Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Sen. Murkowski questions Holder on terrorism, 9th Circuit

Sen. Lisa Murkowski had the chance to question Attorney General Eric Holder last week about the attempted bombing in New York's Times Square.

At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce and Justice, Murkowski asked Holder how accused bomber Faisal Shahzad was able to get on a plane headed for the Persian Gulf after he had already been placed on the government's no-fly list.

"I come from a state where ... we've got a level of scrutiny at our little airports ... where people feel like the level of scrutiny and surveillance is just over the top," Murkowski said. "And then they look at an individual who's triggered all the red flags - purchased the ticket with cash, purchased it just immediately before the flight, an international flight - all the indicators and one has to wonder, where was the failing here? What happened with this watch list?"

Despite Shahzad's late arrest, Holder told the committee he felt the operation had been a success.

Murkowski wondered if the government could create something similar to the Amber Alert system to help in apprehending terrorist suspects.

The Alaska Republican also took the opportunity to ask Holder about splitting the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals into two circuits. Murkowski supports splitting the court, which handles a large caseload from western states as well Alaska and Hawaii.

"I think we want to look at that and make a determination about whether there is the need for some reconstruction, some reconfiguring," Holder said. "We'll certainly want to work with Congress in looking at the work load, the geographic dispersion of the 9th circuit in making the appropriate determination."

Begich meets with DoD about Native contracts

The Department of defense has agreed to consult with Alaska Native Corporations in implementing new defense contracting rules following a meeting with Sen. Mark Begich.

Section 811 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 requires approval by a head of an agency for contracts exceeding $20 million that go to one company. That could hurt the competitiveness of Alaska Native contracting.

"Any changes to the 8(a) contracting must occur with the consultation of our Alaska Native Corporations who know this program so well," Begich said in a statement. "I appreciate the commitment by the administration to having tribal consultation with Alaska Natives and American Indians, and I know many agencies across government are working to fulfill this obligation."

Delegation fights ANWR designation

The Alaska Congressional delegation has again voiced their concerns about a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Fish and Wildlife is looking to update the refuge's two decades-old comprehensive conservation plan, which could designate more of ANWR as wilderness, if approved by the secretary of the interior and Congress.

The wilderness review concerns state leaders who see the vast untapped oil and gas reserves on the refuge's coastal plain as a potential boon to the state's economy. A wilderness designation would prohibit such development.

Last week's letter, signed by Begich, Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, acknowledges the need for the conservation plan to be updated, but is against adding anymore designated wilderness.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service's limited financial resources - and taxpayer dollars - should not be wasted on such an unproductive exercise," the letter states. "Since the plan revision clearly will not decide this issue, we strongly urge you to take the wilderness review off the table as part of the CCP revision. We believe this will save the service considerable time and money and allow refuge personnel to focus on other critical issues such as managing increased visitor use and changing habitat conditions."

Fish and Wildlife has already held meetings about the plan in Fort Yukon, Venetie and Arctic Village. Additional meetings are scheduled for Tuesday in Anchorage and Thursday in Fairbanks.

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Source: By Chris Freiberg. Originally published May 10, 2010