Today's Papers

At FBI It’s 4th of You Lie

The Washington Post leads with the deal ex-FBI counterintelligence officer Robert Hanssen has apparently struck with the government: In return for being spared the death penalty and instead spending the rest of his life in prison, he has agreed to extensive debriefings with the FBI, CIA, and other U.S. agencies about his own espionage activities and methods that could help the government catch other spies. Plus, under the agreement, to be certified in court later this week, Hanssen’s family will receive benefits through his government pension. The New York Times, which stuffs Hanssen, and the Los Angeles Times, which fronts him, both lead instead with the first appearance of Slobodan Milosevic in the dock of the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, during which he scornfully dismissed the proceedings. The Post also fronts Milosevic.

The Hanssen coverage makes it clear that U.S. intelligence officials don’t now know when he started spying. The WP lead says that the Hanssen deal wasn’t reached until top Department of Justice advocates of the death penalty for him–including Attorney General John Ashcroft and another man the paper calls the leading candidate for FBI director–were persuaded by CIA Director George Tenet and other intelligence officials that the government needed to know exactly what Hanssen had given away to be able to repair or junk compromised programs. The NYT says that besides Ashcroft, it was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who was key on this point. The LAT says, however, that when Hanssen’s lawyers tried to get a lesser sentence than life for their client, Ashcroft drew the line.

All the Hague stories go high quoting Milosevic’s assessment (one of the few remarks he made yesterday in English) of the court he stood before: “I consider this tribunal false tribunal and indictments false indictments.” He later said the trial’s aim was “to produce false justification for the war crimes of NATO.” The NYT points out that in signing the Dayton accords, Milosevic agreed to cooperate with the tribunal.

The NYT explains that for the moment, Milosevic stands charged with war crimes having only to do with Kosovo, but quotes a French newspaper interview in which the tribunal’s chief prosecutor said she envisions also bringing genocide charges relating to Bosnia and Croatia.

All the majors publishing today front the first full implant of a self-contained artificial heart in a human being. The operation took place in Louisville, Ky. The implanted device has a battery pack the patient can wear around the waist, but unlike previous artificial hearts, it has no other external connections to anything.

The WP fronts a Monday speech by Sandra Day O’Connor, in which the Supreme Court justice, who has generally cast votes in support of the death penalty during her tenure on the bench, said, “The system may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed.” The paper points out that O’Connor will be a key vote in the several death penalty cases to be heard by the court in the fall.

The NYT fronts a study of some 300,000 car loans arranged by Nissan dealers from March 1993 to September 2000, which shows that in 33 states blacks consistently paid more for the loans than whites, regardless, the story says, of their credit histories. The story details low some information about instances where a difference in credit worthiness could not explain the difference in the interest rate charged. It should have put them higher, and it should also have tried to quantify and put high just what race-based interest differential is found in the study once it’s adjusted for credit worthiness.

In more Chandra Levy news, the NYT has Fox News reporting yesterday that a 39-year-old flight attendant says she had dated married congressman and Levy friend Gary Condit for a year until Levy’s disappearance and was recently asked by a representative of Condit to sign an affidavit denying the relationship. Condit denies any such request.

The WP’s David Broder has this ringing Fourth of July endorsement: “[T]he politicians we have today are not substantially worse than” those who founded the country.

The LAT runs an even less misty-eyed holiday op-ed by longtime lefty Paul Krassner reminding of the time the FBI authorized the not-to-be-traced-to-the-Bureau production and distribution of a flyer under the heading “Lampshades! Lampshades! Lampshades!” calling for the “elimination” of Jews such as Krassner, Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and SDS leader Mark Rudd, all of whom it pictured in a “Wanted” poster built out of a swastika.