Today's Papers

Pardonnez More?

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times lead with the federal indictment handed down yesterday charging 13 Saudis and one Lebanese in connection with the 1996 truck bombing of a high-rise barracks in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. military members and wounded several hundred other U.S. personnel and Saudis. None of those charged are in U.S. custody. The Wall Street Journal puts the indictments in its front-page worldwide news box but gives pride of place to the current maneuverings in the Senate over legislation paving the way to taxing Internet sales. USA Today stuffs the indictments and leads instead with “KIDS’ DAD DEFENDS HIS WIFE,” in which the husband of the Houston woman suspected of drowning their five children in a bathtub says she had suffered postpartum depression after the births of their two youngest children and was also distraught over the recent death of her father. He revealed she had been taking an anti-psychotic drug, Haldol.

The papers emphasize that although the terror bombing indictments include numerous references to unnamed “Iranian officials” in their description of the planning and execution of the attack, no Iranians were charged. The WP also goes high observing that Osama Bin Laden, described by the paper as “suspected by U.S. officials of involvement,” wasn’t indicted either. The coverage strongly suggests that not taking legal action against Iran was at least partly a political rather than a legal decision. The NYT observes that direct anti-Iranian accusations could have provoked demands in Congress for military retaliation. The LAT says the omission may reflect the U.S. desire not to ostracize the reform-minded regime of Iran’s president. The LAT quotes one unnamed former Justice Department official saying that the indictment’s stance on Iran indicated that the U.S. government had some secret intelligence information about Iranian involvement, but nothing it would be able to introduce into a trial.

The bombing leads all suggest that there had been considerable friction between FBI director Louis Freeh and the Clinton administration over its failure to produce indictments in the case, and that the Bush administration had been, in the NYT’s words, “more receptive.”

A number of those indicted are in Saudi custody–although estimates about how many vary among the papers. The NYT and USAT point out that the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, with the Times concluding that the indictments are “largely symbolic.” USAT says experts doubt the suspects will be extradited. But the NYT and LAT have Freeh saying yesterday that he believes some or all of the defendants could be extradited, with the LAT citing his belief that this might be done under international treaty.

The WP off-leads the results of a poll it conducted in conjunction with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard testing the degree to which blacks, Hispanics, and Asians feel they’ve been the victims of racial prejudice. Main findings: More than half of all black men surveyed say they’ve been the victim of police racial profiling, as do one in five Hispanic and Asian men. (The survey appears to lump Hispanics and Asians together.) The story waits until the 35th paragraph to report that the study also found that 18 percent of whites report having been the victims of racial discrimination in the past 10 years, presumably practiced by racial and/or ethnic minorities, although neither the headline nor subheadline over the story mentions this.

The NYT, WP, and LAT front yesterday’s House votes blocking both oil and gas exploration off Florida’s coast and new oil, gas, and coal exploration on lands designated as national monuments. Because both exploration expansion plans had been championed by the Bush administration, the papers describe the votes as setbacks for the White House.

The LAT fronts its interview with the federal inmate (doing seven years for fraud) who claims that he paid $235,000 to a Little Rock, Ark., company to receive a presidential pardon. The convict, Garland Lincecum, says he was told the company was connected to Roger Clinton and he considered the former president’s half brother to be, in the paper’s words, “the moving force behind the scam,” although the two men have never met. Lincecum, who has also talked to federal prosecutors and congressional investigators, tells the paper, “I was snookered.” The story reports that last night on CNN, Roger Clinton denied getting any money in this matter. The LAT also reminds that Roger Clinton told the paper previously that any money raised in his name for pardons was raised improperly. The LAT says it has copies of cashier’s checks and hotel receipts that support Lincecum’s account.

USAT’s sports front and an AP dispatch inside the WP report that Toronto’s 2008 Olympic bid has a new obstacle: the mayor’s comments describing the dangers of encountering cannibals in Africa could erode African support for the Canadian city. The mayor has apologized.

A WP “Style” section story reports that the White House recently contacted a New York fashion accessories designer, asking her to create a bag to be given to guests and friends of the administration, and that Laura Bush asked that the bags be trimmed slightly and that a “White House” label and a cell phone pocket be added. Some 40 bags have been ordered, including 17 for staff members. The story says the original model for the bag retails for $235, but it doesn’t explain: 1) What funds were used to buy the White House version? 2) Is Laura Bush helping herself to one? 3) In that price range, can people having business with the government (or their spouses) accept them as gifts?