Today's Papers

Testing Tenet

The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the  Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox all lead with CIA Director George Tenet’s testimony before Congress in which he warned that al-Qaida hasn’t been destroyed and is still planning attacks. “We know they’ll hurt us again,” he said. USA Today, at least in its early edition, also leads with Tenet’s testimony, but headlines: TENET DEFENDS CIA ON TERROR. According to the paper, Tenet “testily rejected suggestions Wednesday that U.S. intelligence services had failed to anticipate the terrorist attacks.” 

Tenet said that about 1,000 al-Qaida operatives have been arrested throughout the world, which the NYT says is a “much larger” figure than officials have previously stated. But he warned that the organization’s operatives “have considered” attacks against “high-profile government or private facilities, famous landmarks and U.S. infrastructure nodes, such as airports, bridges, harbors and dams.” He added, “Never before have the dangers been more clear or more present.” (Nobody mentions a bit of uncomfortable context: The CIA has an institutional incentive to present the worst-case scenario. It’s called C.Y.A.)

USAT and WP both noticed a curious exchange between Tenet and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. As USAT put it, “The senator said Kansans chatting at cafes wonder why, if American Taliban John Walker Lindh could meet bin Laden, the CIA hasn’t gotten near him. Snapped Tenet: ‘You’d better tell everybody at the cafe that it’s not true.’ He did not elaborate.”

The WP has the most detail about an unmanned U.S. drone that officials say fired a few days ago at a group of people who the U.S. believed were al-Qaida leaders. Special ops guys are apparently on their way to check out the results.

The Post off-leads news that the U.S. released 27 Afghans it had captured in a controversial raid last month.  But the Pentagon hasn’t apologized for the death of at least 16 people during the attack. “The important thing is that they fired first,” Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said of the Afghans killed.

The WP, though, citing an Associated Press report, says, “Afghans who witnessed the raid said that U.S. Special Forces burst into a small religious school and killed 19 people, most of them where they slept.”

The Post catalogs other potential attacks gone wrong, then essentially charges the Pentagon with stonewalling. “In many of the cases,” the paper says, “military authorities military officials have cited ongoing investigations as justification for not disclosing details of incidents weeks or even months.”

Describing one incident, the Post says, “An official with one relief organization, who asked that his name and that of his group not be identified, said that members of his staff had gathered credible reports of at least 52 civilian casualties, including many attending a wedding party in a village in eastern Afghanistan bombed by the United States on Dec. 29.” (Something about this dispatch makes Today’s Papers feel a bit queasy: How much credence should one give those reports if the group that gathered them doesn’t want its name attached to them?)

The papers report that Pakistani police say they’ve identified the man behind the kidnapping of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl. His name is Sheik Omar Saeed, and authorities say he has ties to two Kashmiri militant groups. Police haven’t found Saeed, or Pearl, yet.

The WP fronts word that authorities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, say they believe they’re getting valuable intelligence from some of the prisoners. The article notes that prisoner flights to Gitmo resumed yesterday. The Post also offers the following informative sentence, “Many captives speak in English or their own language.”

Everybody notes that—surprise!—a judge denied John Walker Lindh’s bail request. Meanwhile prosecutors released e-mails Lindh sent to his parents that were filled with anti-American sentiments. (The developments inspired USAT to headline: LINDH E-MAILS RELEASED; HE ISN’T.)

The papers note that President Bush visited New York City yesterday and reiterated his promise that it will receive $20 billion in aid.

The papers report that a Palestinian gunman killed three, including a mother and her young daughter, after he infiltrated an Israeli settlement on the West Bank. In response, Israeli warplanes attacked a Palestinian Authority building in Nablus.

The WP fronts word that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., plans to oppose a pending campaign finance reform bill. According to Hastert’s spokesperson, the bill would benefit “special-interest groups: big labor, environmental groups and other Democratic groups.” Hastert himself, though, had a different description. According to participants at a closed meeting who blabbed to the Post, Hastert declared, “This is Armageddon.”

The WSJ reports that the Red Cross is so flush with Sept.-11-related donations, that it’s taken to knocking on doors to offer money in a neighborhood adjacent to the World Trade Center, specifically New York’s swank Tribeca district, “where the average apartment rents for $3,600 a month.” Says one philanthropy expert, “Maybe they need to go to some of their big donors and say, ‘We’re in the position of having to give money away to these yuppies.’ Then they could ask donors’ permission to send it to the Congo or something.” (One thing the paper could have clarified: Is the Red Cross going door-to-door in other, less affluent, areas of downtown that were also affected by the attacks?)

USAT reports on cybercafes in Garden Grove, Calif., that are geared for teen-agers to play networked, and usually violent, video games. The problem is that occasionally (very occasionally) real violence has ensued. The paper says that in December, a young man was stabbed to death outside one of the cafes. The NYT had a similar dispatch from Garden Grove two weeks ago. Both stories note there are plenty of cybercafes in the town, and both stories focus on the same one.