Today's Papers

Federal Regress


The Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Todayall front the news that the House of Representatives passed an airport security bill supported by President Bush yesterday. Like the Senate bill from a few weeks ago, this bill tightens airport security in a number of ways, including requiring more air marshals on commercial flights, more secure cockpit doors, expanded anti-hijacking training for crew members, and closer luggage inspection. But unlike the Senate bill, the House version would not turn airport security over to federal employees. Instead, it would keep the federal payroll down by continuing to allow airports to contract out security to private employers. That was a source of considerable debate and tension yesterday as the House barely rejected a bill identical to the Senate’s before opting for this alternative version. Now the Senate and the House must now try to compromise, a process that could take several weeks.

The LAT and NYT front, and everyone else stuffs, California Gov. Gray Davis’ free-lance announcement that terrorists may attack four of the state’s bridges in the next week. Davis made the announcement after the FBI sent out a relatively vague warning Wednesday night based on Customs Service reports about potential attacks on western suspension bridges. The LAT reports that the governors of Oregon and Washington, among others, received the same warnings but chose not to go public because of the lack of specificity. The paper barely hides its displeasure with Davis, pointing out in the first paragraph that federal officials were peeved that the governor suddenly and unexpectedly held a press conference, something that the NYT makes much less big a deal of and that the WP only hints at. The LAT notes that the governor had “grabbed the spotlight before” when he announced a foiled hijacking in Los Angeles in mid-September and “it turned out, however, that the ‘hijacker’ was a drunken passenger who was smoking in a restroom.”

The Wall Street Journalfronts a blow-by-blow account of the spread of anthrax and the government’s response in the week following Oct. 15, when the infamous letter arrived at Sen. Tom Daschle’s office. Like everybody else, the WSJ also points out that the anthrax found to have infected the NYC woman who died yesterday matches the anthrax found in the Daschle letter. Everybody also reports that anthrax spores were found in four Maryland FDA mail rooms and in a Kansas City postal facility, though the WP also notes that no new cases have come to light recently in the nation’s capital. A letter hand-delivered to a Pakistani newspaper last week has also just tested positive for anthrax, an event that gets oddly little coverage since it could presumably provide important clues to the anthrax’s origin. Similarly little coverage is given to a letter apparently faxed from Osama Bin Laden to the Al Jazeera TV network. “The world has been divided into two camps: one under the banner of the cross, as the head of infidels, Bush, has said, and one under the banner of Islam,” wrote Bin Laden according to the NYT.

The WSJ, NYT, and WP all report new scoops from the war front. The WP has the most positive piece from a U.S. perspective, going above the fold with a report that an influential Pashtun leader named Hamid Karzai has fomented an uprising in the South of Afghanistan. Karzai now claims to control a small part of that Taliban-dominated region, a claim disputed by a Taliban spokesman who says that Karzai and his men are currently being chased in the mountains.

The NYT fronts a story on the apparent ineffectiveness of U.S. bombs on the Taliban’s front lines, quoting the Northern Alliance’s disgruntled deputy defense minister: “This is our country. We know it best. If I were the defense minister of America, I could use his weapons better than [Donald Rumsfeld].” The WSJ reports that the Taliban may have a “dirty bomb” designed to spew radioactive material but then downplays the threat by quoting an unnamed defense official saying that the situation “hasn’t set off alarm bells.”

USAT fronts and everybody else stuffs the news that the United States and Russia are close to reaching an agreement on an arms pact that would allow the U.S. to continue its plans to test a missile-defense system. In return for the Russians not blocking the tests by invoking the ABM treaty, the U.S. will offer Russia trade benefits and promise to dramatically cut its own nuclear arsenal.

The WP also fronts a story suggesting that illicit West African diamond sales help subsidize al-Qaida. The transactions apparently run through a man named Ibrahim Bah, who has the sort of resume not usually found on experience fighting with Casamance separatists in Senegal, training in Libya under Gaddafi, fighting in Afghanistan against Soviet forces, joining Hezbollah to fight Israel, and fighting in Liberia and Sierra Leone’s civil wars after training both countries’ dictators-to-be. Officials in Sierra Leone were reportedly “shocked” when the WP queried about Bah’s potential terrorist ties.