Today's Papers

Towering Anger

Each of the papers has some form of dual lead. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times headline President Bush’s warning that the war against terrorists “will not be short … will not be easy.” The NYT’s banner headline also notes newfound congressional support for a lifting of restrictions on CIA operations. Some congressmen, for example, are saying that the CIA should no longer be prohibited from recruiting agents who have committed human rights abuses. Some legislators want the U.S. to end its ban on assassination. The second line of the LAT’s banner focuses on something the other papers report as well: Weeks before the attack, the FBI was already searching for two of the suicide hijackers.  The Washington Post leads with a narrative piece (above its banner headline), which looks at how a handful of people affected by the crashes spent their Tuesday morning. It’s gripping. The WP’s news lead focuses on the president’s tough talk.

As each of the papers notes, President Bush declared that “we are at war” and warned that Americans should expect a “sweeping, sustained and effective” campaign. The President also named Osama Bin Laden as “a prime suspect” in Tuesday’s attacks. 

The FBI didn’t have any information about the attacks beforehand, but it was trying to track down two of the now-suspected attackers because it believed they were linked to Bin Laden. The papers also report that the men used their real names to buy their plane tickets. Question the papers should ask: Couldn’t the FBI have requested that major air, rail, and bus companies check their reservation databases for the suspects’ names?

Each of the papers’ leads notes that Pakistan has pledged to support the U.S., including providing access to air space and closing its border with Afghanistan.  As a result, Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly praised the country. But the papers also highlight the potential limits of Pakistan’s support. The NYT quotes a Pakistani military official saying that foreign troops on Pakistani soil would probably not be supported. The Post reports that Pakistani officials said they would only consider a multinational force. And the LAT points out that Pakistan hedged a bit. Officials there told citizens they were “still in discussions” with the U.S. The WP’s lead also reports that Iran, an enemy of the Taliban, may lend support to any potential move against Afghanistan.

The WP continues to ask why the Air Force wasn’t able to respond in time to intercept the hijacked jets. All the major papers have been reporting on this. But the WP adds a bit of context. About 10 minutes before the attack on the Pentagon, two F-16s were scrambled. But they were still 20 minutes away when the plane struck. That’s because the closest air base with planes on alert was 130 miles away. Andrews Air Force base, which had no planes on alert, is 15 miles from the capital.

An LAT front-pager about President Bush’s emerging anti-terrorism strategy notes that the administration is also considering going after terrorists who have struck in the past, such as the men who engineered the 1980s kidnapping of Americans in Beirut. The piece also mentions that some terrorism experts suspect that Bin Laden doesn’t really direct terror groups. Instead, they say, he’s probably just one of their main financiers.

The NYT fronts a “news analysis”–which reads just like an op-ed–praising President Bush’s reaction to the crisis: “You could almost see him growing into the clothes of the presidency.”

The WP reports that some of the suspected hijackers may have been trained at U.S. military bases. The news seems shocking, but the Air Force has a quick response: “Some of the FBI suspects had names similar to those used by foreign alumni of U.S. military courses. However, discrepancies in their biographical data, such as birth dates 20 years off, indicate we are probably not talking about the same people.”  

The WP stuffs a senior White House official’s comments that Reagan National Airport may be closed “a long time.” The same nameless official said that when the airport does reopen, it will probably feature a whole host of restrictions: no jumbo jets, fewer flights, and no take-offs toward the capital.

Amid all this talk of war, Caryle Murphy, a WP religion reporter and former Cairo bureau chief, says that Americans need to do something unpleasant: take time to understand why the terrorists hate us. Among her answers: We’ve been too supportive of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and too supportive of some of Israel’s policies.

The NYT’s Sunday magazine is filled with stunning photographs and elegant writing, all about last week’s terror. But don’t dig for it in Sunday’s paper. What you’ll find–a profile of a TV exec, an homage to a baseball player, etc.–was printed before the attacks. This week’s “real” issue, which won’t arrive on your doorstep next until week, can be found online