The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and New York Timesall lead with the Justice Department’s announcement that it has opened a full criminal investigation into the apparent outing of a CIA agent by at least one White House official. White House lawyers ordered staff to preserve any documents that might be pertinent to the investigation. USA Today leads with the FCC’s decision to try to start up the national Do Not Call list today despite a court order saying the list as currently configured is a violation of the First Amendment. The FCC can go forward because the judge’s order only blocked the FTC from using the list; at least that’s what FCC lawyers tell the papers. The Los Angeles Times’ lead unveils another poll on the recall showing Arnold ahead— leading Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante 40 percent to 32 percent—and showing a solid majority of likely voters (56 percent) want Gov. Gray Davis out. Independent Arianna Huffington pulled out of the race, saying staying in would help Arnold win.
Speaking about the potentially illegal leak for the first time, President Bush called Justice’s investigation a “good thing.” He added, “There’s just too many leaks in Washington, and if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. If the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of.”
The Justice Department said the decision to open a criminal investigation was made by a career bureaucrat and not Attorney General Ashcroft. Some Democrats are still pushing for an independent counsel to be named, something the Justice Dept. said it’s not ruling out. Slate’s Tim Noah begs Congress not to bring back the independent counsel statute.
A subtle softening: The LAT’s national edition headline, “BUSH SAYS JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROBE INTO LEAK IS ENOUGH;” the headline in the paper’s final edition, “BUSH SAYS LEAK PROBE IS JOB FOR JUSTICE DEPT.” Then there’s USAT: “BUSH WELCOMES PROBE OF CIA LEAK.” The multi-hued paper puts the criminal probe on A-6.
The WP and Journal profile “the man behind the furor” (WP): former ambassador Joseph Wilson. He, of course, publicly countered the Bush administration’s assertions that Saddam had sought uranium from Africa, after which somebody outed his wife as a CIA agent. The WSJ goes a bit negative on Wilson: “Mr. Wilson’s actions lately also have raised questions in the minds of some people about his own judgment.” The paper explains that while Wilson once essentially accused top Bush adviser Karl Rove of having been the leaker, he’s since acknowledged, “I got carried away.” He still says that Rove at least encouraged the leak after the fact.
The Post looks more deeply into Wilson’s past and finds no dirt. Apparently, he’s a bit of a show-off, but former colleagues dig him, especially for his courageous stint running the U.S. embassy in Baghdad in 1990 as it sheltered more than 100 Americans who Saddam wanted to use as human shields. “I love Joe Wilson,” said one self-ID’d conservative American who was there. “I don’t give a damn what his politics are.”
The Post editorializes on the leaking investigation and frankly doesn’t say much. While an editorial in the Journal sees it as a red herring: “The real intelligence scandal is how an open opponent of the U.S. war on terror such as Mr. Wilson was allowed to become one of that policy’s investigators.”
The papers briefly note inside that an American soldier was killed yesterday and two wounded in an attack in Afghanistan. Nobody has a bylined story on it. Media magazine Editor & Publisher just published a piece about the papers’ lack of coverage in Afghanistan.
Today’s Post, in fairness, has a piece (inside) profiling one Afghan province where reconstruction is going fairly well.
The LAT, USAT, and WP front another arrest from Guantanamo Bay, a civilian translator detained at Boston’s airport after he was found carrying classified info on CDs from the base and reportedly lied about it. It’s the third potential espionage arrest in Gitmo that authorities have announced in the past 10 days. Officials said they have no info that the cases are connected.
The NYT notes on Page One that a panel appointed by the Bush administration has concluded that among Arabs and Muslims abroad, “hostility toward America has reached shocking levels.” The panel said that while foreign policy may be the root of the problem, the administration is also short-changing so-called public diplomacy (that is, propaganda, though not always in the bad sense). Spending on such projects has gone down about 40 percent in the past decade.
Best factoid in the Post’s Wilson profile … He and his wife go to the same church as one … Karl Rove. Wilson recalls his wife saying, “Perhaps the next time we are taking communion I should introduce myself so he can see that I have a face and a name other than ‘fair game.’ “