The New York Times leads with word that over 100 Israeli military vehicles moved into Nablus today in search of Palestinian militants. The move appears to be in response to Wednesday’s Hamas attack on a Hebrew University cafeteria. Israeli officials said that Nablus is an operational center for Hamas. Early unconfirmed reports say that three Palestinians have been killed, one a member of Hamas. The Los Angeles Times and USA Today lead with the very public arrests by federal authorities of WorldCom’s former chief financial officer and former controller. The LAT, NYT and Washington Post front photos of the two men in handcuffs being led off to face charges of securities fraud, conspiracy, and lying to the SEC. The WP leads with news that many Senate and House intelligence committees members have refused to take FBI polygraph tests intended to find out just what they know about the leak of the NSA’s Sept. 10 intercepts that warned of the next day’s terrorist attacks. The lawmakers don’t want to take the test because they think it is a violation of the constitutional separation of powers to have one federal branch polygraphing another and because they think the test is unreliable. The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox reports that the Senate voted 64 to 34 to give President Bush trade promotion authority after a Senate-House conference agreed to give subsidized health insurance and job-training to workers displaced by foreign competition. Bush needs just to sign the bill, then he is free to negotiate trade deals—first, most likely, with Chile and Singapore—that Congress can veto but not amend.
The papers report that other WorldCom executives may be arrested for their roles in hiding about $4 billion in expenses. Most everyone notes the feds were unusually speedy in getting the two WorldCom executives charged, possibly because the administration wants to demonstrate it’s getting tough on corporate crime. An NYT news analysis begins: “Two former senior executives at WorldCom became the newest symbols today in the Bush administration’s broadening effort to use prosecutions to fend off political problems.”
Under the headline “FBI LEAK PROBE IRKS LAWMAKERS,” the WP’s lead says that some lawmakers are angry with the FBI inquiry and don’t like the fact that an agency they oversee is investigating them. The chairmen of the intelligence committees asked for the probe into the leaks, the paper reminds. Several days ago USAT ran a piece that said some members of the intelligence committees have welcomed their FBI interviews because they believe leaks are damaging.
The papers report that Bush described himself as “furious” about the deaths of five Americans in the cafeteria bombing. Bush said he believes Israel must defend herself, and the NYT says according to Middle East experts, this means that the administration is letting Israel handle any response on the U.S.’s behalf. The FBI has opened an investigation into the deaths of the Americans, the paper says. A Hamas spokesman said the group was happy about the attack but regretted the American deaths, the NYT reports.
The LAT offleads word that according to a senior administration official, the White House now supports the claim that hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague. The official said that evidence of the meeting “holds up,” though the FBI and CIA have maintained for months that there is no such hard evidence. The paper notes that the White House is under pressure to provide a convincing rationale for attacking Iraq.
Inside the papers is news that Iraq has asked the U.N. secretary general to send weapons inspectors to Baghdad for talks in what Iraq’s vice president called a “healthy solution” to the problems between Iraq and the international community. According to the NYT, U.N. officials worry that Saddam doesn’t really want to be cooperative and is just trying to avert disaster.
The LAT fronts and the others go inside with a report that two California teenage girls are now safe after being kidnapped and raped. The girls were abducted at gunpoint by men in parked cars. The state’s new child-abduction alert system, which gave a description of a kidnapper’s car on highway displays and media statewide, led police to a kidnapper who they then killed when he threatened them.
The WSJ fronts more goodies from the computer it bought on the streets of Kabul several months back. The computer files describe a very strained early relationship between al-Qaida and the Taliban, contrary to U.S. perceptions at the time. Terrorists made fun of their primitive adopted home, and the Taliban came close to kicking out Osama Bin Laden. Then the two sides gradually made up after the U.S. fired cruise missiles at Afghanistan in 1998 and later celebrated their reconciliation by blowing up the country’s ancient Buddhist statues.
The papers say that the FBI searched possible anthrax mailer Steven Hatfill’s Maryland apartment for a second time but wouldn’t say what they were looking for. Hatfill is not officially a suspect.
The papers go inside with the results of a United Nations probe of the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp in April: There is no evidence of the massacre Palestinians claim took place there.
The NYT seems amused by more “election confusion for the Florida secretary of state” Katherine Harris. Harris is running for Congress, and she apparently became confused and broke her state’s election laws by failing to resign her post when she officially qualified to run. Democrats are investigating whether she was working both for the state and for herself in the weeks before she turned in her late resignation. “Once again, it looks like we’ll be the object of many political cartoons across the country,” said one Florida politics expert.