Nation digest 01/28/04

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Justice investigators find no abuses of Patriot Act

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department has found no incidents in which the anti-terrorism Patriot Act has been invoked to abuse civil rights or civil liberties but has identified instances of mistreatment of Muslims and Arabs that did not involve the act. Tuesday's report found that 1,266 civil rights and civil liberties complaints were received between June 15 and Dec. 15, 2003. Of those, only 17 involved Justice employees and merited a full investigation. Most of the complaints -- 720 -- were found to be unrelated to civil liberties or civil rights. These included claims that the government is broadcasting harmful signals to people or that its agents are intercepting their dreams, according to the report.

Mob killer 'The Rifleman' gets life in prison

BOSTON -- Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, a mobster who played a central role in a scandal that exposed the Boston FBI's overly cozy relationship with its underworld informants, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for 10 murders. Flemmi, 69, struck a deal with prosecutors in October to avoid the death penalty, admitting his role in a string of slayings committed when he was a boss in the Winter Hill Gang. Flemmi and James "Whitey" Bulger were the leaders of the gang, which ran loan-sharking, drug and gambling rackets. The two were also high-level FBI informants, providing the bureau with information on rivals in the Mafia. Bulger remains a fugitive.

Ice knocks out power along East Coast

A storm carrying the threat of heavy snow for the Northeast coated a wide swath of the East Coast in ice Tuesday, stopping trains, closing schools and courts, and knocking out electricity to a quarter-million people. At least 48 deaths have been blamed on snow, ice and cold from Kansas to the Carolinas since the weekend. While one system pushed a wave of icy weather that stretched from Georgia into Maryland, another propelled snow across the Midwest and Great Lakes. The two systems were converging over the Northeast, threatening Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

-- From wire reports

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