Today's Papers

Ramallah Redux?

The papers all lead with word that after yesterday’s bus-bombing that killed 17 people in Israel, Israeli tanks and soldiers attacked Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah early today. The papers say that at least one Palestinian officer was killed in the raid and a few buildings were destroyed. According to late-breaking news in the Los Angeles Times, the troops withdrew about six hours after they entered.

The papers all note that the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for yesterday’s bombing. The Palestinian authority condemned it, and in what the New York Times calls “an unusual” move, the PA also said it had “no connection to the attack.” 

The papers say that though tanks shelled the building Arafat was in, he wasn’t hurt. Israeli officials denied that they were targeting Arafat.

The Washington Post says that explosions from Israel’s move into the compound “could be heard as far away as Bethlehem, about 20 miles south of Ramallah.” The LAT says two main buildings were “flattened.”

The Wall Street Journal  and NYT say that the White House appears to be warming to the idea of pushing Arafat aside. Said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, “In the president’s eyes, Yasser Arafat has never played a role of someone who could be trusted or who was effective.”

The papers follow-up on yesterday’s NYT report that the Justice Departmentplansto fingerprint and register visa-holders in the U.S. who pose “national security concerns.” The Post says that the Justice Dept’s statement that the criteria for deciding to track individual foreigners won’t be based simply on which country they’re from; the Justice Dept. said that the exact criteria will be kept secret.

Experts cited in the papers said they were concerned that the I.N.S. is too understaffed and poorly managed to handle what would be an enormous new workload.

Meanwhile, Arab-American groups continued to slam the proposal. “What is next? Forcing American Muslims to wear a star and crescent as a means of identification for law enforcement authorities?” asked the leader of one group, in the LAT.

Citing congressional investigators, the WP reports insidethat“the evidence that lay unexamined” from Zacarias Moussaoui’s computer and notes “was even more valuable than previously believed.” According to the investigators, a notebook and letters link Moussaoui to a key al-Qaida cell in Hamburg as well as to a figure who was at the big pre-9/11 al-Qaida get-together in Malaysia. Prior to Sept. 11, FBI HQ overruled an agent’s request for a warrant to search Moussaoui’s stuff. The Post says that the connections are “certain to fuel questions about whether authorities missed vital clues leading up to Sept. 11.”

Meanwhile, everybody notes that Minneapolis FBI lawyer Coleen Rowley, who has complained that the bureau’s HQ “inexplicably undermined” efforts to get the warrant, will testify in congressional hearings today.

The Journal notes that two senators plan to introduce legislation to make it easier for authorities to get the type of national-security search warrant that agents had wanted to search Moussaoui’s computer. Specifically, the senators said they’re going to propose lifting the requirement that the FBI show that the target of the warrant is an agent of a foreign power. 

The WP fronts two pieces based on an interview with FBI Director Robert Mueller (more precisely, “a ninety-minute lunch” Mueller had with some of the paper’s reporters and editors). 

In one piece, Mueller says that the agency has put a“substantial” number of people suspected of terror-ties under constant surveillance. He said that the effort has strained FBI resources but added that he doesn’t see another option since many of the suspects can’t be arrested or deported: “They may be here in the United States legitimately and they have committed no crime.”

The Post’s other front-page Mueller story says that the director “explained that investigators believe the idea of the Sept. 11 attacks came from al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan, the actual plotting was done in Germany, and the financing came through the United Arab Emirates from sources in Afghanistan.”

According to a WSJ report, in 1996 U.S. investigators “nearlycaptured” the man who may have masterminded Sept. 11. At the time, the U.S. wanted to nab Khalid Shaikh Mohammad for planning to hijack a series of planes over the Pacific. The Journal says investigators raided Mohammad’s apartment in Qatar but found it empty.

The NYT goes inside with word that Indian officials say their intel reports suggest that Pakistan has ordered militants to stop crossing into Indian territory. But as the NYT’s off-lead emphasizes, India’s prime minister insists that not only do the incursions need to stop, but Pakistan also needs to dismantle the militants’ training bases.

The papers mostly go inside with news that President Bush phoned leaders of both countries to push them away from war and to prep them for the visits of top U.S. officials. The NYT off-leads the calls, explaining, “The back-to-back conversations suddenly made Mr. Bush a central if reluctant player in the dispute.”

The papers go high with the U.S. soccer team’s 3-2 upset victory over fifth-ranked Portugal in the World Cup. USA Today calls the win, “perhaps the greatest in U.S. soccer history.”

Let your fingers do the walking … Today’s USAT offers readers a well, interesting, feature: “Now open: USA Today’s foot hotline. Experts from the American Podiatric Medical Association are standing by to answer questions about foot problems.”

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