Espionage Act Presents Challenges for WikiLeaks Indictment

Photo Courtesy - Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the U.S. Justice Department crafts a legal case against WikiLeaks' Julian Assange for the publication of thousands of secret government cables, legal experts are warning that any indictment under the Espionage Act may also implicate the news media -- and Americans who've read the cables or shared them with their friends.

The World War I-era law is broadly written and criminalizes anyone who possesses or transmits any "information relating to the national defense" which an individual has "reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation."

If WikiLeaks, which allegedly did not steal the documents, is guilty of espionage for printing them, so too might be the New York Times, U.K.'s The Guardian, and Germany's Der Spiegel, which have replicated and disseminated the materials worldwide, some experts say.

Individual users of Twitter and Facebook and other social media who spread links to the documents far and wide, or even discussed the contents in public, could also technically be liable.

"One of the flaws in the Espionage Act is that it draws no distinction between the leaker or the spy and the recipient of the information, no matter how far downstream the recipient is," said American University law professor Stephen Vladeck, an expert in national security law.

"There's no difference in the statute between Assange and someone at home who opens up something that Assange has posted on his website knowing that it's classified," he said.

The sweeping and vague nature of the law may explain why the federal government recently warned all employees not to read WikiLeaks' cables or any news reports pertaining to them because the information is still classified.  Several universities around the country have also warned students who might seek careers with the federal government not to post links to WikiLeaks content or discuss the cables publicly through social media.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Gawker Websites Hacked, Perps Say Info Stolen

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Gawker Media is urging users to change their passwords after its site was hacked.

The company, which publishes the blogs Gawker, Gizmodo, Jezebel and others, temporarily stopped publishing new material Sunday after its user databases were stolen.

The hackers claim they took more than one million user names and passwords.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Deadly Snowstorm Blasts Midwest; Freezing Temperatures Follow

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Midwest residents are bracing for bitter cold temperatures Monday after a powerful snow storm has been blamed for at least half a dozen deaths, canceled flights and the collapse of the Metrodome's roof in Minneapolis Sunday.

From Minnesota to Chicago, the massive storm -- 1,500 miles across at its widest part -- dumped a foot-and-a-half of snow in some areas.  The snowy conditions have been blamed for at least six deaths over the weekend as motorists endured zero visibility driving conditions amid highway closings in five states.

The blast of Canadian cold air headed southward after the season's first snowfall swept through cities in the midwest and the northeast.  Now these cities are experiencing frigid cold temperatures.  Winter weather warnings have been issued for 30 states along the East Coast including a freeze warning in Florida, with temperatures in some areas expected to fall into the 20s.

Monday in Minneapolis, temperatures are expected to drop to 15 degrees with a low of only two degrees.  This, after the city was hit with the worst snowfall in almost 20 years, with more than two feet of snow in some areas.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Suicide of Bernard Madoff's Son Will Not Stop Lawsuits

Photo Courtesy - Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mark Madoff's suicide will not stop the legal proceedings against him or his family, according to lawyers in the case.

The bankruptcy trustee tasked with recovering money for victims of Bernie Madoff's massive investment fraud says Bernie Madoff's eldest son and his children received tens of millions of dollars stolen in the fraud scheme.  Even in death, Mark Madoff will continue to be the target of efforts to recover the money.

Madoff timed his suicide Saturday to the two-year anniversary of his father's arrest, almost to the very hour.  Police say his father-in-law found the body hanging from a pipe, with his two-year-old son, Nick, asleep in another room.

"It hurts me because that's not who he was," said Eleanor Squillari.  "He was in a very bad place."

As Bernie Madoff's secretary for 25 years, Squillari saw Mark and his brother Andy grow up and come to work in the family business.  In an exclusive interview, Squillari told ABC News she knew Mark was having a hard time with the shame of being a Madoff.

"I always knew that Mark wore his heart on his sleeve, and he wanted to be liked," said Squillari.  "I could see him thinking that his family would be better off without him, and it makes me so sad because that's not true. But when you're that depressed you don't see it."

Mark Madoff was more interested in fly fishing than Wall Street, and even when he joined the family firm he was never part of what turned out to be the illegal side of the business.

Hours before he died he sent an email to his lawyer that said, "No one wants to hear the truth."

"He had to live for the last two years under the scrutiny and the innuendoes and people alluding to the fact that he should've known or he had to have know," said Squillari. "Well, you know what, he didn't."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Virginia Judge to Rule on Constitutionality of Health Care Legislation

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) -- A federal judge in Virginia Monday is set to rule on the constitutionality of the Obama Administration's recently passed health care legislation.

United States District Judge Henry E. Hudson is expected to issue a ruling targeting a provision of the act that requires individuals to either obtain a minimum level of health insurance coverage, or pay a penalty for failing to do so.  The provision is set to go into effect in 2014.

Virginia is challenging the law, arguing that Congress exceeded its authority in passing the legislation and that the law conflicts with a state law already on the books that says residents cannot be forced to buy health insurance.

The Obama administration contends that Congress was well within its authority, under the Commerce Clause, to pass the so called "individual mandate" because the costs of the uninsured translate to interstate economic activity.  In court briefs government lawyers argue that in 2009 alone 45 million people -- an estimated 15 percent of the population -- went without health insurance.

The government lawyers argue "Congress has the authority under Commerce power to take measures to ensure the success of its larger reforms of the interstate market."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Stadium's Roof Deflates Under Pressure from Winter Storm

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Harsh weather has collapsed the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The panels of the Metrodome roof started giving way around 5 a.m. and deflated after the storm, which dumped more than 17 inches of snow on the city, Chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Roy Terwilliger told ABC News affiliate KSTP in Minneapolis - St. Paul.

