The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Today all lead with the release of the congressional report into 9/11-related intel failures. The papers have been previewing bits of the report for days, but there are plenty of new details, namely how the CIA and FBI had potential leads about the attacks but didn’t talk among themselves to pool the tips together. The Los Angeles Times off-leads the report and leads with California’s Lt. Gov’s announcement that a recall election for Gov. Gray Davis will be held Oct. 7. The ballot will ask voters both whether they want to recall Davis and who they want to replace him.
While the report singles out CIA Director George Tenet—for being “either unwilling or unable to marshal the full range of Intelligence Community resources”—it also names a seemingly endless stream of agencies that fell short: The Treasury Dept. didn’t have a coordinated program to track AQ funds, the National Security Agency (the eavesdropping experts) didn’t do a good job of sharing intel, etc.
The NYT and LAT both give stand-alone pieces to the report’s finding that two of the 9/11 highjackers lived openly in San Diego a year before the attack. They were actually friends with an FBI informant, though the informant says he never knew of the plan. Also, citing the report, the two papers say the CIA knew the men were linked to al-Qaida but, as the LAT puts it, “failed to notify the local FBI.” What neither paper mentions is that not only is none of this new but also the CIA insisted last summer that it warned the FBI about the two men in early 2000.
The report also said that, contrary to previous assumptions, the hijackers had a support network helping them out in the U.S., though as the papersmention, it’s not clear if any of them knew actually knew about the plot.
USAT and the NYT go highest with word from the report that an intel document back in late 1998 included this tip, “Plans to hijack U.S. aircraft proceeding well. Two individuals had successfully evaded checkpoints in dry run at NY airport.” The LAT does the best job of putting the document in context, citing intel officials as saying that the warning was uncorroborated and never confirmed.
Meanwhile, only the Journal goes high with another bit of context: The investigators said they uncovered no intel that “would have provided specific, advance warning of the details of those attacks.” The Journal also notes that the administration refused to give chunks of data that the committee thought would have been helpful.
Everybody ponders the now much-discussed 27-redacted pages from the report that had detailed the hijackers’ “associations” with Saudi Arabian officials. The LAT makes the most of it, giving it Page One play and saying, “U.S. officials fear Riyadh may have given hijackers financial, logistic aid.” But the WP suggests that’s overplaying it. According to the Post, the report says that there may well be “legitimate, and innocent, explanations for these associations.”
The report called for an intel czar to oversee the intelligence agencies that are currently scattered across various departments. The NYT suggests that the White House isn’t into the idea.
Everybody gets Iraqis’ reaction on Udai and Qusai’s final photos. The NYT and USAT see similar sentiments (perhaps because they both stuck around barbershops): Some people weren’t convinced the photos were real. “The doubts will remain because the coalition forces didn’t show them from the front and the sides,” said one barber. The LAT says Iraqis gave “broad approval” for the release of the photos.
The NYT off-leads continued squabbling within the administration about whether to send troops to Liberia. Top generals yesterday warned of the dangers of going in, while a few days ago Secretary of State Powell publicly, though subtly, pushed for a deployment. Despite the Times’ big play, the generals didn’t say they were against sending in troops. They just said any deployment should follow the so-called Powell doctrine: A big force and a clear mission. The LAT mentions the comments quickly in an inside piece.
The LAT fronts late-breaking word that the House passed a bill allowing Americans to import cheaper versions of prescription pills from Canada and Europe. The NYT notices that the passage comes despite FDA officials’ “intense effort” to convince legislators to oppose the bill. According to the Times, such lobbying is “widely interpreted” as illegal.
The NYT notices on Page One that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is set to head to the Middle East next week with the message that a Palestinian state shouldn’t happen anytime soon. “I can’t imagine this president supporting a state of terrorists, a sovereign state of terrorists,” said DeLay.
Post columnist Al Kamen notices that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld appears to still be searching for a word to describe the fighting in Iraq. After a reporter asked yesterday whether Rummy would agree with one of his top generals that it’s a guerrilla war, the Sec Def said he recently flipped through a dictionary, “I have looked up several things, one of which I can’t immediately recapture, but one was ‘guerrilla war,’ another was ‘insurgency,’ and another was ‘unconventional war.’ ” Pause. “Quagmire?” one reporter offered. “No, that’s someone else’s business,” Rumsfeld said. “I don’t do quagmires.” Apparently that leaves Rumsfeld in a lurch. He concluded, “No one of those terms is perfectly appropriate.”