The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times lead, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box, with the latest on 9/11-related intelligence failures: a letter from the general counsel of the FBI field office in Minneapolis that attacks the FBI director’s claim that no information available could have prevented the disaster. News of the letter prompted FBI head Robert Mueller to request a Justice Department probe into the complaints it raised. USA Today fronts news of the probe and leads with news that many new air marshals are being put on planes with less marksmanship training than before—one source estimates that as many as three-quarters of currently active marshals have not passed the—formerly mandatory—advanced marksmanship test. The New York Times leads with President Bush’s speech in Berlin, the first ever by an American president in the German Reichstag, where he called terrorist groups a “new totalitarian threat.”
The letter from general counsel Coleen Rowley focuses on Minneapolis field agents’ investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, particularly their frustrated attempts to obtain a warrant to search his computer. The WP story calls the letter “the clearest sign of dissent within the FBI over whether the bureau mishandled clues,” and the NYT says that the letter is the first instance of a senior official publicly challenging the FBI’s version of events.
The WSJ story goes high with news that the field agents were so frustrated that they broke protocol and sought help from the CIA, for which they were reprimanded. The NYT notes that Rowley sought “whistle blower” status but that the agency is exempt from the federal law that protects whistle blowers who work for the federal government.
The NYT also has a scoop: a peek at a “law enforcement summary” of interviews of a Moussaoui associate by FBI agents in Minneapolis last August. The man, who is a witness in Moussaoui’s trial, said that Moussaoui told him, among other things, that it was “acceptable to kill civilians who harm Muslims.”
Transportation Security Administration officials admit that they no longer require air marshals to pass the advanced marksmanship test but add that marshals will be retested for firearms proficiency more frequently than before. The story doesn’t say when the requirements changed.
The NYT says that Bush’s speech made allusions to Hitler and appeasement in its attempt to shore up European approval for the United States’ anti-terrorism efforts. The WP stuffs Bush’s speech and fronts a story saying the Joint Chiefs of Staff have convinced the “civilian leadership” in the Pentagon to postpone plans for an invasion of Iraq, and to alter the aggressive diplomatic posturing that would make an invasion virtually inevitable. The Joint Chiefs’ campaign, which included a “secret briefing” of President Bush by Army Chief Gen. Tommy Franks, was prompted by new estimates of the manpower such an invasion would require: as many as 200,000 troops, more than many experts had previously believed.
The LAT fronts an update on the case of alleged “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. Court documents filed yesterday maintain that Reid had “at least one” accomplice in his December attempt to blow up a Miami-bound American Airlines plane, and law enforcement sources say they are “damn sure he was part of a terrorist organization.” Officials also say that Reid may be “a new kind of hybrid terrorist, with links to Al Qaeda as well as Hamas, Hezbollah or other major terrorist organizations.”
The WP front notes the Senate’s passage of a bill that would give President Bush “most, but not all” the authority he sought to negotiate trade agreements, while providing an additional $6 billion to programs aiding workers who lose jobs to foreign competition. “Key senators” tell the WP that a compromised version of the bill should pass in the House later this year.
The WP also devotes front-page space to Enron-related documents coughed up by the White House this week, but it waits until after the jump (Paragraph 8) to say, “Nothing in the report refutes the White House’s contention that no official did anything or suggested doing anything to bail out Enron.”
The NYT fronts the latest on increasing tension between Pakistan and India: Pakistan’s plans to shift troops from its Afghan border, where they’re hunting al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, to the front in Kashmir.
The LAT notes the coming release of the first Afghan film of the post-Taliban era. Shot for $300, Teardrops, which will soon air on Afghan television, tells the story of a young man’s descent into drug addiction.
All the fronts mark the passing of “Slammin’ ” Sam Snead, the golf legend who won a record 81 PGA Tour events. Snead was 89.
Thank you for not hydrating … The USAT reports on controversy surrounding a product that may hit shelves next month—Nico Water, a bottled water containing nicotine. The company plans to market the water to smokers who can’t light up in offices, planes, or restaurants, but critics are concerned that the water could spark rampant nicotine addiction in children. The FDA has already warned online vendors of nicotine lollipops and lip balms to desist, saying that their products are illegal, but it has yet to weigh in on the water wars. Today’s Papers couldn’t help but notice that the rise of nicotine-laced products could lead to a very insidious way to get the kids to eat their veggies. Nico Sprouts, anyone?