Today's Papers

The Powders That Be

The New York Times  leads with a new list of al-Qaida supporters who will have their assets seized by the Bush administration. Several prominent businessmen from Saudi Arabia are among the 39 named. The Los Angeles Times  and the Washington Post  (online, at least) go with the House’s passage of an anti-terror bill, a similar version of which got through the Senate on Thursday.

The list in the NYT’s lead establishes a clear link between Saudi Arabia’s best and brightest–or at least its richest–and Osama Bin Ladin’s terrorist network. This news complicates matters for the Saudi government, which, in order to remain in the good graces of the United States, must now “move against some of its own citizens and financial institutions,” according to the Times. Pakistan is in a similar boat–the list includes a Pakistani charity that once had President Musharraf on its board. The group seems to have done its share of good deeds–resettling refugees from Bangladesh to Pakistan–but its secretary-general was one of al-Qaida’s founders along with Bin Laden. The story remains vague on Musharraf’s current involvement with the charity.

This Times lead, coupled with a LAT fronter, suggests that Saudi Arabia is already dragging its feet. “We’re getting zero cooperation,” a former CIA man says in the LAT. This may come as a surprise to those who’ve heard Bush heap praise on the Saudis in recent days. According to U.S. officials quoted in the NYT, the Saudi government failed to locate any assets belonging to people on Bush’s first list, released last month, which suggests that they weren’t quite giving it their best shot.

The House’s version of the anti-terrorism bill captured the imaginations of the LAT and the WP, apparently, but received virtually no mention in the NYT.  The WP referred to the “blistering pace of the legislation,” which contained provisions (including certain wiretap and electronic surveillance procedures) that federal prosecutors have wanted for years. The bill passed easily, but not without trepidation. “The problem,” says Barney Frank in the Post, “is that the bill before us today preserves the fullness of the powers [given to law enforcement types] but substantially weakens the safeguards.” The differences between the House and Senate version will be ironed out in committee, and fast.

Anthrax is the other big Saturday story, making all the fronts. An assistant to Tom Brokaw at NBC in New York contracted a cutaneous form of anthrax poisoning, possibly from exposure three weeks ago to a white powder contained in letters addressed to her boss. A little ways downtown, yesterday morning, reporter Judith Miller, co-author of today’s NYT lead on the new list of al-Qaida supporters, opened an envelope containing white powder, which she subsequently spilled on her face (NYT) or her lap (WP). (The LAT doesn’t say where it went.) The NYT reports that Miller, along with several other Times staffers, was already taking antibiotics (they didn’t say Cipro, but one can assume) as a precaution. At any rate, the powder at the Times apparently tested negative for anthrax, but then so did the powder over at NBC, when it was finally tested two weeks, after the fact.

The NYT takes the FBI to task on this testing matter, detailing the Bureau’s ineptitude in a separate front-page article, above the fold. It’s not clear from the story, however, if the FBI failed to test because of some sort of clerical mishap or because they assumed the powder was just another among dozens of false alarms. A source says Mayor Giuliani went “three feet off the ground” when he learned of the FBI’s bumbling. They’d learned their lesson by this morning, apparently, reacting to the Times incident post haste.

According to all three papers, the anthrax scare has caused a run on New York’s supply of the aforementioned Cipro, the antibiotic used to counter Anthrax exposure. “People should not hoard antibiotics,” Tommy Thompson says in the LAT. “We have enough antibiotics to get to the people who need it.” But then it’s difficult to say exactly who–or how many–might require the medicine in the future. New Yorkers aren’t taking chances.

The papers seem pleased to report that the oft-beleaguered United Nations and its secretary-general, Kofi Annan, have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The NYT reports:”To several hundred applauding staff members who met him on his arrival at United Nations headquarters on the East River, Mr. Annan said the prize was ‘a shot in the arm that is really deserved and needed.’ ” He added, “The world is a messy place and unfortunately the messier it gets, the more work we have to do.”