Today's Papers

Guns Controlled

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with news that New York City authorities ramped up security at various landmarks after the FBI told them of uncorroborated and non-specific intelligence that NYC tourist spots may be on terrorists’ agenda. The New York Times leads with word that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said he will push for the creation of an independent commission to investigate Sept. 11 intel failures, despite White House and Republican opposition. They argue that an independent investigation would air security loopholes and could, as Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas put it, “make Osama Bin Laden’s job easier.” Daschle said he’ll push for a vote ASAP and suggested that even if the bill gets shot down, he’ll still get at least part of what he wants because those who’ll vote against it will have to go on record as doing so. The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post lead with the administration’s ruling that pilots on commercial airliners won’t be allowed to carry guns onboard. The Transportation Security Administration did say that it’s still considering arming pilots with non-lethal weapons. The papers point out that Congress might overrule the administration and pass a law giving pilots the power to pack heat. USA Today leads with word that although an Oct. 2001 government report warned that terrorists could plant bombs on planes by shipping them as cargo, the Transportation Security Administration has “failed to remedy [the] flaws.”

According to USAT, “A TSA source said the shortcomings are well known to agency officials—and perhaps to terrorists.” (Well, if they didn’t already know, they do now. USAT’s story has a fair amount of detail.)

The WP says the New York City alert is about on par with the ones that have gone out in recent weeks about “banks, nuclear power plants, water systems, shopping malls, supermarkets, and apartment buildings.”

Everybody notes that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said yesterday that terrorists will “inevitably” get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. The NYT’s headline on this development calls it “THE WARNING DU JOUR.”

Everybody notes that despite all the chatter about terror threats, the Office of Homeland Security’s terror-advisory remains set at a fairly mellow yellow. When asked by the LAT exactly how and when the Homeland Security office decides to changes colors, a spokeswoman responded, “There is a certain art to this.”

The WP fronts word that soon after FBI officials received the now-infamous Phoenix memo, they quickly concluded that it wasn’t a pressing matter and rejected the memo’s suggestion that the government investigate whether al-Qaida operatives were training at U.S. flight schools.

Story idea alert: According to the 18th paragraph of the WP’s lead story, “The House Appropriations Committee is poised to cut the Transportation Security Administration request for $4.4 billion in emergency funding by $400 million and to limit the agency to 45,000 employees instead of the 67,000 it says it needs.” Why?

Everybody notes that a moderate separatist leader in India-controlled Kashmir was assassinated yesterday. Pakistan and India blamed each other for the killing. But the NYT suggests that Pakistani-influenced hardliners may have done it because they oppose anybody who’s willing to negotiate with India.Everybody mentions that the killing, of course, further ratcheted up tension in the region.

The WP off-leads news that the Justice Department plans to file suit against a number of Florida counties charging that they violated some voters’ rights in the last presidential election. According to an assistant attorney general, the suits will be filed in about a month, at which point he said it’s likely that the counties will have already agreed to settle the cases and implement appropriate fixes. Critics complained that out of 11,000 voter complaints, the feds decided to file suit in only five cases.

The Post says, “The suits would not seek to overturn the presidential election’s results.” Smart move.

The NYT reports that American planes bombed a group of suspected guerrillas in Afghanistan as they appeared to be setting up mortars to attack a U.S. airbase.

Everybody notes that the State Department released it annual terrorism report yesterday, which concluded that Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba all support terrorism. But as the NYT emphasizes, the report also said that Libya and the Sudan are moving “to get out of the terrorism business.”

A blurb in the WSJ’s world-wide newsbox briefly mentions that an “independent Palestinian poll found that support is declining for both suicide bombers and Arafat.”

The NYT’s Business section reports that back when Vice President Cheney waschief executive of the Halliburton Corporation, the company engaged in some sketchy accounting. Namely, in 1998 Halliburton began “to book revenue on the assumption that its customers would pay at least part” of disputed bills. According to the paper, “Accounting specialists said that the change stretched and may have broken accounting rules.”

Oh, and by the way, who was Halliburton’s auditor at the time? According to the Times, Arthur Andersen.

Everybody goes high with word that Merrill Lynch, the nation’s largest brokerage firm, agreed to a $100 million fine and apologized to investors for offering biased and misleading stock tips. The deal, which came after New York’s attorney general filed a complaint, also calls for the company to enact a number of reforms to ensure that its analysts don’t have a conflict of interest. Some critics said the deal doesn’t go far enough. 

The NYT’s Tom Friedman sends a message to the White House in the headline of his column: “COOL IT!” “Let’s make a deal,” he says. “We won’t criticize the administration for not anticipating 9/11 if it won’t terrorize the country by now predicting every possible nightmare scenario, but no specific ones, post-9/11.”