WASHINGTON (CNN) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an unusual comparison Wednesday during remarks that celebrated Earth Day.
"You know, oftentimes when you face such an overwhelming challenge as global climate change is, it can be somewhat daunting," Clinton said. "It's kind of like trying to lose weight - which I know something about. Where you think, you know, 'Oh, I only have to lose X number of pounds.' But it can seem like such a faraway goal."
Clinton observed that the State Department was "mixing messages" by using candy to entice employees to visit exhibits showcasing the agency's energy-saving projects.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The man tapped to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the agency will remain under the Department of Homeland Security. But it was not immediately clear if nominee Craig Fugate was representing only his personal opinion or administration policy.
"That debate, as far as I'm concerned, is over," Fugate said in response to a question at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday. He said FEMA will stay inside the department.
Some critics say FEMA's poor performance during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was exacerbated by its inclusion inside DHS. Those critics want FEMA to be a stand-alone agency reportable directly to the president.
But others say FEMA's mission - to provide assistance in both man-made and natural disasters - mirrors the mission of DHS, and say it belongs in the department.
In recent months, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has declined to give her own opinions, saying she had not yet discussed the matter with President Barack Obama. She said it is more important to plan on a response to the next disaster than to plan where FEMA fit on organizational charts.
Asked for clarification Wednesday, DHS spokeswoman Sara Kuban issued a similar statement: "Secretary Napolitano applauds Mr. Fugate's focus on FEMA's disaster-response mission, rather than on the very Washington question of where the agency's box is on the organizational chart."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that he would "follow the law" as he weighed potential prosecutions of Bush administration officials who authorized controversial harsh interrogation techniques.
In Holder's first public comments on the issue since President Obama's statements on the matter Tuesday, the attorney general responded to questions briefly and cautiously.
"We are going to follow the evidence, follow the law and take that where it leads. No one is above the law," Holder said at an Earth Day event.
Some human rights groups have demanded that Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter, but the attorney general appears to be in no hurry to decide how to proceed.
Obama said Tuesday that the attorney general would ultimately decide whether to proceed with prosecutions of those in the Bush administration who drew up the legal basis for aggressive interrogation techniques.
(CNN) –In the latest sign that the war of words between the Obama administration and Dick Cheney isn't letting up, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday mocked the former vice president's call to release additional classified CIA documents.
As Clinton made her first appearance before Congress as the nation's top diplomat, California Republican Dana Rohrbacher asked if the administration planned to heed Cheney's call to release documents showing information gained as a result of the Bush administration's aggressive interrogation techniques.
"Well, it won't surprise you that I don't consider him to be a particularly reliable source of information," Clinton said, to laughter from many in the committee room.
Rohrbacher quickly hit back, saying, "Dick Cheney has asked for specific documents to be unclassified. We are not asking for your opinion of Dick Cheney. … If you want to maintain your credibility with us, what is your opinion on the release of those documents?"
Clinton ultimately did not answer the question, saying, "I believe we ought to get to the bottom of this entire matter. I think it's in the best interest of our country, and that is what the president believes, and that is why he has taken the actions he has."
Cheney told FOX News on Monday that the Obama administration should release classified documents revealing the results of aggressive interrogation techniques, so a more "honest debate" can take place about the efficacy of the practices.
"I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country," Cheney told FOX. "I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there, and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she had been informed that Rep. Jane Harman had been picked up on a wiretap - after Tuesday telling reporters she didn't know.
According to a transcript of Pelosi's remarks at the Christian Science Monitor lunch provided by Pelosi's office, the speaker said, "A few years ago, maybe three years ago, they did brief me." She said she was not fully briefed on the nature of the conversation, but because of her leadership position she was told Harman had been overheard on a wiretap.
Pelosi did not say which agency had carried out the wiretap. A government official told CNN Harman's conversation was picked up by an FBI wiretap.
"In fact, I didn't even know if what they were talking about was real. All they said was that she was wiretapped," Pelosi said.
The speaker went on to defend Harman, a fellow California Democrat, telling reporters, "I have great confidence in Jane Harman, she is a patriotic American. She would never do anything to hurt her country."
Because the briefing was classified, Pelosi said, she was not in a position to share the information with Harman or anyone else.
The number two House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, told reporters that the stories about the government taping Harman's conversations gave him "great concern" and said the Justice Department needs to look into the matter.
