had $20 in my pocket," Matthews said softly, seated at the defense table, flanked by his appointed Navy lawyers and wearing his service dress blues. "I did some... stuff I try not to remember."
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard launched a massive search. Members of the Coast Guard who participated in the search that scoured more than 10,000 square miles testified about the motivation to find one of their own, the speculation he may have tried to kill himself and then the mixed emotions that came when he turned up alive.
Pilots flew 64 hours searching over the waters off Kaena Point, taking Coast Guard members away from their normal duties and taxing aircraft. "He's part of our unit...we are family," said Cmdr. Prince Neal. Rescuers mourned his loss, only to find out he was alive. They felt happiness for his children, but also confusion, Neal recalled.
Lt. j.g. Curtis Gookin recalled searching for four days through rough ocean conditions, holding out hope they could recover his body and bring some solace to his family. When he surfaced months later, "I was really disgusted by his actions," he said.
Robert Coster, a civilian search-and-rescue coordinator, testified that the estimated cost of the search for the Coast Guard was more than $1 million.
The scenario Coster thought of during the search was that a well-trained rescue swimmer went into the ocean to commit suicide, changed his mind and was fighting the ocean to survive.
"This was an individual who was well-trained by the Coast Guard," Coster said. "He understood what we were doing for him."
Matthews didn't discuss more about his time in the wilderness, only saying he simply went back to where he lived and realized his wife and children had moved. The memories of what happened next are sketchy, he said, recalling that paramedics were called because he had a cut on his head and he ended up in police custody.
He admitted smoking marijuana in September and smoking several times during his desertion. "I smoked it in a joint, your honor," he testified. "Probably a few times, your honor."
Matthews' mother testified via telephone from the mainland that she was told he drowned, but she didn't believe it. "He would never do that to his children," Carol Matthews said. "I told them at the time I believed my son was AWOL." She said she told the Coast Guard he was likely in Puerto Rico or in the caves of Pupukea, on the north shore of Oahu.
He's expected to be sentenced Tuesday. The judge noted he'd already been held for 119 days.
Hawaii News Now previously reported that Matthews lost four colleagues in a 2008 helicopter crash. The following year, his first wife was critically hurt when she was hit head-on by a car while riding her bike. She died a couple of years later, according to public records.
Coast Guard attorneys prosecuting the case said his two sons are in the custody of his first wife's sister on the mainland.
The Army says the commanding general of Fort Jackson, S.C., has been suspended in connection with charges of adultery and involvement in a physical altercation.
The Army says Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts reportedly was in an altercation with another woman, not his wife. Roberts was suspended from his job by Gen. Robert W. Cone, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, while the investigation continues.
Roberts took command of Fort Jackson in April 2012.
He has been in the Army for about 29 years and served as the director of Iraq training and advisory teams before taking the Fort Jackson post.
The suspension is the latest in a series of scandals involving senior military officers in recent months.
Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs will serve as interim commander during the investigation.
An Iowa letter carrier was sentenced to 37 years in prison Tuesday for sending dud pipe bombs with letters signed "The Bishop" in an odd but potentially deadly bid to drive up the value of shares he owned.
John Tomkins, 48, showed little emotion as a federal judge in Chicago imposed the sentence. Later, before marshals led the Dubuque, Iowa, man away in handcuffs, he smiled as his attorney patted his shoulder.
In an hourlong preamble to the sentence, Judge Robert Dow praised Tomkins for taking some responsibility but added the father of three "engaged in a reign of terror" in his mailings to investment firms and advisers.
"`Horrific' is the single best word I've heard to describe this crime," Dow said. "`Terrifying' is another good word."
Tomkins got the idea to sign his letters "The Bishop" from a novel in which a criminal leaves a chess piece as his calling card. His notes read, "BANG! YOU'RE DEAD," and said the only reason the recipient wasn't dead was because a lone wire wasn't attached.
Tomkins faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years, though prosecutors asked for around 45 years. Counting six years Tomkins has already served and credit for good behavior, he could be released by his mid-70s.
The acting U.S. attorney in Chicago welcomed the sentence.
"Tomkins took these terrifying and secretive actions because he was greedy," said Gary Shapiro. "He was indifferent to whether he killed people in the process."
Jurors convicted Tomkins last year on 12 counts, including the use of a destructive device while mailing threatening communications. Combining all the maximums, Tomkins faced a sentence of more than 200 years.
Tomkins' lawyer, Francis Lipuma, told reporters after sentencing that he plans to appeal the convictions and portions of the sentencing. But he conceded the sentence could have been far worse for his client.
"He's a family man and a man who was respected in his community," Lipuma said, adding the judge recognized that in not imposing a harsher sentence.
Tomkins' wife, Julie, was in court but declined comment to reporters later.
Dow said he was perplexed about what led Tomkins to do what he did, saying he seemed to live a typical, small-town American life not unlike the community Dow said he grew up in. He even cited Tomkins' fondness for bowling, garnering a smile from Tomkins.
"The defendant's secret life" planning his crimes from storage garages and his car, Dow said, "comes seemingly from nowhere."
Tomkins did not address the court Wednesday, which was scheduled only for Dow to announce the sentence. But during a first phase of sentencing last month, Tomkins apologized for what he'd done.
"Let me start by saying how incredibly sorry I am," he told Dow. "There are no words to describe the shame and disappointment I feel in myself."
Authorities spent two years trying to track down "The Bishop," eventually identifying him as Tomkins in 2007 using stock market records on the two firms he cited in his letters -- 3COM Corp. and Navarre Corp.
To make the letters harder to trace, Tomkins drove from Iowa to mail two packages from the Chicago area in 2007. In a dozen letters, Tomkins threatened to kill recipients, their families or neighbors unless they acted to raise the stock prices.
