Today's Papers

Taking It to the Bank

Everybody leads with yesterday’s bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 19 people and word that in response Israel announced early this morning that it will retake parts of the West Bank. The attack was Jerusalem’s deadliest bombing in six years.

According to an Israeli government statement, “It was decided to change Israel’s policy of response to terror. Against terrorist acts, Israel will respond by capturing territories of the Palestinian Authority. These territories will be held by Israel as long as terror continues.”

The papers all catch news of the reoccupation policy, but it broke late enough that they don’t have what would have been the requisite reaction and new analysis pieces.

Everybody notes that Hamas claimed responsibility for yesterday’s bombing, and that the attacker has been identified as a 22-year-old man from Nablus. The Wall Street Journal mentions that the bomber left a note, which read in part, “How beautiful it is to kill and to be killed.”

According to early-morning reports, Israeli tanks have moved into at least three Palestinian towns.

The Washington Post  goes above the fold with word that “President Bushplans in the coming days to propose the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional boundaries.” (USA Today led with this yesterday, although it didn’t have as many details.) The Post says that the state could be created by September, but adds that U.S. support of its creation will be contingent upon the Palestinian Authority cracking down on militants. The other papers emphasize that the proposal has been delayed because of the bombing. The Post, which also mentions this, says that Bush is expected to unveil the plan sometime “between Thursday and Monday.”

The WSJ emphasizes that Bush hasn’t even finalized the proposal. “There are still some big moving pieces,” one unnamed administration official told the paper.

The WP buries on page A10 news that two new FBI whistle-blowers have come forward alleging lax security and possibly even espionage. In one case, an FBI manager responsible for “intelligence investigations covering India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, said counterintelligence and counterterrorism training has declined drastically in recent years as part of a continuing pattern of poor management.” In the other case, a FBI wiretap translator reported that another translator appeared to actually be a member of a foreign group that she was tasked with translating wiretaps from.

The WP off-leads news that the al-Qaida operative believed to have been the recruiter of the Sept. 11 hijackers,Mohammed Haydar Zammar, is in custody in Syria, and has been there for a few months with the knowledge, and perhaps assistance, of the U.S. The paper notes that U.S. officials themselves haven’t been able to interrogate Zammar, but they have been allowed to submit questions to Syrian officials who then, no doubt, gently ask Zammar for an answer. The Post correctly takes credit for suggesting last week that Zammar was in somebody’s custody. 

The papers all have other news about al-Qaida guys who now find themselves behind bars: Moroccan officials announced that they had captured Abu Zubair, said by wire reports to be one of Osama Bin Laden’s top “three or four” lieutenants. (His nickname, by the way, is “the bear,” because he weighs about 300 pounds.) Also, Saudi Arabia announced that it has arrested 13 suspected al-Qaida members who it believes were part of a plot to use Soviet-made portable missiles to shoot down American jets. The New York Times says that by announcing the arrests, which were made “some months ago,” Saudi Arabia reversed “months of denials that any members of al-Qaida might be lurking in the kingdom.”

The NYT reports that, though Bush administration officials all seem to agree that the U.S. will eventually need to invade Iraq, officials disagree on what kind of invasion there should be: The Pentagon wants to go in big, with at least 200,000 GIs. While some civilian defense officials, led by Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, say that the U.S. can win with a small-scale Afghanistan-type operation. (By the way, plenty of ink has already been devoted to this apparent divide. See, for example, the Washington Monthly’s June cover story.)

The NYT says that the White House handed Congress the administration’s proposed bill to overhaul the country’s domestic defense agencies. The paper points out that the bill requires the FBI and CIA to hand intel reports over to the new Department of Homeland Security, but doesn’t require the spooks to give up raw data, like tapes or transcripts. (Given that, the Times could probably have come up with a better subhead, which currently reads, “CIA and F.B.I. Would Turn Data Over.”)

USAT mentions that somebody fired a few rockets in Kabul yesterday, and one of them landed near the U.S. embassy. Nobody was injured.

In a front-page piece, the Post points out that drug companies donated at least $700,000 to attend a Republican fund-raiser, just “two days after Republicans unveiled a prescription drug plan the industry is backing.” Not that there’s anything particularly unusual about that. As the Post says, “Every company giving money to the event has business before Congress.”

The sixth paragraph of that article features a nice admission, “A senior House GOP leadership aide said yesterday that Republicans are working hard behind the scenes to make sure that the party’s prescription drug plan for the elderly suits drug companies.” (It would have been better if the WP had actually included the relevant quote.)

The papers all note that Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura announced that he won’t seek re-election. He said he was sick of attacks from the press, whom he has termed “jackals.” A few days ago, the media busted on Ventura’s son for having had a raging, furniture-damaging, party in the governor’s mansion.

On Monday, Today’s Papers mentioned that it was perplexed by the reports that President Bush has authorized covert operatives to fire at Saddam Hussein in situations of self-defense. Today’s Los Angeles Times has a possible explanation, in the form of a fascinating  op-ed  from Scott Ritter, an outspoken former U.N. weapons inspector. He writes:

As early as 1992, the Iraqis viewed the teams I led inside Iraq as a threat to the safety of their president. Those concerns were largely baseless while I was in Iraq. Now that President Bush has specifically approved authorized American covert-operations forces to remove Hussein, however, the Iraqis will never trust an inspection regime. The true target of the supposed CIA plan may not be Hussein but rather the weapons inspection program itself.