"Hopefully they are. And I may have some conversations with the attorney general on that aspect," he said.
Hoyer also said he planned to talk to Pelosi about what action, if any, Congress needs to take.
- CNN's Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.
NEWTON, Iowa (CNN) - President Obama marked Earth Day Wednesday by announcing a new initiative to lease federal waters for the purpose of generating electricity from wind and ocean currents.
The president announced the initiative, to be administered by the Interior Department, while reiterating his pledge to push for a comprehensive energy plan that encourages the development of alternative fuel sources, cuts dependence on foreign oil, addresses climate change, and creates new jobs.
Wind power can generate 20 percent of the country's electricity by 2030 and support 250,000 jobs, Obama said during a visit to a wind turbine tower manufacturing plant.
It is part of "beginning a new era of energy exploration," he said.
Contrary to the assertion of some critics, the country does not have to choose between protecting the environment and expanding the economy, Obama said. The real choice is between "prosperity and decline."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Supreme Court's conservative majority expressed varying degrees of concern Wednesday over a civil rights case brought by 20 firefighters, most of them white, who claim reverse discrimination in promotions.
The suit was filed in response to New Haven, Connecticut, officials' decision to throw out results of promotional exams that they said left too few minorities qualified.
At issue is whether the city intentionally discriminated, in violation of both federal law and the Constitution's equal protection clause.
The high court is being asked to decide whether there is a continued need for special treatment for minorities, or whether enough progress has been made to make existing laws obsolete, especially in a political atmosphere where an African-American occupies the White House.
As is true in many hot-button social issues, Wednesday's arguments fell along familiar ideological lines, with most justices expressing clear views on when race considerations are proper to ensure a diverse workplace.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Wednesday that Pakistan is in danger of falling into terrorist hands because of failed government policies, and called on Pakistani citizens and expatriates to voice more concern.
"I think that we cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, a nuclear-armed state," Clinton said in an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"I don't hear that kind of outrage and concern coming from enough people that would reverberate back within the highest echelons of the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan."
In her first congressional hearing since being confirmed, Clinton told the panel the chief goal of the Obama administration's strategy is to defeat al Qaeda and prevent it from returning to Afghanistan.
HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) - President Obama misinterpreted Cuban President Raúl Castro's offer to start talks with the United States, Castro's brother Fidel said Wednesday, appearing to dismiss the U.S. leader's call for Cuba to release political prisoners.
In an essay published in state-run newspapers Wednesday, the ailing revolutionary leader said the people Washington calls political prisoners are "in the service of a foreign power that threatens and blockades our homeland."
Fidel Castro's comments come after signs of a thaw in the decades-old impasse between the United States and the communist-ruled island to its south.
Obama lifted all restrictions on visits and money transfers between American citizens and relatives in Cuba this month, while Raúl Castro said Cuba is prepared to talk with the United States about "everything - human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners."
Speaking at a conference of inter-American and Caribbean leaders Sunday, Obama said the Cuban leader's declaration was "a sign of progress."
He added that the Cuban government could send a much clearer, more positive signal by releasing political prisoners or reducing fees charged on remittances Americans send to relatives in the country.
But Fidel Castro wrote Wednesday, "There is no doubt that the president misinterpreted Raúl's statements."
(CNN) – Former Vice President Al Gore used Earth Day to criticize congressional Republicans for opposing President Obama's agenda, and he called on donors to give to House Democrats as a way to help expand their majority in the 2010 elections.
Gore, the most high profile spokesperson on the danger of global warming, specifically mentions this issue in the letter sent Wednesday to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) e-mail list.
"I can tell you that President Obama has signaled in the strongest possible terms that he intends to take bold steps and harness innovative resources to solve the climate crisis," Gore wrote in the letter. "Not only that, but Speaker Pelosi has said she will personally shepherd climate legislation through.
"But neither of them can do it alone – and the clock is ticking. We need a strong Democratic majority in Congress and the widespread support of concerned Americans like you."
Gore accused the GOP of putting up "partisan roadblocks in the way of forward-thinking legislation."
A Republican campaign spokesman dismissed Gore's plea and in doing so took a shot at the failed 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis.
"You would think the DCCC understands that trotting out Democratic has-beens is bad for the political environment," said Ken Spain, communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "What's next? Michael Dukakis soliciting funds on Armed Forces Day?"
Gore is scheduled to testify Friday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on "The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009."