GAO: Homeland agency breaks law

WASHINGTON - The Homeland Security Department is breaking the law by not telling the public exactly how personal information is used to screen international travelers, including Americans, congressional investigators said yesterday.

One of the programs at issue is the Automated Targeting System that U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses to rate the risk posed by travelers coming to and from the United States.

In its report, the Government Accountability Office said the department was not fully complying with privacy laws that require agencies to tell the public how the government uses their personal information.

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke defended the program, saying, "The GAO in this case is woefully uninformed."- AP

VA seeks probe of big bonuses

WASHINGTON - The Veterans Affairs Department said yesterday that it had asked an oversight agency to review the way the VA handed out $3.8 million in bonuses to senior officials last year.

Michael Kussman, the acting undersecretary for health, said VA Secretary Jim Nicholson made the request to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management after government watchdogs questioned the propriety of the awards, some of which went to senior officials involved in crafting a budget that came up $1.3 billion short and jeopardized veterans' care.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press show that 21 of 32 officials who were members of VA performance review boards, the bodies charged with overseeing bonuses, received more than a half-million dollars in payments themselves. - AP

Gay N.Y. couples' Mass. rites stand

BOSTON - The marriages of more than 170 gay couples from New York state who wed in Massachusetts before last July are valid because New York had not yet explicitly banned same-sex marriages, a Massachusetts judge ruled.

Couples may not marry in Massachusetts if their marriages would be prohibited in their home states. The New York state Court of Appeals ruled against same-sex marriages on July 6, 2006.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders had asked for clarification of the status of New York couples who wed in Massachusetts before that ruling. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly last week ruled those early marriages valid. - AP

Elsewhere:

A University of Colorado committee recommended that a professor be suspended for a year rather than fired, his attorney said. Ward Churchill, who triggered a firestorm with an essay comparing some 9/11 World Trade Center victims to Adolf Eichmann, was accused of misrepresenting the effects of federal laws on American Indians and claiming an environmental group's work as his own.

A $14 billion measure that passed the Senate yesterday would improve navigation on the upper Mississippi, help restore the Louisiana coast, and pay for hundreds of projects that senators sought for their states.