KWAME HOLMAN: The Justice Department is being faulted for failing to ensure a small number of terror suspects were on the government’s “no-fly” list. The department’s inspector general said today the once-suspected terrorists were in the federal witness protection program. Their new identities weren’t shared with a tracking center, so they were allowed to take commercial flights. In response, the Justice Department said it has imposed a more restrictive travel policy for the witness program.
There was terror in Texas overnight from a powerful storm system. Tornadoes killed at least six people, injuring dozens and left hundreds homeless.
It was the worst outbreak of severe weather this year.
MAN: Oh, my God!
KWAME HOLMAN: Dark funnel clouds appeared over North Central Texas, accompanied by heavy rain and hail the size of grapefruit.
ELIZABETH TOVAR, Resident of Granbury, Texas: I heard glass shattering and I knew my house was gone. And we looked up and then, like, on top of the bathtub, we — like, the whole ceiling was gone. And that was when we knew we were — we were probably gone, we were in trouble.
KWAME HOLMAN: All of those killed were in the small city of Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth. At about 8:00 p.m., a twister dropped from the sky there with winds up to 200 miles an hour and tore up two neighborhoods, hurled cars into trailers and splintered trees.
WOMAN: There is nothing left. I mean, our neighborhood is gone. It’s just gone.
DANIEL LANYE, Resident of Granbury, Texas: The windows in the cars are gone. Both of our cars are messed up. I had a big shop. Ain’t a piece of it left now.
KWAME HOLMAN: There also was heavy damage in the town of Cleburne.
All told, the National Weather Service said up to 10 tornadoes struck in the region. The sheriff of Hood County, where Granbury is located, spoke this afternoon.
SHERIFF ROGER DEEDS, Hood County, Texas: Search mode is pretty much winding down, and we’re going into a recovery mode now, but we’re not going to stop searching until every piece of debris is overturned, and we can make sure nobody is there, no pets, before we start the cleanup on this.
KWAME HOLMAN: Authorities warned that the death toll still could rise as the search continues.
Federal and state officials have not yet pinpointed the cause of last month’s fertilizer plant explosion and fire in West, Texas. But they said today they’re not yet ruling out criminal activity; 14 people died at the plant, including 10 first-responders and two volunteers fighting the fire. The April 17th blast leveled homes and even registered as a small earthquake in the area.
In West today, officials reported on their month-long investigation.
CHRIS CONNEALY, Texas State Fire Marshal: The cause of this fire is undetermined. The investigation will remain open. An undetermined cause occurs when the cause cannot be proven to an acceptable level of certainty, again, to acceptable level of certainty. This could be due to insufficient information or if multiple causes could not be eliminated.
KWAME HOLMAN: Officials also said the plant had 150 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate on site at the time.
In Afghanistan, a suicide car bomber plowed into a U.S. convoy in Kabul, killing at least 15 people. Six were Americans, two soldiers and four civilian contractors. Nine Afghan civilians also died, including two children; 40 people were injured. The force of the blast completely mangled vehicles in the convoy. And it was so strong it rattled buildings on the other side of the capital city. The Islamic militant group Hezb-e-Islami claimed responsibility.
Sectarian violence in Iraq continued with a wave of bombings and shootings targeting Shiites and Sunnis. In the last 48 hours, more than 50 people have been killed. Today, bombs exploded in the Shiite neighborhoods — in Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, striking a market, a Shiite praying area and a bus stop at morning rush hour. At least 21 Iraqis were killed today. More than 30 died in attacks on Wednesday.
President Obama called in Pentagon leaders today, and afterward, he said they’re ashamed about the failure to stop sexual assault in the ranks. Defense Secretary — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, were there, along with others. Dempsey said today the issue has become a crisis.
In Congress, a bipartisan group of senators called for removing commanders from deciding whether sexual assault charges are prosecuted.
New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand:
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y.: Today, we’re standing in a united front to take on these issues with new legislation that will fundamentally remove the decision-making from the chain of command and gives that discretion to an experienced military prosecutor, where it belongs.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Pentagon estimated last week there were some 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact last year. Most went unreported. And this week, there were allegations of sexual misconduct against an Army sergeant whose job was to prevent such crimes.
The U.S. House has voted to repeal the president’s health care reform law again. It was the 37th time the Republican-led House has tried to kill the law since its passage in 2010. The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to ignore the bill.
The Senate today confirmed Ernest Moniz as the next secretary of energy. He’s a nuclear physicist and a former energy undersecretary during the Clinton administration. Meanwhile, Senate committees approved the nominations of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency and Thomas Perez to serve as secretary of labor. The nominations now go to the full Senate, where both may face Republican opposition.
Wall Street gave back a little ground today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 42 points to close at 15,233. The Nasdaq fell six points to close at 3,465.
Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Jeff.