Today's Papers

Hold Your Forces

Each paper leads with a federal grand jury’s indictment of Arthur Andersen on obstruction-of-justice charges for destroying Enron documents last year. The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox reports that a federal grand jury in New Jersey has indicted WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapper on hostage-taking charges, crimes that carry the death penalty. The Islamic militant is in Pakistani custody, and the State Department and Pakistan are discussing whether he will be extradited to face the U.S. court. The papers explain that the Justice Department is bringing charges against a man who may never make it to the United States because, as Attorney General Ashcroft said in the New York Timesand Washington Post: “It’s important for us to have charges pending so in the event of a release, we are in a position to demand the individual’s involvement here in the justice system.”

The coverage reports that the indictment of the auditing firm came down after the company refused to plead guilty to the obstruction-of-justice charge, which it called “factually and legally baseless.” Andersen lawyers are moving to dismiss the charge, the NYT says. If it is convicted, the firm could be barred from auditing companies for five years. Andersen has warned that the indictment itself would destroy the company, the WP reports. At the very least, its American operation will shrink considerably, the NYT says. In addition to the indictment, Andersen’s other problems include clients fleeing the firm and the unwillingness of other accounting firms to buy Andersen’s operations. The indictment is the first ever by the federal government against a big accounting firm and also the first criminal charge to come out of the government’s investigation into the Enron case.

Yesterday the United States publicly demanded that Israel pull its troops out of Palestinian-controlled areas it has recently invaded, the papers report. The NYT has the scoop that Secretary of State Colin Powell made the same demand privately to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday. In what the WP calls a conciliatory gesture to welcome American envoy Anthony Zinni to the region, Sharon began a gradual withdrawal from Ramallah. But a Ramallah withdrawal is not enough, State Department officials said. The United States believes Israel must give up its occupation of Palestinian territory in order for Zinni’s peace mission to have a shot at succeeding.

The violence continued as Zinni arrived. Six or seven Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting yesterday. The NYT and WP pick up on a new, cross-border threat in the conflict: There’s evidence that a gunfire attack on Tuesday that killed seven Israelis was the work of members of Hezbollah, Lebanese militants, who appear to have jumped the fence straddling the border.

An NYT fronter’s headline could have run pretty much any time during the last 17 months: ON BOTH SIDES IN THE MIDEAST, FEAR AND STRESS ARE BUILDING. The opening paragraphs of the piece are a surprise, however: The story begins with a look at the symptoms dogs and cats in Israel are suffering as a result of the fighting. The pets shake, stop eating, and won’t go outside, and they don’t feel better until they are given Valium.

The NYT and USA Today headline reports with news that American forensic experts are testing DNA samples taken from human remains from the battle at Shah-e-Kot in the hopes of finding some dead senior al-Qaida or Taliban leaders in the mix. According to the NYT, the commander of the coalition forces, Maj. Gen. Hagenbeck, said finding anyone significant was unlikely, but the paper guessed that Osama Bin Laden and his top lieutenants, such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, were among those the U.S. is seeking in the remains. Does this mean that the United States already has DNA samples from key al-Qaida leaders to compare to the battlefield DNA, or is the U.S. collecting samples now for later comparisons? The papers don’t say, but the NYT does remind readers that the U.S. already has at least one DNA sample it can try to match to battlefield DNA. The Bin Laden family is donating its DNA to the cause.

The WP and Los Angeles Timesalso base articles on comments Maj. Gen. Hagenbeck made yesterday, but the LAT’s story mentions the DNA harvesting only in the last sentence and the WP’s not at all. Instead the papers focus on the general’s claims that very few al-Qaida escaped during the battle and second- and third-tier al-Qaida are among the dead.

The NYT and WP front word that, with a 10-9 vote along party lines, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee blocked President Bush’s attempt to put a conservative judge on an appeals court. They also voted against sending the nomination to the full Senate where the judge would have a decent chance at getting confirmed. Everyone notes that this is Bush’s first defeat on a judicial nomination, and the LAT provides some context, saying Bush got 42 judges appointed before this failure. The NYT reports that some Democrats voted against the appointment to send the message to Bush that he shouldn’t think he will have no problem packing his courts with conservatives. Press accounts leading up to today’s decision noted that the judge’s nomination was expected to be turned down.

Yugoslavia is no more, the papers report. Under pressure from the European Union, which wants to make sure that the last two republics that make up Yugoslavia don’t break apart violently the way other former Yugoslav republics have, leaders of the last Yugoslav republics, Serbia and Montenegro, have agreed to create a loose federation of a country which they will call … “Serbia and Montenegro.” In a decision that must still be formally approved by each republic’s parliament, the nations will continue to create foreign and defense policy together but will go in different political and economic directions.