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October 07, 2005 - Image 5

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NEWS

The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 7, 2005 - 5

State senate urges court to withhold benefits for gays

LANSING (AP) - The state Senate yester-
day approved resolutions urging the Michigan
Supreme Court to block public-sector employ-
ers, including state government, from provid-
ing health insurance to the partners of gay
employees until the court makes a final ruling
on the issue.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 22-
16, mostly along party lines, to pass two reso-
lutions to prevent taxpayer dollars from being
spent on same-sex benefits until the court reach-
es a final judgment.
The measures are symbolic and do not have
the force of law.
"If we're really concerned about not dis-
rupting people's lives, we ought to keep the
status quo until the court makes a decision,"

said Sen. Alan Cropsey, a DeWitt Republican
who sponsored the measures.
A Supreme Court spokeswoman said the
court generally does not comment on pend-
ing matters. It's unclear what action, if any,
the court could take because the state Court
of Appeals normally weighs in on legal cases
before the high court does.
An Ingham County judge ruled last month
that public universities and governments could
provide domestic partner benefits without vio-
lating a constitutional amendment approved
by voters in November.
Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm then
said she would ask the state Civil Service
Commission to approve domestic partner
benefits for state employees. The benefits had

been included in new labor contracts, but Gra-
nholm put them on hold while waiting for a
court ruling.
The Civil Service Commission's next meet-
ing is scheduled for Dec. 13. But the Granholm
administration has asked the commission to
schedule.a special meeting quickly.
"We want to be able to be competitive in
the workplace to hire the very best employ-
ees to work for the state of Michigan," said
David Fink, director of the Office of the State
Employer. "While some would argue that a
change in the law could be disruptive, in the
interim individuals who would otherwise be
covered by the benefit would be left unin-
sured."
A measure passed last year made the union

between a man and a woman the only agree-
ment recognized as a marriage "or similar
union for any purpose." Those six words led
to a fight over benefits for gay couples.
Republican Attorney General Mike Cox
issued an opinion in March saying the measure
bars the city of Kalamazoo from providing
domestic partner benefits in future contracts.
But 21 gay couples who work for Kalamazoo,
universities and the state filed a lawsuit chal-
lenging Cox's interpretation.
Cox plans to appeal the Ingham County
judge's ruling, prompting Senate Republicans
to push the two resolutions asking the state's
highest court to "take whatever steps are
necessary to maintain the status quo" until it
rules.

Sen. Gilda Jacobs (D-Huntington Woods)
urged her colleagues Thursday to vote against
the measures.
"We should be celebrating this great state's
diversity, not discriminating against certain
people," Jacobs said.
Twenty Republicans and two Democrats
voted for the resolutions. Fourteen Democrats
and two Republicans voted against them.
The lawmakers breaking ranks were Repub-
licans Shirley Johnson of Troy and Beverly
Hammerstrom of Temperance, who voted
against the measures, and Democrats Jim Bar-
cia of Bay City and Dennis Olshove of War-
ren, who voted for them.
One of the measures, a concurrent resolu-
tion, now heads to the House.

I

UNDER POWER

Chieneys
office probed
in intel leak
WASHINGTON (AP) - FBI agents examined com-
puters in Vice President Dick Cheney's office and talked
to former and current White House aides Thursday as they
investigated an FBI intelligence analyst accused of passing
classified information to Filipino officials.
Meantime, former Philippine President Joseph Estrada
acknowledged receiving an internal U.S. government report
on the Philippines from the analyst, Leandro Aragoncillo,
but played down the importance of the information, com-
paring it to material aired in his country's media.
The FBI is looking at whether Aragoncillo, a former
Marine, took classified information about the Philippines
from the White House when he worked for Vice Presidents
Al Gore and Cheney from 1999 to 2002.
The type of information has not been disclosed. Though
Aragoncillo had top-secret clearance, that status would not
have made him privy to highly sensitive intelligence.
Aragoncillo, a U.S. citizen originally from the Philip-
pines, was charged last month with providing classified
information from his FBI posting at Fort Monmouth, N.J.,
to former and current Philippine officials who oppose Presi-
dent Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Philippine Justice Secretary
Raul Gonzales said the criminal complaint against Aragon-
cillo suggests the information could have been intended to
destabilize the Philippine government.
Michael Ray Aquino, a former top Philippine police offi-
cial who acted as Aragoncillo's alleged go-between, was
indicted by a Newark, N.J., federal grand jury Thursday on
charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign
agent. Aragoncillo, 46, of Woodbury, N.J., and Aquino, 39,
living in Queens, N.Y., have been jailed since their arrests
last month.
Federal prosecutors in Newark did not seek an indict-
ment against Aragoncillo because he isnegotiating a plea,
court records show.
Aquino lawyer Mark A. Berman said his client rejected
a plea deal.
"There's a fundamental difference between Aragoncillo
and Aquino," Berman said. "Aquino is not an FBI agent and
had no reason to know that the information the government
laid out in the indictment was classified."
While the criminal complaint is limited to Aragoncillo's
time at Fort Monmouth the investigation has widened to
include his stint, while a Marine, in the vice president's
office. Agents examined computers and interviewed current
and former vice presidential aides Thursday, according to
a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of ano-
nymity because the investigation is ongoing.
FBI spokesman Rich Kolko would not confirm details
of the investigation, but he said, "In the course of a logi-
cal investigation, the FBI will research the subject's entire
career for whenever he had access to classified or sensitive
information to see whether any illegal or improper activity
took place."
Meantime, Estrada told The Washington Post. that he
received a three-page internal U.S. analysis of political
developments in his country from Aragoncillo. He did not
remember the date, but said he received the document when
Aragoncillo came to see him sometime after his January
2001 ouster.
"This document was about the graft and corruption hap-
pening in the country. It's nothing new," Estrada said.
Estrada called Aragoncillo a friend and said he first met

AP PHOTO
Jerry McClearen, a worker at Desmond Marine in Port Huron, cleans the bottom of a powerboat with a
high-pressure wand yesterday in preparation for the winter.

