Today's Papers

Miller Genuine Wrath

The New York Times leads with an apparently classified survey the Army did showing what the Times says is a “widespread pattern of abuse involving more military units than previously known.” The Wall Street Journal worldwide news box leads with more hand-over confusion as British Prime Minister Tony Blair said an Iraqi government will have a veto over coalition military operations while the U.S. demurred from promising that. Also, France said that any Security Council resolution blessing a post-June 30 government will have to give Iraqi officials more power than currently proposed. The Washington Post’s lead says the administration, U.N., and Iraqi officials are just about settled on an interim president: Dr. Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite, is a former nuclear scientist Saddam tossed into prison for opposing a nukes program. Shahristani is apparently a respected moderate and not a public figure. He is also close to Iraq’s top cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The Los Angeles Times leads with California state Supreme Court justices hearing the case on San Francisco gay marriages and suggesting that the city was wrong to allow them. USA Today leads with two independent studies showing that prices for brand-name prescription drugs have risen three times faster than inflation over the last four years.

Among previously unknown cases of abuse cited by the Army survey, last spring “interrogators forced into asphyxiation numerous detainees in an attempt to obtain information.” The Times says that in many of the 37 deaths of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army didn’t do autopsies and “cannot determine the causes of the deaths.” In two December 2002 deaths in Afghanistan that have been classified as homicides, nobody has been disciplined. The paper says that in nearly all the cases, the Army has been “stingy with details.”

The Post and Journal go high with word that a top intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, Col. Thomas Pappas, testified that an Army general suggested he use dogs, muzzled or unmuzzled, to scare prisoners into talking. The general, Geoffrey Miller, used to be in charge at Guantanamo Bay and is now head of the Iraqi prison system. The testimony comes from a classified part of the Taguba report, which named Col. Pappas “directly or indirectly responsible” for abuses. A Pentagon spokesman said Miller never made those suggestions. The Post’s 16th paragraph mentions in passing that Pappas testified that “he did not believe using force to coerce, intimidate or cause fear violated the [Geneva] Conventions.”

The NYT mentions inside that the military confirmed that a soldier ordered to play a prisoner at Gitmo was beaten by guards who didn’t know he was undercover. Here’s an interview with the soldier.

The Journal reports that the company the Pentagon hired to do interrogations at Abu Ghraib had no experience in that field and was a computer services contractor. What’s more, the contract was kept out of regular channels and was awarded by the Interior Department. “This evaded all normal forms of oversight,” said one Pentagon official. The Post suggests it might have just been a bureaucratic glitch.

A piece inside the Post questions the experience of the general in charge of investigating military intelligence’s role in the abuses. The details don’t seem particularly damning: Maj. Gen. George Fay has been on active duty for five years and has given a few thousand dollars in political contributions. One thing the Post doesn’t note: An intelligence soldier who served at Abu Ghraib told ABC News that Fay interviewed him but asked only about the guards, not intelligence soldiers.

A report in Newsday says human rights groups have found “dozens” of cases in which U.S. troops in Iraq have detained the family members of suspects and held them as bargaining chips. There have been a few cases of this reported before. But a Pentagon spokesman said, “The coalition does not take hostages.” Family members are “sometimes detained for questioning, and then they are released.”

The Post fronts and most others tease word that the attorney general and FBI director will hold a press conference today warning that al-Qaida sympathizers are in the U.S. and may be planning an attack this summer. They will also tell the public to be on the lookout for a few people whom the FBI has long wanted to chat with, though apparently no charges have been filed. (The Post publishes two names; the other papers don’t.) “They are here,” one U.S. official told the Post, which begins its story, “Federal officials have information suggesting that al Qaeda has people in the United States preparing to mount a large-scale terrorist attack, sources familiar with the information said.” 1) Could there be a less useful ID than that? 2) The NYT says just the opposite: Citing law enforcement officials, the Times reports, there is “no new intelligence to suggest that an attack was being planned.”

The NYT says on Page One and the LAT teases word that Spanish investigators never bought the evidence against an American lawyer the U.S. was investigating and later arrested in connection with the Madrid bombings. The lawyer has since been released, and the FBI is planning to apologize. Apparently the feds relied on digital copies of fingerprints, which didn’t turn out to match the original ones the Spanish had.

Everybody notes inside that about 350 people have been killed in flooding in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

In an intriguing two-sentence wire dispatch, the Post says that a man has been arrested in the U.S. for allegedly trying to help equip a Hezbollah cell in Athens, Greece.

After taking its very sweet time, a NYT editor’s note acknowledges that some of its WMD reporting was overly credulous and is no longer, em, operative. While archly noting that most of the coverage was an “accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time,” the Times acknowledges, “We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged—or failed to emerge.” (Slate’s Jack Shafer previewed the note.)

Not that anyone in particular is at fault: “Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated.” Which is true; editors at the Times weren’t skeptical enough and didn’t give sufficient play to countervailing evidence. But just because many were at fault doesn’t mean one wasn’t particularly so. Of the 12 flawed stories the Times cites, Judith Miller wrote or co-wrote of 10 of them.

Anyway, TP is glad to hear the Times’ editors “fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.” One place they might want look is with the man who apparently provided most of the scoops, Ahmad Chalabi. Since the first reports of his murky fall last Friday, the NYT news pages have had exactly one follow-up—a rehash of a Knight Ridder report.