The New York Times leads with newly discovered damage done by accused spy Robert Hanssen, who is believed to have warned Russia of a tunnel the U.S. was digging beneath the Soviet Embassy in Washington in order to eavesdrop. The U.S. hasn’t publicly acknowledged its existence, but intelligence and law enforcement officials speculate the tunnel is referred to in an FBI affidavit that states that Hanssen “compromised an entire technical program of enormous value, expense and importance.” The nonlocal lead in the Los Angeles Times reports on the collateral damage inflicted by the yearlong stock market plunge. The infrastructure that rose up around the bull market has begun to teeter: Online stock trading has plummeted, CNBC has lost viewers, and membership in investment clubs has declined. In addition, money thrown into technology stocks was diverted from more deserving projects–power plants in California, for example. The Washington Post leads with the crash of a Florida National Guard plane that killed 21 people, 18 of whom were members of the Virginia Air National Guard. The cause has not yet been determined, though the NYT, which fronts the story, notes that heavy rain may have been a factor.
All three papers front developments in the U.S.S. Greeneville inquiry. The NYT off-leads a report that commanding officer Scott Waddle took the sub out solely as a public relations demonstration. He had cancelled a long-scheduled training exercise, and his superiors saw the off-day as a chance to accommodate the 16 civilians who were promised a mission on the sub (a mission which Japanese news accounts are referring to as a “joy ride”). The National Transportation Safety Board and a Naval court are not only trying to determine whether the presence of civilians contributed to the collision; they are also evaluating the propriety of the visitors programs run by the military to boost public support. Interesting revelations about the guidelines for the “Distinguished Visitors” program: The Navy requires children to be at least 8 and forbids couples to bunk together on overnight cruises, but civilians aren’t necessarily prevented from operating military equipment or throwing hand grenades. The LAT looks at the questions being asked of Waddle: Did he disregard official procedure? Did he receive incorrect information from the sailor in charge of sonar? Should he have taken more periscope sightings? Did he extend the periscope high enough to see over the swells? The WP reports on speculation that Waddle may be forced to retire as a result of the Navy’s inquiry and mounting pressure from both the U.S. public and Japan.
The WP fronts two pieces on Bush’s proposed tax cut. The first notes that his strategy for enacting the cut runs counter to his avowed goal of fostering a bipartisan legislative spirit. He has been reluctant either to seek or suggest compromise, and such rigidity could result in roadblocks to legislative negotiation further down the line. The second reports that business groups have responded to the administration’s pressure to back the proposed tax cuts in the hope of later winning bigger breaks (such as accelerated depreciation schedules).
The NYT off-lead profiles a few of the people unscathed by the stock market’s demise: namely the analysts being rewarded by their firms now both for having generated huge Internet investments and having drawn in high-tech clients for initial public offerings with their boldly optimistic predictions during the boom.
The WP off-leads a report on the murder of two students at Gallaudet University (specializing in educating the hearing-impaired), another student falsely accused of the crime, and still another who later confessed.
The LAT fronts NATO’s attempt to quash the resurgence of fighting between ethnic Albanian and Serbian authorities just outside Kosovo. NATO fears that ethnic Albanians will attempt to create a “Greater Kosovo,” incorporating territory from southern Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro, which would further jeopardize stability in the region. NATO hopes to reduce tensions by putting together a deal that would give ethnic Albanians a stronger voice in local affairs.
A NYT front-pager addresses the growing concern about wireless locating devices that track the positions of people and vehicles all over the world. Scientists have developed a chip that can be inserted beneath the skin and used to plot a person’s every move. Privacy advocates argue that the benefits of the technology, such as improving 911 and emergency services, will be far outweighed by the abuses, such as health insurance companies refusing coverage to people based on incorrect inferences made about their whereabouts.
The WP fronts a piece on the reported gains and losses in the drug war in Bolivia. Farmers who were persuaded to switch from coca to legal crops have been hit hard financially and have resumed planting the more lucrative coca. And critics contend that overall coca production hasn’t been reduced; rather, it has shifted to other countries, such as Colombia.
All three papers go inside with the Taliban’s systematic destruction of pre-Islamic relics in Afghanistan, beginning with the Great Buddhas of Bamiyan. The NYT notes that the move, which has brought protests from religious leaders and scholars from around the world, comes at a puzzling time when the Taliban has made efforts to gain positive recognition from the United Nations.