Today's Papers

Eyes Wide Shut

The Washington Post  leads with news that months before Sept. 11, the CIA knew that two of the future highjackers were connected to terrorism, yet the agency did not put them on the terror watch list and the men were thus able to enter the country. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word from lawmakers that the congressional investigation into 9/11-related intel failures won’t only scrutinize the FBI and CIA. The probe, set to begin this week, will examine everyone from the FAA to the National Security Agency (that’s the electronic eavesdropping agency responsible for picking up all that “chatter.”) The Los Angeles Times’ lead emphasizes that India’s prime minister said yesterday that there’s little chance India and Pakistan will meet to try to resolve their issues. The New York Times’ lead also says that the situation in the subcontinent doesn’t look too promising. But the Times points out up high that two top U.S. officials are heading to the region to engage in a bit of “arm-twisting,” though “there’s no sign that they have any dramatic new proposals.” USA Today leads with a piece noting that the Senate’s version of the homeland security bill is stuffed with pork. Non-defense-related add-ons include $5 million to subsidize farmers’ markets and $2.5 million to map corral reefs in Hawaii. The White House requested $27 billion for domestic-defense related spending; the Senate’s bill, which may go to a vote this week, weighs in at $31 billion.

The NYT, which off-leads the CIA’s foul-up, points out that while the CIA now appears to have known that one of the men was connected to terrorists as early as the beginning of 2000, “the agency had said previously that it did not learn of his connections to al-Qaida until the month before the hijackings.” (The CIA did warn other agencies about the bad guys last August, but the FBI couldn’t find the two men.) The papers all credit Newsweek with breaking news of the CIA’s delay.

As everybody notes, one of the men’s visas expired in 2001, but the State Department, unaware that the CIA knew he was connected to al-Qaida, simply issued him a new one.

In a potential tip-off to who might have leaked the CIA story, Newsweek says (and the WP notes), “FBI officials have prepared a detailed chart showing how agents could have uncovered the terrorist plot if they had learned about [the two men] sooner.” Said one FBI official, “There’s no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together.”

The WP says, “Newsweek quoted unnamed ‘U.S. counterterrorism officials’ as saying that the agency’s failure ‘may be the most puzzling and devastating intelligence failure in the critical months before September 11.’ ” Not exactly: That sentence appears in the magazine, but not as a quote.

The NYT fronts the story of an embittered Egyptian pilot who once worked for Bin Laden and eventually ratted on al-Qaida for the FBI. Now, the pilot says the FBI hasn’t given him as much protection as it had promised.And the man’s FBI handler seems to agree. “I said, ‘Help us, and we’ll help you,’ And it didn’t work out,” says the agent.  “It’s been a whole ugly mess.”

The WP off-leads with tidbits from a Marine Corps “after-action” report on the war in Afghanistan. Among the key findings/contentions, the report concluded that having the commander’s headquarters so far from the battlefield (it’s in Florida) was (surprise) an impediment to smooth communications between HQ and fighting units.

The NYT fronts word that “in a stark shift,” the Bush administration has sent the U.N. a report “detailing specific and far-reaching effects” that global warming will have on the American environment. (For example, the report says that “a few ecosystems are likely to disappear entirely in some areas.”) As the Times points out, the report “does not propose any major shift in the administration’s policy” and simply “recommends adapting to inevitable changes.”

Meanwhile, the LAT notices that “a number of senior career officials across several environmental agencies” have quit recently in protest over what they say are the Bush administration’s overly business-friendly environmental policies.

The WSJ says that Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres unveiled a peace plan yesterday calling for the centralization of Palestinian security forces, quickly followed (as in a matter of weeks) by the formation of a Palestinian state in about 40 percent of the West Bank and much of Gaza. Then the plan calls for another round of negotiations to nail down a final settlement. As the paper notes, it’s unlikely that Prime Minister Sharon, who’s in a different party than Peres, will support the proposal.

The papers note that in a bid to quiet and co-opt militants, Yasser Arafat has offered high-level government positions to leaders of Hamas and other radical groups. According to a wire story in the WSJ, “It was not clear whether Mr. Arafat was making compliance with his call for an end to suicide attacks a condition for entering the government.” Hamas said it will get back to him later this week.

The NYT’s Bill Safire rips the Justice Department’s newly loosened investigative guidelines:“With not a scintilla of evidence of a crime being committed, the feds will be able to run full investigations for one year. That’s aimed at generating suspicion of criminal conduct—the very definition of a ‘fishing expedition.’ Some sunshine libertarians are willing to suffer this loss of personal freedom in the hope that the Ashcroft-Mueller rules of intrusion may prevent a terror attack. They won’t, because they’re a fraud.” The column is titled: “J. EDGAR MUELLER.”

USAT’s Life section notes that Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris is working on a book to explain her role in the 2000 presidential election recount. It will be titled, Center of the Storm: PracticingPrincipled Leadership in Times of Crisis.