The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times all lead with the White House’s acknowledgment that President Bush was warned a few weeks before 9/11 that Osama Bin Laden might try to hijack planes. The White House emphasized that it didn’t have any information about a specific plot and certainly wasn’t aware that planes would be turned into missiles. Still, the White House did think enough of the warning to send it out to federal agencies, although, obviously, not to the public as well. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with word that Yasser Arafat, responding to international and Palestinian pressure, said the Palestinian Authority will be reformed and that elections will be held, though he didn’t give many details. USA Today’s lead reports, “In the eight months since the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, the Bush administration has moved more quickly than any administration since World War II to make government activities, documents and other information secret, liberals and conservatives say.” The paper says that critics are most concerned about the Justice Department’s refusal to release information about post-Sept. 11 detainees.
The papers all say that the White House copped to knowing about the threat after CBS News broke word of it. The White House said the alert wasn’t related to the other warnings that have been uncovered in the past few weeks.
The NYT says, “It was not clear this evening why the White House waited eight months after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington to reveal what Mr. Bush had been told.”
Meanwhile, the WSJ notes that the FBI has concluded that 9/11 hijackers deposited and eventually withdrew a total of $300,000 from U.S. banks before the attacks. The paper says, “The details of the hijackers’ finances confirm what investigators have long believed: that the Sept. 11 operation was essentially run on a shoestring.”
The Journal’s piece also says that for all the recent talk about 9/11-warnings, “No paper trail or computer evidence uncovered so far would have provided advance details of the Sept. 11 plot.”
The papers mention that in his speech on reform, Arafat also denounced terror attacks again, though it wasn’t exactly a rousing condemnation: “Palestinian and Arab public opinion have now become convinced that these operations will not serve our interests and goals and yet they antagonize large segments of the international community.”
Citing anonymous Israeli military officials, the NYT stuffs word that Israel opposes U.S. efforts to help the Palestinian Authority rebuild its security forces. The officers said that it’s a waste to do that before the PA is reformed.
The Times also quotes the Israeli officers warning that its military will still go into Gaza, probably after the next big terror attack. “It will happen,” said one official. “It is a question of time.”
The NYT and LAT note inside that international donors have concluded that Israel’s recent military offensive in the West Bank caused $360 million in physical damage. Interestingly, Jenin wasn’t the town hardest hit; that was Nablus, with $114 million worth of needed repairs.
The NYT mentions that the Palestinians’ dissatisfaction with the Authority “is seen as no immediate threat to Mr. Arafat’s hold on power.”
Everybody reports that India’s defense minister said, “Pakistan is directly responsible for” this week’s attack on an Indian army base that killed 34, including civilians. The minister also said that the attack “calls for punishment” but suggested that India won’t immediately retaliate. Pakistan denied that it was behind the attacks.
The papers all report that Dutch voters yesterday tossed out the governing liberal coalition and voted in a conservative party.
TheWP fronts word that immigration applications are piling up at the INS because the B-list agency doesn’t have enough computers or trained personnel to properly use a newly required background-check database. “It’s becoming a nightmare for our office,” said one INS employee.
The Post goes inside with word that 40 members of Congress, 20 Dems and 20 Republicans, urged the president to ease sanctions against Cuba, something he’s muy unlikely to do.
The LAT off-leads a scoop that’s gonna make waves: Citing documents and interviews, the paper says that in 1986 a priest told L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony that he molested young boys; the priest, Father Michael Stephen Baker, was reassigned to another parish and allegedly continued abusing children for another decade. Among the cardinals, Mahony has been outspoken in calling for the church to not tolerate priests who abuse children.
The LAT, which interviewed Baker, says that when the priest told Cardinal Mahony that he had abused children, “an archdiocese lawyer suggested calling the police but Mahony said no.”
USAT goes inside with an interesting piece noting that some in Congress are trying to create a plan for how to continue working in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack. Currently, the Constitution says that vacancies in the House can only be filled by special elections. Now some in Congress are pushing for an amendment to allow governors to name replacements if 25 percent or more of House members are unable to serve.
The LAT, in a revealing op-ed, quotes an opponent of Arafat saying, “Bush is naive if he thinks Arafat is the man to clean the mess. He is at the center of a system of corruption. There can be no reform unless Arafat goes.” The person quoted isn’t a Likudnik or even an Israeli; he’s a Palestinian journalist.