The Los Angeles Times leads with word that hard-liner Álvaro Uribe won Colombia’s presidential elections in a landslide yesterday. Uribe has promised to double the size of Colombia’s army and use a “hard hand” against the country’s guerrillas. The New York Times leads with a summary of President’s Bush’s meeting with French President Chirac and Bush’s efforts to cool down tensions between India and Pakistan. The paper emphasizes that for the second time in two days, Bush “chastised” Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf, telling him that he had to “show results in terms of stopping people from crossing the Line of Control, stopping terrorism.” The Washington Post leads with, and the others front, details of a memo that a FBI lawyer recently sent to the agency’s director, Robert Mueller, charging that at least one official in the FBI’s headquarters “consistently, almost deliberately, thwart[ed] the Minnesota FBI[’s] efforts” to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s computer before Sept. 11. (As the papers note, Time magazine has gotten hold of, and published, the full, though slightly edited, memo.).
The letter’s author, Coleen Rowley, wrote, “Although I agree it’s very doubtful that the full scope of the tragedy could have been prevented, it’s at least possible we could have gotten lucky and uncovered one or two more of the terrorists in flight training prior to Sept. 11.” Rowley slams Mueller for not acknowledging that, charging him with a “delicate and subtle shading/skewing of facts.”
The NYT wraps its Rowley coverage into a wider piece based on “interviews with more than a dozen” officials. (That doesn’t sound like such a big number.) The story suggests why the FBI might have been hesitant to get a warrant to search Moussaoui’s computer: It turns out that judges had complained in the fall of 2000 that the FBI had submitted “misleading affidavits” in support of such national-security-type warrants.
The letter also slammed FBI culture for rewarding bureaucratic hesitancy. As the WP points out, Rowley says that the supervising agent who hampered the Moussaoui investigation has since been promoted.
The Times’ Bill Safire chimes in on the memo, asking, “Why did F.B.I. Director Mueller desperately stamp the memo ‘classified’?” Safire answers, “To protect the bureau’s crats and cover his own posterior.”
Everybody notes that Colombia’s president-elect Uribe plans to ask the U.S. for more military aid. Currently, U.S. law says that such aid can only be used for counter-drug operations and not against the guerrillas. Uribe is likely to ask the U.S. to change that policy, a move the Bush administration supports.
The WP has an interesting stat: In a region formerly controlled by the rebels, citizens favored Uribe over his more negotiations-friendly opponent by a 3-to-1 margin.
Human-rights groups have expressed concern that Uribe will give a free hand to illegal right-wing paramilitaries that have been responsible for a large number of civilian killings and have been linked to various officers in the Colombian military.
Everybody notes that an interstate bridge collapsed yesterday in Oklahoma after it was hit by an out-of-control barge, causing about a dozen cars to plunge into the Arkansas River. Three people have been confirmed killed, and authorities expect to find about ten more bodies.
The WP has a dispatch from the frontlines in Kashmir. The piece notes that India has been responsible for the majority of artillery barrages, which are “fairly indiscriminate” (as one western diplomat put it) and often hit civilians. “We’re doing much more than they are,” acknowledged one Indian security official. “The army is agitated. This will vent their anger and keep them busy.”
The NYT goes inside with a report from Afghan villagers who say that American troops raiding their village a few days ago killed their 100-year-old village elder and took away men who have no connection to the Taliban or al-Qaida. The Times devotes most of the article to airing the villagers’ complaints that the U.S. got the wrong guys. But it also notes, “Local officials have said Taliban remain active in the region.”
The LAT reports that U.S. soldiers in the Philippines will pull out in July “even though an Islamic extremist group linked to al-Qaida continues to operate in the region.” The LAT waits until the ninth paragraph to explain that, at least officially, the troops aren’t leaving ahead of schedule; instead “the six-month deployment of U.S. troops will end as planned July 31.”
The LAT has an interesting front-page piece pointing out that the recently passed $190 billion farm subsidy bill will almost certainly lead to an “overproduction” of crops, thus driving down prices and “making it more difficult for small, unsubsidized Third World farmers to compete.”
The NYT’s Gina Kolatareports that full-body CAT scans, which are increasingly popular, are being overused. While the scans can detect tiny abnormalities, “under close enough scrutiny, almost everyone will have some abnormality.” As one scientist put it, the scans are “a prescription for panic.”
The NYT savors some presidential faux pas yesterday, and not just from W. The Times notes that French President Chirac claimed,“The United States and Europe are the two major economic powers in the world.” Says the NYT, “That may come as news to Japan, the world’s second-largest economy.”
Not be outdone, President Bush, commenting on his plan to visit Normandy today, said, “For the first time ever, if I’m not mistaken, the president of the United States will not be in the United States on Memorial Day.” The Times says, “It turns out he was mistaken: The last president to commemorate Memorial Day outside the United States was his own father, in Italy 13 years ago.”