Today's Papers

An Almost Baseless Strategy?

The Washington Post leads with its account of likely details of U.S. military plans to come–they emphasize, says the paper, an “austere” American presence at minimal bases in Pakistan for staging raids on terrorists inside Afghanistan. The Post says the overseas deployment of U.S. forces could begin “within weeks.” USA Today’s lead emphasizes that the U.S. anti-Bin Laden campaign has garnered endorsements even from six of the seven countries the U.S. officially considers terrorist sponsors. (The lone holdout: Iraq.) In addition the paper goes high with the observation that although the Taliban have previously insisted that Bin Laden has not, while their guest in Afghanistan, been involved in terrorism, a Taliban spokesman recently said, “Anyone who is responsible for this act, Osama or not, we will not side with him.” The Los Angeles Times lead discounts this same new quote by running it near the bottom and instead sees the status quo confirmed by the abrupt return to Pakistan of the delegation that had gone to Afghanistan to convince the Taliban to hand over Bin Laden. The New York Times goes with the Bush administration’s decision yesterday to expand its power to detain immigrant suspects so that it can continue to hold the 75 immigrants arrested thus far in the terror attack investigation without yet charging them with a crime. Previously, there was a 24-hour deadline on such detentions, but now the DOJ has decided that during a national emergency, they can be prolonged indefinitely. (The story says that the DOJ has the authority to unilaterally change such detention rules, but doesn’t explain further.) In addition, the Times lead reports that the DOJ announced it will seek broad new authority from Congress to conduct surveillance on the phones and computers of terror suspects and to arrest and deport them. The paper illustrates a wide spectrum of those concerned about that: not just officials of the ACLU, but also staunch conservatives Bob Barr and Grover Norquist.

The two Times front word that Yasser Arafat ordered his forces to hold their fire even when fired upon and that in response, Israel then said it would refrain from offensive military action and withdrew its forces from Palestinian territory. The LAT says flatly that the developments “came in response to urgings from U.S. officials eager to forge an international alliance to wage war on terrorism.” The paper explains the logic: Such an alliance is more likely to succeed if it includes Arab states, which is more likely to happen if the issue of Israel’s use of U.S.-made weapons in its battle against Arafat’s intifada recedes into the background.

The coverage notes the main government spending impacts of the terror crisis thus far: 1) President Bush yesterday signed into law the recently passed $40 billion terror aid package; 2) The Bush administration and Congress yesterday pledged billions in financial aid for the airline industry, which has become so financially squeezed by flight suspensions, reduced ticket buying, and new expensive security measures that it is likely to imminently begin laying off thousands of employees.

The WP lead says that most U.S. assault troops would probably come into the contemplated Pakistani bases only at the last minute, from locations like Oman or Kuwait, as well as from U.S. aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea. The story says that U.S. officials will arrive in Pakistan this week to begin working out basing details.

The Wall Street Journal “Politics and Policy” page features a story on the terror investigation under the headline, “U.S. AUTHORITIES DISCOUNT ANY ROLE BY IRAQ, HUSSEIN IN TERRORIST ATTACKS.” The LAT fronts one under the header, “HIJACKER MAY HAVE MET WITH IRAQI SPY.”

The NYT goes inside with an interview in Egypt with the father of one of the suspected hijackers, who insists his son could not have possibly done the deed. Someone like Israel’s intelligence agency could have organized the attack, the man says, but not his son–“He was afraid of flying.”