Today's Papers

Humanity Against Crimes

Everybody leads with the expected indictment today of Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes by the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

The Los Angeles Times says that this will be the first indictment of a sitting president for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The Washington Post goes further, noting that it will be the first such indictment “in modern history in peace or war.” (But nobody mentions the similar case of Manuel Noriega, who was indicted on federal drug charges while still the leader of Panama.) All the majors note that the indictment could complicate a negotiated settlement to the end of the war, in that it makes it peculiar for NATO to conduct diplomacy with someone whose arrest and trial it supports and also lessens Milosevic’s motivation to indeed enter such talks. But a separate front-pager at the New York Times claims that U.S. officials have concluded that despite the awkwardness, they could still sit down and bargain with an indicted Milosevic.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the hardest part of the tribunal’s investigation into Milosevic has been linking him directly to crimes. The NYT says Milosevic’s been quite adept at maintaining plausible deniability, setting foot, for instance, in Bosnia only once, and avoiding putting his name on written communications. It’s significant then that according to the NYT, WP and WSJ, in recent weeks, the U.S. and Britain have supplied the United Nations tribunal with intelligence that could serve as evidence that links Milosevic to atrocities committed in Kosovo. (And for several weeks now, there have been reports of such intelligence gathering in the U.S. and British press.)

The NYT says it’s unclear what Milosevic will be charged with. Both the Times and WSJ surmise genocide. The WP has the most detailed description of the charges, itemizing five counts, all of them pertaining to various aspects of the Serbs’ forcible removal of Kosovar Albanians from their province. While the coverage generally notes that few of those indicted by the U.N. tribunal have been arrested, USA Today adds that indeed out of the 84 people indicted since the tribunal’s creation in 1993, only one has been sentenced.

The WP op-ed page carries the day’s other most serious Kosovo development, a piece by Viktor Chernomyrdin, in which the Russian envoy writes that unless NATO stops bombing Yugoslavia, “quite soon,” he would advise that Russia bow out of the diplomatic efforts to end the war, and end all military and technical cooperation with the U.S. and Western Europe. This would mean among other things, abandoning ratification of the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty.

The WP runs a story inside reporting that political advisers to Tom DeLay have established a fund-raising committee designed to bring in $25 million from big givers for Republican campaigns next year, and that it will not be covered by current federal election finance laws and hence there will be no disclosure of the identity of donors or an accounting of how the money is spent. Their theory is that disclosure is not necessary because the committee will operate independently and not work for or against specific federal candidates. In other words, the insiders claim that they have created an outside organization.

The USAT front and an inside story at the WP report that yesterday the SEC charged 25 people in a civil complaint with illegal insider trading in connection with the 1995 deal in which IBM acquired Lotus. The government says that an IBM secretary copied confidential documents about the deal and then told her husband who told people who told people, etc. The chain of tips eventually reached the aforementioned 25 folks, who in a six-hour period allegedly made a total of $1.3 million via trades based on the information. The government says this is one of the largest insider cases ever brought. The central issue: How far do you have to be from insider information before it’s not insider information anymore? One shortcoming of the stories: They don’t make it clear why these folks aren’t up on criminal charges.