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Eye Opener: Several Terps On Obama's Team

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! Donald Kettl's arrival at the University of Maryland earlier this week is part of the traditional "revolving door" phenomenon that runs from government to the private sector to academia and UMD spokesman Neil Tickner noted that several of his colleagues have walked through those doors in both directions:

Kettl's predecessor Steve Fetter is now with the White House Office of Science and Technology and his former UPenn colleague Ed Deseve was a UMD School of Public Policy professor before becoming "stimulus czar." Ed Montgomery, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, joined the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry. John W. Frece now leads EPA's smart growth efforts. Census director nominee Robert Groves had a professorship at the universities of Michigan and Maryland. Obama's nominee for NATO ambassador, Ivo Daalder, is also a former UMD faculty member. Meanwhile, President Bush's former trade representative Susan Schwab and former National Archives director Allen Weinstein also recently joined the university. So there.

Staff and Cabinet News: Secretaries Clinton, Chu and Solis, National Security Adviser Jim Jones and economic adviser Larry Summers are with President Obama at today's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad; Clinton specifically will hold a digital town hall and might she one day be a "Go Daddy" girl?; Locke joined Vice President Biden in Missouri on Thursday; HHS and the White House continue to staff up for the impending health care debate; LaHood and Jarrett">reach out to the Arab-American community.

In other news...

Government Transparency News & Tips: GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Communications has released its Spring 2009 newsletter on Transparency and Open Government. It includes the views of "21 IT leaders of nations, states, federal agencies, and municipalities and thought leaders who are working to ensure openness in Government." Read the thoughts of federal CIO Vivek Kundra, Sunlight Foundation Program Director John Wonderlich and Brookings Institution Vice President Darrell West, among others.

New Interrogation Details Emerge: The Obama administration publicly releases CIA torture memos, but will not prosecute those who carried out torture, reports The Post's Carrie Johnson and Julie Tate. The memos include "previously unacknowledged strategies of slamming a prisoner into a wall and placing an insect near a detainee terrified of bugs." More: "Step by step, experts considered the legality of slapping prisoners' faces and abdomens, dousing them with water, and confining them in small boxes, with the last strategy limited to two hours. The techniques were designed to inspire "dread," according to a footnote."

What Ever Happened to Bill Richardson?: The Post's Philip Rucker went to New Mexico to find out: "For years as a congressman and governor, Richardson commanded this sprawling and mostly rural state with sheer charisma, but the once-boyish political animal now appears aged, as though the accumulated stress of recent trials is weighing on him."

Veterans a Focus of FBI Extremist Probe: The bureau "earlier this year launched a nationwide operation targeting white supremacists and "militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups," including a focus on veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan," report WSJ's Cam Simpson and Gary Fields. "The initiative, dubbed Operation Vigilant Eagle, was outlined in February, two months before a memo giving a similar warning was issued on April 7 by the Department of Homeland Security." More: "The memos say the FBI's focus on veterans began as far back as December, during the final weeks of the Bush administration, when the bureau's domestic counterterrorism division formed a special joint working group with the Defense Department."

Gates Cautious on Repeal of Ban on Gays in Military: The secretary "made clear on Thursday that any repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law would have to be undertaken slowly, and suggested that it might not happen at all," reports Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times. “If we do it,’’ Mr. Gates told reporters on his plane enroute to Rhode Island, “it’s important that we do it right, and very carefully.’’

Lawmakers Pressure NASA to Delay Shuttle's Retirement: "The faltering economy threatens to disrupt plans to retire the U.S. space-shuttle fleet next year and free up funds to develop a new generation of manned spacecraft," reports Andy Pasztor of the WSJ. "With Florida and parts of Texas particularly hard hit by the recession, their congressional delegations are maneuvering to stave off thousands of additional layoffs there by delaying shuttle retirements."

Role of Bush NSA Plan Under Review: "The Bush administration planned last year to direct the National Security Agency, which specializes in spying electronically on foreign adversaries, to take the techniques it has employed to defend military computer networks and use them to protect U.S. government civilian networks, according to current and former officials," reports The Post's Ellen Nakashima. "The Obama administration is expected to complete an internal cybersecurity review on Friday and may publicly announce its new computer-security strategy as early as next week," according to James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times.

Private Sector Zips Past Government in Recovery Act Tracking: "The charter for the Obama administration's Web site is to allow every citizen to monitor the progress of economic stimulus spending. It's an ambitious goal, and one that government might not reach for some time," notes Gov Exec's Robert Brodsky. "But a private sector company boasts it already has created a site that meets the government's objectives. On March 31, Seattle-based Onvia launched, a site capable of tracking every dollar of federal, state and local Recovery Act spending in real time."

Obama's High-Speed Rail Plans: "Mr. Obama said the $8 billion for high-speed rail in his stimulus package — to be spent over two years — and an additional $1 billion a year being budgeted over the next five years, would provide a “jump start” toward achieving that vision," reports the New York Times' Brian Knowlton. "The stimulus money has yet to be allocated to specific projects, but Mr. Obama said the Transportation Department would begin awarding money by the end of summer."

To Fill Food Safety Gap, Processors Pay Inspectors: "With huge losses from food-poisoning recalls and little oversight from the federal Food and Drug Administration, some sectors of the food industry are cobbling together their own form of regulation in an attempt to reassure consumers," writes Andrew Martin of the New York Times. "They are paying other government agencies to do what the F.D.A. rarely does: muck through fields and pore over records to make sure food is handled properly." Indeed The Post's Lyndsey Layton reports the conclusions of a new study: "Local and state health officials trying to prevent food illness outbreaks are stymied by scarce resources, weak leadership from the federal government and bureaucratic barriers."

VA Taking Bids for $150 Million Imaging Contract: Bob Brewin reports that "The contract is part of a push by Eric Shinseki, secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, who said at his January confirmation hearing that he wanted to make the department as "paperless as possible."

Cool Link: Meant to call this out yesterday, but ProPublica's "Eye on the Bailout" database rocks. Plus, anyone else who uses "Eye" in their headlines is just genius :-)

Enjoy the weekend!

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 17, 2009; 5:52 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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