A Sunday NFL football game between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings had already been pushed to Monday, as the Giants were stranded in Kansas City, unable to reach Minneapolis after the Twin Cities' airport was closed. The game will be played in Detroit on Monday.

Terwilliger says this has only happened three other times in the Metrodome's history, the last being on April 14, 1983. Workers were being kept out of the Metrodome for safety reasons Sunday morning, but crews were back on top of it late Sunday morning clearing snow.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


The Day the Bake Sales Died? Vilsack Responds to GOP Concerns

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Dept. of Agriculture(WASHINGTON) -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says Monday will be “historic” and “a great day for kids” when President Obama signs into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
The new law provides $4.5 billion to schools over the next decade and sets standards for food served in school cafeterias, vending machines and stores. But Sarah Palin and other Republicans warn the law will steal freedom, and cookies, from American children. That’s because the law technically could allow limits on bake sales and candy fundraisers during school hours. But Vilsack has written a letter to Congress promising he will not exercise that authority.

“It would be interesting for folks to read the bill,” he said in response to the GOP's criticism. “The bill doesn’t ban cookies. It doesn’t ban bake sales,” Vilsack said. “What it does do is it provides the USDA with the capacity to establish nutritional standards for vending machines, a la carte lines, and for the regular lines for meals and activities that take place during the school day.”
Vilsack also said creative bakers can make snacks that are both tasty and nutritious, like brownies made from black beans that he tried at a school in Colorado.

The need for new standards, Vilsack said, is evidenced by the fact that more than one half of all U.S. schoolchildren are either hungry, obese or at risk of obesity.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Monster Storm Blankets Midwest, Creates Travel Chaos

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MINNEAPOLIS) -- A wallop of a snowstorm tore through the Midwest with up to two feet of snow and winds up to 50 miles per hour. The storm has affected 1500 miles from the Plains to the Great Lakes and the Midwest all the way to the Gulf.

It created travel chaos. Three airports were forced to close and roads were forced to shut down in five states. More than 17 inches of snow was measured at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, making this the area’s fifth biggest storm on record and the greatest snow total since 1991. Nasty conditions were to blame for at least 76 accidents. More than 300 cars slid off the road. The 4.2-million-square-foot Mall of America closed early on Saturday.

In Wisconsin, near-whiteout conditions prompted authorities to put out a no-travel advisory.

The Metrodome suffered structural damage Sunday morning as a result of the storm, hours before the Minnesota Vikings were originally scheduled to host the New York Giants. Officials on Saturday postponed the game until Monday. The Giants were stranded in Kansas City overnight Saturday when their charter plane couldn’t land in the snowy Twin Cities.

Roy Terwilliger of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission tells ABC News Minneapolis-St. Paul affiliate KSTP that the facility has encountered similar problems only three times before, the last time in 1983.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama: Critically Ill Holbrooke 'Towering Figure' in American Foreign Policy

Photo Courtesy Georges Gobet/AFP/Getthy Images(WASHINGTON) -- Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke remained critically ill in a Washington hospital Sunday morning, two days after suddenly becoming sick after a meeting at the White House. He was at the State Department, meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday afternoon when he began showing symptoms of illness.  A State Department official told ABC News the secretary "made him go" to the State Department's medical office but he collapsed on the way and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital.

Ambassador Holbrooke was in surgery for 20 hours Friday night into Sunday morning to repair a torn aorta.  ABC News has learned that doctors were able to repair the tear, but the surgery took so long because it was difficult to stem the bleeding.  Holbrooke was listed Sunday in critical but stable condition at George Washington University Hospital.  Holbrooke has a history of heart trouble.

President Obama issued a statement, calling Holbrooke a "towering figure in American foreign policy."  Mr. Obama said Holbrooke is a critical member of his Afghanistan and Pakistan team and a "tireless public servant."  The president said he spoke with Holbrooke's wife and both Mr. Obama and the first lady are praying for Holbrooke's recovery.

The White House will unveil its review of the U.S. role in Afghanistan on Thursday, a process in which Holbrooke played a key role.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Bernard Madoff's Son Found Dead of Apparent Suicide

Bernard Madoff. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A son of jailed Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff was found hanged inside his New York City apartment Saturday in what sources tell ABC News is being investigated as a suicide.

Mark Madoff's body was discovered by his father-in-law at approximately 7:30 a.m., two years to the day -- and at almost the precise hour and minute -- that Mark Madoff's father was arrested by the FBI. One of his children, a 2-year-old, was home asleep when the body was found. Madoff's wife, Stephanie, and the couple's second child were not home at the time.

Madoff had used a black dog leash to hang himself, police said. His labradoodle was found nearby.

He left behind a short email message to his wife, but no explanation of why he chose to take his life.

Mark Madoff is the older of Bernard and Ruth Madoff's two sons, who worked with their father in the family investing firm.  The father's huge fraud against clients of that firm came to light almost exactly two years ago to the day, when it was revealed he had swindled investors out of billions of dollars.

Mark Madoff and his brother Andrew were under investigation but were not tried in the case that sent their father to prison and saw the family's assets, right down to used clothing and household linens, auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Sources close to the family said no one could have seen the suicide coming, although Madoff, 46, had been distraught, felt unemployable, and was sure that he would never be able to extricate himself from the thickets of notoriety.

"Mark was an innocent victim of his father's monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo," Mark Madoff's attorney, Martin Flumenbaum, said in a statement. "We are all deeply saddened by this shocking turn of events."

Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to federal crimes that landed him a 150-year sentence in federal prison.

Saturday is the deadline for so-called "clawback" lawsuits aimed at recovering funds lost through Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. On Friday a suit was filed against Austrian banker Sonja Kohn for $19.6 billion - the largest lawsuit launched to date to recover money for victims of Madoff's decades-long fraud.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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