In brief | Nation & world | 010914


Emails, texts suggest top aide to Christie engineered NJ traffic jam as political payback

TRENTON, N.J. — A political furor surrounding Gov. Chris Christie intensified Wednesday with the release of emails and text messages that suggest one of his top aides deliberately created traffic jams in a New Jersey town last September to punish its mayor.

An “outraged and deeply saddened” Christie said he was misled by his aide, and he denied any involvement in the apparent act of political payback.

The messages were obtained by The Associated Press and other news organizations Wednesday amid a statehouse investigation into whether the huge traffic backup was retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie for re-election last fall.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly wrote in August in a message to David Wildstein, a top Christie appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“Got it,” Wildstein replied. A few weeks later, Wildstein closed two of three lanes connecting Fort Lee to the heavily traveled George Washington Bridge, which runs between New Jersey and New York City.

Obama likely to adjust US spying on foreign leaders, near decision on intelligence changes

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is expected to tighten restrictions on U.S. spying on foreign leaders and also is considering changes in National Security Agency access to Americans’ phone records, according to people familiar with a White House review of the nation’s surveillance programs.

Obama could unveil his highly anticipated decisions as early as next week. Ahead of that announcement, he is consulting with lawmakers, privacy advocates and intelligence officials who were invited to White House meetings Wednesday and Thursday.

Among the changes Obama is expected to announce is more oversight of the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, a classified document that ranks U.S. intelligence-gathering priorities and is used to make decisions on scrutiny of foreign leaders. A presidential review board recommended increasing the number of policy officials who help establish those priorities, and that could result in limits on surveillance of allies.

Documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. was monitoring the communications of several friendly foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The revelations outraged Merkel as well as other leaders, and U.S. officials say the disclosures have damaged Obama’s relations around the world.

Seeking to curb fallout, aides push back on Gates book critical of Obama, Biden

WASHINGTON — Rushing to curb political fallout, the White House pushed back Wednesday against harsh criticism in a new book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates that questions President Barack Obama’s war leadership and rips Vice President Joe Biden.

The tell-all memoir from Gates has created a splash in Washington, casting a negative light on Obama’s national security operations by detailing a high level of discord among the small team that made key decisions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For two key participants — Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — the accusations could color how the two potential 2016 presidential candidates are viewed by voters.

Initially caught off guard by the book’s accusations, Obama’s aides walked a fine line between publicly rebuking his former defense chief and allowing Gates’ claims to go unchallenged. Still, the White House hurried to Biden’s defense and said the president disagrees with Gates’ characterization.

White House spokesman Jay Carney disputed several of Gates’ points individually but said Obama appreciated Gates’ service.

By wire sources

He said those who have the privilege to serve at high levels make their own decisions about whether and when to divulge details of private conversations after they leave government.

“I’ll leave it to other folks to decide,” Carney said.

By wire sources