Today's Papers

Uh O’Neill

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with the Supreme Court’s upholding government secrecy around detainees picked up in post-9/11 sweeps. USA Today leads with, and others front, the Treasury Department moving to launch a probe in response to what a spokesman suggested was former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill’s outing of classified documents on 60 Minutes Sunday night. The Los Angeles Times leads with Mexican President Vicente Fox calling President Bush’s immigration proposal, “a very important step forward.” Appearing with Fox at a regional get-together, President Bush reiterated, “This plan is not amnesty.” Bush also made nice to Fox and invited him to the ranch. The LAT reminds that many in Latin America don’t like Bush, who they think has ignored them; the U.S. is also getting blame for the region’s sputtering economies, which many attribute to failed free-market reforms.

Without comment, the Supreme Court let stand an appeals court ruling that the government doesn’t have to release any information about the arrests, not the detainees’ names nor what they were charged with. “The judiciary owes some measure of deference to the executive in cases implicating national security,” wrote the appeals court last year. Most of the men caught in the sweep have long since been deported on immigration violations. So far as is publicly known, none have been charged with terrorism-related crimes.

Regarding the impending probe of O’Neill, a Treasury spokesman said it would concern “the document as shown on 60 Minutes that said ‘secret.’ ” Yet as some bloggers have mentioned, the only document that 60 Minutes showed has long been available on the Web. O’Neill also gave author Ron Suskind thousands of other documents, including National Security Council meeting minutes. But as the Post’s Dana Milbank notes, he’s not the first to do that. The administration has previously let hagiographer Bob Woodward use “notes taken during more than 50 national security council and other meetings.”

For the record, the document that the Treasury Department cited might not show what O’Neill and Suskind allege, namely that before 9/11 the administration was heading toward invading Iraq and exploiting its oil. Instead, the map appears to have been one of many that simply detailed oil supplies around the world. Evidence, again, comes via the blog world.

Milbankalso has more fun O’Neill quotes culled from the book. O’Neill said the logic behind the White House’s decision to back away from the Kyoto global warming treaty was, “The [conservative political] base likes this, and who the hell knows anyway.” He also says he suspects that moderates such as Colin Powell were only in the administration “in large part, as cover.”

In a piece that the NYT only teases on Page One, the paper says that with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric demanding direct elections, the administration has decided to tweak its transfer of sovereignty plan. The Times says the White House, which made the decision after a series “urgent meetings,” will try to make its closed caucuses proposal “look more democratic without changing it in a fundamental way.” As currently envisioned, the caucuses will be controlled by U.S.-appointed committees. “We’re looking at the same process we have, but trying to make it as open, inclusive and democratic as possible,” said one unnamed official.

Meanwhile, the WP says inside that the U.S. is sticking by its guns: “U.S. REBUFFS CLERIC ON IRAQI VOTE PLAN.”

As everybody notes, a GI was killed and another wounded by a bomb in central Baghdad. Unrest also seems to be spreading in the Shiite-dominated south, a point USAT emphasizes inside. A handful of Iraqi police were injured during food riots in Kut, about 90 miles southeast of Baghdad. 

The NYT, contradicting Army reports, says GIs appear to have fired on a civilian car after a bomb went off nearby. A father and his 10-year-old son were killed, and four other family members were wounded. Times reporter Edward Wong tried to check out the scene but was waved away by a soldier who warned, “Something is about to happen that you won’t like.”