The former machinist represented himself at trial, portraying himself as a mild-mannered union man fond of building race cars. He's also blamed the suicide of his nephew and the killing of a friend for triggering "a mental breakdown."
Tomkins also insisted at trial that he carefully designed the ominous-looking devices so they could never explode, but prosecutors said the pipe bombs were close enough to fully operational explosives and that it was just "dumb luck" they didn't go off.
Serving as his own attorney led to the strange spectacle of Tomkins calling himself to the stand and referring to himself in the third person. In his closing, he apologized for his lack of legal training and asked jurors to "not hold my shortcomings against the defendant when it comes to being a lawyer."
A judge has ruled that a North Texas lesbian couple can't live together because of a morality clause in one of the women's divorce papers.
The clause is common in divorce cases in Texas and other states. It prevents a divorced parent from having a romantic partner spend the night while children are in the home. If the couple marries, they can get out from under the legal provision — but that is not an option for gay couples in Texas, where such marriages aren't recognized.
The Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/16MlSUQ ) reported that in a divorce hearing last month for Carolyn and Joshua Compton, Collin County District Judge John Roach Jr. enforced the terms detailed in their 2011 divorce papers. He ordered Carolyn Compton's partner, Page Price, to move out of the home they shared with the Comptons' two daughters, ages 10 and 13. The judge gave Price 30 days to find another place to live.
Paul Key said his client, Joshua Compton, wanted the clause enforced for his kids' benefit.
"The fact that they can't get married in Texas is a legislative issue," Key said. "It's not really our issue."
The Comptons had been married for 11 years before their split. Carolyn Compton originally filed for divorce in September 2010.
Roach said the clause doesn't target same-sex couples, adding that the language is gender neutral.
"It's a general provision for the benefit of the children," the judge said.
Price and Carolyn Compton said in a statement that they believe the clause is unconstitutional. But they also said they would comply with the order "even though it will be disruptive to their family and has the potential of being harmful to the children."
They also said in the statement that the clause "is a burden on parents, regardless of their sexual orientation, that takes away and unreasonably limits their ability to make parental decisions of whom their children may be around and unreasonably limits what the United State Supreme Court has identified as the liberty of thought, belief and expression."
They are considering whether to file an appeal.
In Collin County, the clause is part of the standing orders that apply to every divorce case filed and remains in force while the divorce is pending. In the case of the Comptons' divorce, the clause was also added to their final divorce decree. It has no expiration date.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com
Kerry Kennedy, the ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is likely to go on trial in the fall after a town judge refused to dismiss a drugged-driving case against her Tuesday.
Kennedy "cut a wide swath of danger and risk" on July 13 as she drove her Lexus on Interstate 684 near her home north of New York City, swerving into a tractor-trailer, Justice Elyse Lazansky wrote in a ruling filed in North Castle Town Court.
Police said Kennedy, daughter of Sen. Robert Kennedy and niece of President John Kennedy, failed sobriety tests and was arrested. A small amount of a sleeping drug was found in her blood, and she has maintained she accidentally took a sleeping pill that morning instead of her daily thyroid medication.
Kennedy attended a brief court session after the decision was filed, but she would not speak to reporters outside the courtroom. Her lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, said she was "not happy about it."
"We are very disappointed and we disagree with it, but we have every confidence that Ms. Kennedy will be exonerated," Lefcourt said.
Kennedy argued that the charge should be dismissed because she took the sleeping pill accidentally, but the judge said a jury should decide "whether her intoxication was voluntary."
The defense also recounted Kennedy's work for social justice and included a large file of glowing letters from friends and relatives. Her mother, Ethel Kennedy, wrote that human rights activists around the world need her daughter's "compassion, keen insight, judgment and support."
The judge acknowledged that Kennedy "is not a typical criminal defendant. She has achieved a great deal and is dedicated to good works." But she said a trial need not put an end to that.
"Other gifted, powerful and wealthy politicians and celebrities too numerous to mention have faced a wide variety of criminal charges and have gone on to do their jobs or serve the public in many important ways," Lazansky wrote.
Prosecutors fought the dismissal motion, arguing that dropping the charge would feed the perception that famous people are treated differently. The judge agreed.
She said dismissal might lead to "the intolerable false conclusion among the public that there are two justice systems: one for the rich and powerful, and one for everybody else."
In response to the defense claim that the only harm done was to Kennedy's own pride and famous name, the judge said, "Driving while intoxicated is not a victimless crime; it is an offense against society as a whole.
Dismissal "would convey to the public the egregious false impression that intoxicated driving is a trifling matter, subject to dismissal at the whim of the judiciary," Lazansky wrote.
The judge set a schedule, extending into October, for each side to file motions and respond to them. No trial date was set. Plea bargaining could take place during this period, but another defense lawyer, William Aronwald, said Kennedy would not plead guilty to anything.
The Kennedy family has been prominent in the news in New York's northern suburbs over the past year.
Kerry Kennedy's sister-in-law and close friend, Mary Kennedy, hanged herself a year ago at her Bedford home. Her brother Douglas Kennedy was acquitted in November of child endangerment and harassment charges stemming from a scuffle in a hospital maternity ward in Mount Kisco.
The Pentagon wants more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo Bay prison that President Barack Obama wants to close.
New details on the administration's budget request for next year and other expenses emerged on Tuesday. The cost of the facility that houses 166 prisoners indefinitely includes $200 million for military construction work that could stretch over a decade.
The request also includes $40 million for a fiber optic cable and millions more for military commissions at the facility in Cuba.
Since he took office in January 2009, Obama has pushed to close the prison but has faced opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in Congress. Obama is expected to renew his plea in a speech on counterterrorism on Thursday.