AP PHOTO
Vice President Dick Cheney makes remarks at the
annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army
Wednesday in Washington.
him during a visit to the White House late in President Clin-
ton's second term when the former Marine was working on
Gore's security detail.
Estrada also said he had a close relationship with Aquino
but said they had not been in contact in recent years and
that he had not received information from Aquino during
that period.
A Philippine opposition senator has acknowledged
receiving information from Aquino. Sen. Panfilo Lacson,
a former national police chief under whom Aquino served,
said he and "many others" received information passed
by Aquino, but he played down the value of the reports,
describing them as "shallow information."
White House and Justice Department officials declined
to comment on the investigation.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) a former federal prose-
cutor who handled an FBI spy case, said the Aragoncil-
lo case raises questions about easy access to classified
materials and how long the naturalized U.S. citizen
was able to pass on sensitive information before he was
stopped.
"If the complaint is accurate, there is a wealth of evidence
which makes it all the more surprising he went undiscov-
ered as long as he did, because it was not a very sophisti-
cated operation," Schiff said.
Aragoncillo was hired to work at Fort Monmouth in
July 2004 and began sending classified information and
documents in January, often via e-mail, according to an
FBI complaint made public last month. The documents'
contents have not been made public.
From May to Aug. 15 of this year, he printed or down-
loaded 101 classified documents relating to the Philippines,
of which 37 were classified "secret," according to the crimi-
nal complaint.
He sent some of the material to Aquino, the complaint
said.
Aragoncillo's public defender, Chester Keller, declined to
say if his client was cooperating with investigators. "It's just
too sensitive right now," Keller said.

b Senate OKs $50 billion for
* resident's war effort

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Sen-
ate is ready to give President Bush
$50 billion more for wars even as
public support for the Iraq fighting
slips, U.S. casualties climb and Con-
gress grows increasingly frustrated
with the direction of the conflict.
Part of a $445 billion military
spending bill for the budget year
that began Oct. 1, the war money
would pay for operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan and push funding for
wars since the terrorist attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001, beyond $350 billion.
Senate GOP leaders had hoped
to vote on the bill Thursday so they
could adjourn for a 10-day recess,
but Sen. Mary Landrieu forced a
one-day delay.
The Louisiana Democrat spent
much of the evening arguing that
the Senate, before leaving Washing-
ton, should allow $1 billion already
approved for Hurricane Katrina
relief to be spent on public employee
salaries. Landrieu said the first vote
upon the Senate's return should be
on redirecting an additional $14 bil-
lion for education, health care and
small business relief.
"I know times are tough in Bagh-
dad. But times are tough in the Gulf
Coast," Landrieu said. "Our war is
right here at home. Our war is right
here in the Gulf Coast."
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said he
supported Landrieu's "wish list," but
did not believe Congress can enact it
before its break.
The Senate, however, is expected
to vote on the defense bill before
adjourning. The bill provides $5 bil-
lion more for wars than the House
version, but the final bill is expected

raise for the military and increased
benefits for troops. But the bills dif-
fer in other areas.
Bucking the White House, the
Senate on Wednesday approved
an amendment sponsored by Sen.
John McCain (R-Ariz.) to ban cruel,
inhumane or degrading treatment or
punishment against anyone in U.S.
government custody. The amend-
ment also would standardize how
service members detain and interro-
gate terrorism suspects. McCain was
a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Bush administration officials
say the provision would limit the
president's authority and flexibility,
and the White House says advis-
ers would recommend a veto of the
entire spending bill if it includes
provisions that would hurt efforts in
the war on terror.
On Thursday, White House
spokesman Scott McClellan said that
some of the wording about detainees
was unnecessary and duplicative
and that the administration hoped to
press the concerns with congressio-
nal negotiators.
Support for the provision in the
GOP-controlled House is unclear.

The Senate action shows that
members of the president's own
party are concerned about his war-
time policies. Their worries reflect
those of their skeptical constituents.
Opinion polls show declining sup-
port for the war in Iraq, which has
claimed more than 1,940 members
of the U.S. military.
The Congressional Research
Service, which writes reports for
lawmakers, says the Pentagon is
spending about $6 billion a month
for Iraq and $1 billion for Afghani-
stan, and war costs could total $570
billion by the end of 2010, assuming
troops are gradually brought home.
CRS analysts say that since the
Sept. 11 attacks, Congress has given
the president about $311 billion for
combat and reconstruction in Iraq
and Afghanistan and securing U.S.
bases. About $280 billion has gone
to the Pentagon, while $31 billion
has been provided for foreign and
diplomatic operations.
Excluding the $50 billion in new
money, the Senate bill totals $395
billion _ about $2 billion less than
what the president had requested for
the Defense Department.

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