U.S. to maintain deterrents in S. Korea
WASHINGTON, June 8 (UPI) -- The United States said Tuesday it is committed to maintaining a deterrent capability on the Korean peninsula.
Confirming media reports that the United States was discussing the future of its relationship with South Korea, a government official said in Washington the talks would not affect existing close ties between the two countries.
The reports have suggested the United States was reviewing the defense treaty it has with South Korea and may withdraw some of its troops who have been based there since the 1950s.
The talks cover "a wide range, a wide variety of aspects, to the alliance," a U.S. State Department's spokesman told reporters, but he said no final decisions have yet been made.
The spokesman added, "And very importantly, we are committed to maintaining, as far as the Korean Peninsula is concerned, our deterrent capability and our strong alliance with the Republic of Korea."
British government watchdog opposes IDs
LONDON, June 8 (UPI) -- A British watchdog government agency says it is opposed to a plan for issuing mandatory national identity cards.
The BBC reported Tuesday Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, charged with protecting Britain's data protection and freedom of information laws, said he initially viewed the plan with "healthy skepticism," but the details had changed his view to "increasing alarm."
Thomas' comments to Home Secretary David Blunkett's ID plans join the opposition of Ministers Jack Straw and Patricia Hewitt.
Thomas said he was not opposed to ID cards in principle, but the government's plans were more comprehensive and ambitious than any other ID plan in the world.
"This is beginning to represent a really significant sea change in the relationship between state and every individual in this country," he said, adding it was clear the scheme is not just about identity cards, but about a national identity register with information about every citizen that could "be used in a wide range of activities."
Pentagon may get Reagan's moniker
He introduced an amendment to the Senate version of the $400 billion defense authorization bill for 2005 to call the World War II-era building the "Ronald Reagan National Defense Building."
The Pentagon is named for its architecture. It has five sides and boasts with five floors above ground.
Frist also wants to call the Missile Defense Agency -- formerly the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and before that the Strategic Defense Initiative Office -- the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Agency.
Reagan was a champion of the early, expensive and since-abandoned space-based missile defense program popularly known as "Star Wars." President George Bush expects to order the deployment of the first 10 ground-based missile interceptor system in December.
The system is a test bed but is designed to have limited capability against a nuclear ballistic missile launch from North Korea at the United States. The Pentagon budget calls for $10 billion to be spent on missile defenses in 2005.
Senators want access to coffins at Dover
WASHINGTON, June 8 (UPI) -- Two Senators -- one Republican and one Democrat -- are trying to tear off the veil the Pentagon has stretched over military coffins returning from war.
Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe has introduced an amendment to the Senate version of the defense authorization bill allowing families to greet the coffins of military members killed overseas when the coffins arrive at Dover Air Force Base, Del.
New Jersey Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg has introduced a measure requiring the Pentagon to allow members of the news media to cover the return of coffins at the same base.
Civilians are generally barred from the base where the U.S. military has its main mortuary.
More than 800 service members have died in Iraq, nearly 500 of them since the end of major combat operations in May 2003. The Pentagon enforces a ban on media at the base -- a restriction it says it enforces to respect the privacy of the slain service members' and their families.
Amnesty calls for war crimes investigation
WASHINGTON, June 8 (UPI) -- Amnesty International called Tuesday for a special counsel to investigate whether U.S. officials are guilty of war crimes for the treatment of prisoners.
Amnesty's call comes as numerous memos have been disclosed outlining Justice Department and Pentagon legal justifications to allow prisoners captured in the war on terror to be tortured if necessary. Torture is forbidden by U.S. and international law.
Attorney General John Ashcroft came under sharp attack for the contents of the memos at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday.
Ashcroft said the Bush Administration opposes torture, and said the legal opinions were simply background work done as the Pentagon reviewed its interrogation procedures for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
Ashcroft refused to release the memos in question to Congress, saying they are confidential advice to the president of the United States.
Amnesty International lent its voice to mostly Democratic critics of the policy and called Tuesday for "the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners detained or interrogated by the United States, including whether Administration officials are criminally liable for acts of torture or guilty of war crimes," the organization stated.