The Washington Postleads with Enron CEO Kenneth Lay’s resignation yesterday. Lay, who founded the company in 1986, stepped down after Enron’s creditors demanded he do so. When a company is bankrupt, as in the case of Enron, “you work for the creditors,” explained one Enron official. “And the creditors wanted someone else.” The New York Timesleads with word from a congressman investigating Enron that up to 80 Arthur Andersen employees may have done some shredding. The congressman said that the scope of the destruction puts the lie to Andersen’s argument that just a few rogue employees were responsible. Tomorrow, two congressional committees will begin Enron-related hearings. The Los Angeles Timesleads with President Bush’s announcement that he will ask Congress for a nearly $50 billion increase in defense spending next year. “We will invest in more precision weapons, in missile defenses, in unmanned vehicles, in high-tech equipment for soldiers on the ground,” the president said. That’s a 14 percent increase, the largest in two decades. USA Todayleads with John Walker Lindh’s return to the United States. He arrived at Dulles airport, was transported to a prison in the area, and will appear in court tomorrow where, among other things, he will be asked whether he wants a lawyer. (An aside: Four of the papers offer Walker’s preferred appellation: John Walker Lindh. The NYT, though, omits the second surname. Why?) The Wall Street Journaltops its worldwide newsbox with news that the Pentagon has suspended shipments of prisoners to Guantanamo Bay (aka Gitmo). The compound has temporarily run out of cages to house the prisoners.
The LAT says, “Military officials sharply denied that the transfer postponement was due to rising criticism of treatment of the detainees in Cuba.” But the first sentence of the Post says the United States stopped the flights, “to avoid overcrowding and to quell international criticism of the prisoners’ treatment, officials said yesterday.” The LAT relies on a Pentagon spokesperson, while the WP quotes an anonymous “senior defense official.”
The papers report that U.S. personnel have started to interrogate prisoners. The NYT notes, “No foreign governments are taking part at this time, nor do the prisoners have lawyers.”
One official, whose quote was picked up by the WP, suggested that many of the prisoners will eventually just be sent home. “I have the feeling that a good number of them will be sent back to the countries where they lived before they went to Afghanistan,” Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the French newspaper Le Monde. Armitage added, “What we want to be sure of is that when they go back to those countries, they will be investigated.”
The NYT says that some European politicians are peeved that Walker seems to be getting better treatment than the al-Qaida prisoners at Gitmo. The United States seems to be “making up the rules as it goes along,” one European ambassador told the NYT.
The NYT says that the criticism of the United States’ perceived treatment of the prisoners has reached such a crescendo that Rumsfeld “devoted an hour-long news conference to the subject on Tuesday.”
“A lot of the European reaction to Guantanamo is not because people care about the feelings of the prisoners there,” one expert told the NYT. “It’s touched a neuralgic point, which is the European concern that America doesn’t believe in international law.”
The WP reports, “Despite fierce rhetoric from senior Bush officials against Saddam Hussein, the administration’s policy toward Iraq remains largely frozen where it was left by President Bill Clinton.” Most significantly, the paper says, the White House hasn’t lifted a Clinton-era ban on lethal aid for Iraqi opposition groups.
The Post explains that the administration is divided over whether the main Iraqi opposition organization is, or even can be, an effective group. According to a State Department audit last year, half of the organization’s budget went to questionable expenditures.
The LAT and WP say that Iran may now be trying to spread its influence throughout Afghanistan, even beyond the areas where Iran’s reported meddling has already been noted. The papers base their reports on charges made by a top aide to Kandahar’s governor that a few Iranian generals are roaming around Afghanistan handing out cash and weapons.
USAT emphasizes that the charges are part of an escalating spat between Afghan warlords. “The political infighting,” says the paper, “echoes the kind of strife that led to the Taliban’s rise a decade ago.”
Following yesterday’s USAT report that the United States and Libya were close to making up, the papers say that the White House acknowledged that the two counties have had “positive discussions.” But the administration denied that any deal is pending.
The WP says, “The administration plans to request a $10-billion contingency for war operations, suggesting that the Pentagon plans to continue its war on terrorism at about the current pace.”
The papers report that the White House budget office announced that the government will likely have about a $100 billion deficit this year. The Post contrasts that with “the $242 billion surplus the administration had foreseen a year ago.”
The Journal notes that the White House’s budget office also lowered its estimate of the next decade’s surplus from $5.6 to $1.6 trillion. “Whew,” responded Sen. Paul Sarbanes, as quoted in the WSJ.“Four trillion gone.”
The Journal says, “As the new budget math sinks in, the implications are profound. Vast parts of the federal government will get squeezed.”
The Post says that the White House may finally relent and release a full record of the administration’s contacts with Enron officials. The impending decision will be aided, perhaps, by the fact that yesterday three Senate committee chairmen called for the White House to release the files.
The NYT observes that 2002 marks the centennial of that august British institution: Marmite. The paper describes the spread as, “a brownish vegetable extract with a toxic odor, saline taste and an axle grease consistency.” The Times says that the makers of the sludge love promoting the lesser virtues of the product: “One campaign, a television ad exploiting the product’s notoriety for producing bad breath, showed a woman excusing herself from a sofa clutch with her boyfriend and running into the kitchen to have a quick bite of Marmite. She returns, they kiss, and the final scene shows the woman alone while the man is heard throwing up in the toilet.”