The USA Today and Los Angeles Times leads are U.S./counterterrorism situation reports that emphasize Sunday chat show pledges by Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to, in the near future, reveal, not just to other governments but also to the general public, the evidence linking the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks to Osama Bin Laden. The USAT story also goes high with fresh polling revealing that President Bush currently enjoys the highest job-approval rating among Americans since such polling began 63 years ago. The New York Times lead reports that the Bush administration’s military preparations involve not just an attempt to form a coalition with other countries, but also with anti-Taliban factions inside Afghanistan. (A Washington Post fronter makes brief reference to this.) The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page worldwide news box is a more tactical and hardware-oriented overview of U.S. preparations, which reports that despite conflicting press accounts, the U.S. has been quietly granted access to a new aircraft command and control center in Saudi Arabia, and suggests that Saudi desires not to have attack missions launch from there may be finessed if the U.S. launches them without announcing them or even formally requesting permission. The WP lead expands on the paper’s Sunday reporting that the FBI knew for years that suspected terrorists were training at U.S. flight schools by reporting quite generally that the bureau is “ill-equipped and unprepared” to predict terrorist acts. Big problems the Post notes include: a lack of up-to-date computers, of agents and analysts with up-to-date computer skills, and of Arab translators and agents.
The papers report that on Sunday, in response to statements by Taliban leaders that they had lost contact with Bin Laden, Donald Rumsfeld opined that the Taliban knew exactly where Bin Laden was. And the NYT has unnamed senior U.S. intelligence officials saying they were certain Bin Laden was still in Afghanistan.
The LAT lead says that the administration decision to publish its case against Bin Laden represents its conclusion “that international support … is more important than the intelligence secrets that might be compromised.”
The NYT lead reveals an allegation that no doubt the U.S. can use to help gain the cooperation of the anti-Taliban Afghan organization, the Northern Alliance: U.S. intelligence officials now say the suicide bomb attack that killed the NA leader shortly before the terror attacks on the U.S. was orchestrated by Osama Bin Laden and was designed to deprive the Bush administration of a potential ally in any retaliation.
The WP lead documents one new key FBI lapse that may be related to the failure to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks: Not only did the bureau not pick up for questioning a man held in Minnesota on immigration violations after a flight school voiced suspicions about him because he’d paid cash for some passenger jet training, but the FBI stayed hands-off in the matter even after French intelligence told it on Sept. 1 that the man was a “radical Islamic extremist” with possible ties to Afghani terrorism camps.
The WP off-leads some details on the emerging view of investigators that some of the hijackers expressed interest in crop-dusting aircraft, a strand of the story uncovered by Time magazine, although incredibly, the Post doesn’t mention that. Not only did the Minnesota suspect mentioned above have a crop-duster flight manual, but several groups of Middle Eastern flight students, which apparently included at least one of the hijackers, made numerous visits to a Florida airport, where they asked lots of questions about crop dusters. The men also had video or still cameras and took pictures of the planes and tried to take pictures of their interiors.
A NYT insider reports that Rudy Giuliani is reconsidering his previously stated position that the New York City mayoral election should proceed without him and now believes New Yorkers should be able to decide if his soon-to-expire term should be extended. The WSJ op-ed page includes a defense of the idea.
The terror crisis is bringing out some dopey ideas about the responsibilities of journalists. The WP says that Reuters has decided not to use “terrorist” or “terrorism” in its reporting on the Sept. 11 attacks. The paper quotes the explanation given by a Reuters honcho, Stephen Jukes: “We’re trying to treat everyone on a level playing field, however tragic it’s been and however awful and cataclysmic for the American people and people around the world.” The Post also reports that ABC News has barred its reporters from wearing American flags in their lapels when on the air. The ABC explanation: “Especially in a time of national crisis, the most patriotic thing journalists can do is to remain as objective as possible. … That does not mean journalists are not patriots. All of us are at a time like this. But we cannot signal how we feel about a cause, even a justified and just cause, through some sort of outward symbol.”