Today's Papers

America’s Most Wanted

The Washington Postleads with word that one of Osama Bin Laden’s primary objectives in his war against Americans—expelling the U.S. military from Saudi Arabia—might be achievable if the Saudis have their way. In the Post’s words, Saudi rulers are “increasingly uncomfortable” with hosting the American military and may ask the U.S. soldiers to leave as soon as the war in Afghanistan is over. The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s worldwide news box, the lead story at USA Today, and the fronts of the other papers announce that the Justice Department is publicizing images of five suspected terrorists after finding videotapes of martyrdom messages the men made. The U.S. government fears they might be planning attacks and hopes that showing their photos and videotapes will lead people to call in tips on their whereabouts. Only the New York Timesobliges the government with full-color headshots of all five men on its front. The lead at the Los Angeles Timeswas reported in the NYT’s lead yesterday: According to an internal Andersen e-mail, Andersen officials knew last February about Enron’s financial problems. Today’s NYT lead is the head of the SEC’s assertion in the wake of the Enron/Andersen trouble that the accounting industry needs to be held accountable to a body of outside experts, not to itself.

Attorney General John Ashcroft urged the public to “identify, locate and incapacitate” the five suspected al-Qaida members, reports USAT’s lead. It is unknown whether the men are in the United States. The videotaped martyrdom messages were found in what remains of slain al-Qaida military chief Mohammed Atef’s Afghanistan home. The most well-known of the five is Ramzi Binalshibh, who has gotten press for his role as a financial operative for al-Qaida who helped organize the Sept. 11 attacks.

Anonymous Saudi officials told the WP that the U.S. military’s presence is a political liability for Saudi Arabia at home and in relations with other Arab countries. However, no decision on requesting that the U.S. military leave will be taken hastily because Crown Prince Abdullah doesn’t want to appear to be catering to Bin Laden. Officially, the Pentagon had no insight into the matter, but U.S. officials said that if the military is shown the door, it would be much more difficult for the U.S. to attack Iraq, and relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, strained after Sept. 11, would be further complicated.

The NYT lead reports that the SEC leader is recommending that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, an accounting industry group, no longer be in charge of disciplinary and quality reviews of accounting firms. The paper also says that Connecticut is considering barring Andersen from working for its corporations, and other states may do the same. 

The papers all report yesterday’s Enron developments, including news that the company has fired Andersen as its auditor. Andersen was not fazed by this development. As a matter of fact, an Andersen spokesman pointed out to the WP, Andersen’s relationship with Enron ended back when Enron failed. Enron documents released yesterday revealed that the company’s chief executive unloaded stock in the days after an employee wrote a letter warning him that Enron had accounting problems.

The papers front news that a Palestinian machine-gunman attacked a bat mitzvah celebration in Hadera, Israel leaving six Israelis dead and at least 25 wounded. The gunman died, too, after party guests beat him and police shot him. The attacker, a member of the military wing of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization, which claimed responsibility for the attack, had videotaped a promise of revenge for Israel’s recent killing of Raed Karmi, a militant member of Fatah. The papers report, some only online, Israel’s response: a fighter-jet attack on a Palestinian government building, which killed a policeman. Israel promised to teach the Palestinian Authority “a lesson they will not forget,” and the LAT says Israeli troops are headed for Arafat’s headquarters.

The second item in the WSJ’s worldwide news box reports that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might keep some of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay there indefinitely if they are dangerous. Others may face war-crimes tribunals, be sent home, or be tried in U.S. civilian court. USAT reports these details in a below-the-fold story on the Red Cross’ impending inspection of the prison camp to make sure it is humane. While it has been widely reported that a goal of some of the prisoners is to kill an American before they leave, USAT says many of the detainees are scared, and at least one has even cried.

Only the NYT fronts Secretary of State Colin Powell’s brief visit to Afghanistan, in which he declared the U.S. embassy in Kabul returned to full diplomatic status and promised money and attention to the country.

Inside the WP is the United States’ suspicion that the new face of terrorism may not be Arab. Intelligence analysis and interviews with prisoners in Afghanistan indicates that terrorist groups are onto the racial profiles that American security officials have developed for hunting their Middle Eastern members and may be planning attacks with Asian or African operatives.