Today's Papers

Where’s He Bin?

USA Todayleads with an exclusive: The Department of Justice has scrapped its much-lauded plan that was going to pay for some DNA tests of inmates so that prosecutors can verify their convictions.  A DOJ official said the department decided instead to use the money for DNA tests to ID World Trade Center victims. The papersays Justice didn’t end up doing much work like that. The Wall Street Journal’s worldwide newsbox and New York Times  lead with Pakistan’s crackdown on two militant groups that operate against India. These are the same groups that President Bush named as terrorist organizations last week. Pakistan closed the offices of one group and arrested the head of the other one. The Journal says it’s “unclear whether those actions will be enough to satisfy India,” which wants about a dozen groups completely shut down. (By the way, the NYT’s headline is confusing: PAKISTAN LEADER IN SHARP REBUKE TO INDIAN THREAT.) The WSJ says that India has ordered residents to evacuate border areas and has moved attack planes closer to bases near Pakistan. The paper reports, “Indian and Pakistani troops have been exchanging heavy fire along the border in recent days, resulting in several deaths.” That’s not all that unusual. The Los Angeles Timesalso leads with Pakistan, but focuses on the White House’s concern about the continuing military buildup. The LAT, though, says it doesn’t look like all-out war is right around the corner. “I think we would see a lot more going on if major hostilities were about to break out,” said one U.S. official. The Washington Postleads with the lack of news about Bin Laden.

“He can be in Tora Bora or in that area dead, he can be somewhere else in Afghanistan and still alive, or perhaps he may have gotten into Pakistan,” said General Tommy Franks. The Post says a “small number” of U.S. Special Forces alongside Afghan troops are poking around the caves in Tora Bora. The paper says the U.S. is still considering sending Marines to join the search. But one of the local Afghan commanders said that nearly all the caves have already been searched, and still nada. (Incidentally, Today’s Papers recently spoke to some knowledgeable folks who think they know where Bin Laden is.)

The papers report that Afghan forces say they have captured Awal Gul, a former Taliban commander who had some—unspecified—connections to al-Qaida. The Pentagon couldn’t confirm the arrest. But the WSJ says that if it did happen, it would be a positive sign that the Afghans are still interested in helping the U.S. pursue al-Qaida leaders. Meanwhile, the U.S. confirmed that Afghan forces have arrested the Taliban’s former military chief of staff.

The NYT’s sorta new op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof, makes the argument that the U.S. should forget about capturing Mullah Omar and instead “let him fade into obscurity.” “He was a ruthless two-bit dictator,” says Kristof. “But no evidence has emerged that Mullah Omar engaged in international terrorism or even knew anything about it.”

The papers stuff word that gunmen attacked Israeli troops near the Jordanian border, killing one. It was the first attack along that border in years.

Authorities are still trying to figure out who Richard Reid is and why he wanted to blow up a plane. All the papers mention that investigators have concluded that the bomb stuffed in Reid’s shoes was very advanced, and thus suspect that Reid had some help. The LAT reports that FBI officials are looking into reports that Reid was homeless.

The WSJ, in the last graph of its Reid article, mentions one possible reason why French police didn’t notice Reid’s special shoes even though they had tagged him as high risk: “Until now, France didn’t allow airlines or their security contractors to conduct extensive body searches; nor were they allowed to go through passengers’ luggage. Rather, they had to ask passengers to do it for them.” France changed its policy yesterday, only for American Airlines.