The Los Angeles Times leads with the U.S.-backed agreement reached in Rome between the exiled, but apparently still popular, king of Afghanistan and the largest anti-Taliban force, the Northern Alliance, to form and convene on Afghan soil as soon as possible a post-Taliban democratic government that will give a voice to all Afghan tribes and ethnic groups and be open to cooperating with the West. The Washington Post and USA Today leads also have this but emphasize instead the declaration by Pakistan’s leader that the Taliban will probably not survive the U.S. military counterterror reaction. All these stories also include another Taliban noose-tightener: The U.S. has dispatched a fourth aircraft carrier to the Arabian Sea. The New York Times stuffs such matters and goes instead with the likelihood that a bill (also fronted by the LAT and WP) will come to the House floor soon that would enhance the government’s ability to wiretap cell phone conversations and monitor e-mail and let investigators detain terrorism suspects for up to seven days without charging them. The paper explains that while such provisions are an expansion of the status quo, they are not the increase in police powers that the Bush administration had lobbied for. Midway through, the story suggests that even these enhancements might not be incorporated into the Senate’s anti-terror bill.
The Wall Street Journal uses the top of its front-page worldwide news box to report that the Bush administration has begun providing to key countries it is hoping to have in its anti-terror coalition evidence linking Osama Bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks. The story quotes one unnamed senior official calling the evidence compelling if not quite up to American legal standards. Although it’s unclear if the evidence being shared includes wire transfers of money between a key Bin Laden financial adviser and several hijackers, the story adds that such connections have been turned up by the FBI and that they include the retro-wiring of unused funds back to the adviser just days before the attacks.
The LAT fronts a profile of the second-most-wanted man in the world, Osama Bin Laden’s No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon, scholar, and poet who’s been a terrorist for more than 20 years. He met Bin Laden in the 1980s in Afghanistan. The story says Zawahiri is an able fund-raiser who travels under false identities and that he’s made at least one money-raising trip to California.
The NYT fronts word that before the Sept. 11 attacks, Colin Powell was “on the verge” of announcing a Middle East diplomatic initiative that would have included U.S. support for the creation of a Palestinian state, a first for a Republican administration. There had also been a plan for President Bush to meet Yasser Arafat at the U.N. Now, says the story, Arab leaders are urging President Bush to push forward with this diplomacy because it would help them build support in their countries for the American-led counterterror coalition.
USAT reefers and everybody else stuffs the Supreme Court’s suspension yesterday of Bill Clinton from the practice of law at the court, a routine consequence, says the paper, of the five-year Arkansas disbarment Clinton agreed to shortly before leaving the White House as part of the deal he made that shut down all the Whitewater/Paula Jones/Monica investigations targeting him. Clinton had been a member of the Supreme Court bar since 1977, but like most other members of it, has never argued a case there.
The WP digs out some interesting pre-9/11 quotations made by two influential American Muslim clerics who post-9/11 have been portrayed as important leaders of non-fanatic mainstream Islam. For instance, Hamza Yusuf, who has in recent weeks met with President Bush, said in a speech on Sept. 9 that the U.S. “stands condemned” and “has a great, great tribulation coming to it.” And on another occasion, he called Judaism “a most racist religion.” But now he tells the Post that “One of the things I have learned is that we in the Muslim community have allowed a discourse of rage.” The story also has this pre-attack quote from Muzammil Siddiqi, another popular Muslim cleric invited to the White House after the attacks: “America has to learn. … If you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Please, all Americans. Do you remember that? Allah is watching everyone. God is watching everyone. If you continue doing injustice, and tolerate injustice, the wrath of God will come.” The paper couldn’t reach Siddiqi to get his attempted climb-down. The WP also runs an op-ed from Salman Rushdie in which he issues a challenge relevant to all this: “There needs to be a thorough examination, by Muslims everywhere, of why it is that the faith they love breeds so many violent mutant strains.”