Today's Papers

Bloody Saturday

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead with new terror in Northern Ireland: a car bomb exploded Saturday in a crowded shopping area in Omagh, a town west of Belfast, killing at least 28 people and injuring hundreds more. The Washington Post, which runs the story at the fold, calls it “the single worst terrorist incident in the 30-year history of sectarian warfare” in the province. For its lead the Post turns to a three-story spread on President Clinton’s upcoming grand jury testimony. The banner lead reports that Clinton’s lawyers think he will revise his story for Monday’s testimony–i.e. he will admit to sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, but will not admit to perjury.

The terrible toll in the Northern Ireland bombing was partly due to a misleading warning about the bomb’s location. A caller warned of a bomb near the Omagh courthouse, but the bomb actually exploded in an area where the crowds had retreated to get away from the courthouse. Prominent among the early suspects is a radical Irish Republican Army “splinter group” which opposes the peace agreement between Catholics and Protestants that was ratified last May. The LAT and the NYT state early on that the explosion may jeopardize the peace agreement, but the WP notes in its second paragraph that “local Protestant and Catholic leaders insisted that the tragedy … would not block implementation” of the agreement.

Back in Scandalworld: The WP lead, while suggesting that Clinton may testify to a sexual relationship, also notes that he is prone to last-minute changes of mind and could go against his advisors’ recommendations. Another piece in the WP front-page package describes the intense legal preparation on both sides. Strategizing aside, though, Clinton’s testimony hinges on his “own lonely struggle over whether to admit a relationship with Lewinsky despite his past denials.” The third WP piece chronicles Clinton’s ability to cope with adversity. In related news, the NYT off-lead explains how the scandal could shift election-year politics: if Americans’ disgust translates into low voter turnout, the Democrats will probably suffer. A LAT front-pager recaps the long list of legal precedents set in the case.

Trouble in Congo gets front-page play at the LAT, and runs inside elsewhere. The U.S. embassy there was closed yesterday, and the last American diplomats were evacuated as the teetering Congoese government prepares to counter advances from Rwanda-backed rebels. The WP adds this to the story: Western troops (including some 1,200 U.S. Marines) are taking up positions near Congo’s coast in order to rescue foreigners if necessary. The Congoese take an understandably dim view of this move–very few foreigners remain in Congo.

Front page pieces at the NYT and WP report new developments in the search for suspects in the African bombings. An NYT front-page article, citing federal law-enforcement officials, says that an associate of wealthy Saudi exile and terrorist financier Osama Bin Laden has been “tentatively linked” to the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The WP’s front-page story pursues another angle: A bombing suspect was arrested on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border while travelling under a false passport, and is being flown to Kenya for questioning.

A NYT “Week in Review” article urges the U.S. to develop a consistent, long-term policy to combat terrorism. The writer, a long-time intelligence officer, observes that, “Most of our counter-terrorism successes are against loners.” He decries quick fixes such as assassination because they either backfire by perpetuating the cycle of violence or aren’t comprehensive enough. A better strategy, he argues, would involve gradually undermining and weakening terrorists’ bases.

According to a below-the-fold NYT front-page article, some heavyweight web sites like Geocities, Lycos-Tripod, and Ticketmaster have agreed to feed subscriber information to a tracking system. This information will then be sold to advertisers, who can tailor their marketing strategies accordingly. While this does not violate individual anonymity per se, the prospect irks privacy-rights activists. Their battle may be tough, however, since privacy regulations on the Internet remain notoriously nebulous.