In brief | Nation & world | 011514


Former FISA chief judge Bates slams key proposed NSA reforms as unnecessary

WASHINGTON — The U.S. judiciary told Congress on Tuesday it opposes the idea of having an independent privacy advocate on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, while members of Congress lauded the idea at a Capitol Hill hearing.

Speaking for the entire U.S. judiciary, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee saying that appointing an independent advocate to the secret surveillance court is unnecessary and possibly counterproductive, and he slammed other key reforms as adding too heavy a caseload to the secret court’s work. In FISA court hearings, judges only hear from the government seeking a spy warrant.

Bates said opening the proceeding to an advocate for privacy in general — who would never meet the suspect or be able to defend the charges against him — wouldn’t create the kind of back and forth seen in open criminal or civil court proceedings.

Members of the presidential task force that recommended such an advocate defended the proposal before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing on the NSA’s surveillance programs Tuesday.

Clashes kill 11 on first day of Egypt’s constitutional vote

CAIRO — A referendum on a new constitution laid bare the sharp divisions in Egypt six months after the military removed the elected Islamist president. Pro-army voters lined up Tuesday outside polling stations, singing patriotic songs, kissing images of Egypt’s top officer and sharing their upbeat hopes for their troubled nation.

Despite heavy security, 11 people were killed in sporadic violence, with protesters burning tires and pelting police with rocks and firebombs to create just enough danger to keep many voters at home.

The two-day balloting will likely pave the way for a possible presidential run by the nation’s top general after he ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last July, setting off a fierce crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Husband of pregnant, brain-dead woman sues hospital that’s keeping her on life support

DALLAS — The fate of a brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman and her fetus likely will be decided in a courtroom after the woman’s husband sued the hospital keeping her on life support against his wishes.

Erick Munoz filed a lawsuit in state district court in Fort Worth, where his wife, Marlise Munoz, has been on life support since he found her unconscious in their North Texas home on Nov. 26. She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time. Her family says the exact cause of her condition isn’t known, though a blood clot is a possibility.

Erick and Marlise Munoz, both paramedics, had seen life and death up close and he previously told The Associated Press that his wife was clear with him: If she fell into a condition like this, pull life support and let her die.

John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, however, has refused to take Marlise Munoz off machines, citing a state law the hospital says requires it to continue treating a pregnant patient.

Munoz’s lawsuit says that law doesn’t apply because Marlise Munoz is legally and medically dead. The condition of her fetus is unclear.

Federal judge strikes Oklahoma same-sex marriage ban; ruling on hold pending appeal

TULSA, Okla. — A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Oklahoma’s gay marriage ban, ruling that it violates the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Kern handed down the ruling in a lawsuit filed by two same-sex couples. Kern immediately stayed his ruling pending appeals, meaning gay marriages won’t happen in Oklahoma right away.

The gay couples had sued for the right to marry and to have a marriage from another jurisdiction recognized in Oklahoma.

By wire sources