Today's Papers

Nomination Frustration

The  New York Times and the  Washington Post lead with word that Senator John Kerry is considering delaying his acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination until five weeks after the party’s national convention in July so he can continue spending the funds he raised during the primaries and not cede any potential financial advantage to President Bush, whose nominating convention is later. The  Los Angeles Times leads with Pentagon officials’ lengthening of the list of prisoner deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq that led to investigations, bringing the number to 37. This includes at least eight homicides that may have involved assaults related to interrogation.

According to early-morning reports, a car bomb outside the house of Iraq’s deputy interior minister killed at least five people in eastern Baghdad and injured several others. A U.S. official said the minister was in stable condition in a nearby hospital.

Because Kerry and Bush are both planning to use federal funds in their general-election campaigns, their spending limit is $75 million once they formally accept their parties’ nominations (or on Sept. 1, whichever is earliest). Since the Republican convention is five weeks later than the Democratic one, Bush has five more weeks to spend an unlimited amount of money. Kerry’s aides said they haven’t yet committed to a nomination convention without an official nominee (the WP calls such a move “a farce“). Television network executives have said they are less inclined to cover a nominating event where the nomination is not actually accepted, and the Federal Election Committee told the NYT that they would look into the matter if a decision to delay was made.

Everybody fronts charges by federal prosecutors Friday that a U.S. Secret Service analyst alleged  committed perjury by lying on the stand as a witness in the Martha Stewart trial. Larry Stewart—no relation to Martha—was the government’s top ink expert, but now prosecutors are claiming that he lied when he said he personally tested ink on a key document during the trial. Martha’s defense team is demanding a new trial.

The WP fronts an article with the headline “Punishment and Amusement: Documents Indicate Abuse Was Not an Interrogation Strategy.” It cites secret docs obtained by the Post that, among other things, reveal that Abu Ghraib detainees in three of the most notorious pictures of abuse were being punished for alleged criminal acts or entertainment—not as an interrogation method. But what the article goes on to note, not indicated in the headline, is the sworn testimony of one military police officer that military intelligence officers were complimenting and encouraging abuse as a means of “breaking down” prisoners for questioning.

The Post’s headline also doesn’t reflect the apparent absence of an interrogation strategy at the prison tier in question. Consistent with Congressional testimony Wednesday that revealed interrogation rules in Iraq were missing, one military police officer charged in the abuse scandal said in a sworn statement he “never saw a set of rules or SOP” [standard operating procedure], explaining that the tier was run “by word of mouth.” A military police officer also said that civilian and military-intelligence officers often came to the tier at night, collecting detainees to question inside a “wood hut” near the prison building, but out of site of the MPs.

The papers provide more of the story behind the gruesome photos through sworn statements from soldiers charged with the abuse and from alleged victims. The NYT reports that the use of military dogs during interrogations at Abu Ghraib was approved by military-intelligence officers at the prison.

The papers also continue to report that the abuse extended beyond Abu Ghraib to other American-run detention centers in Iraq. The LAT fronts a military investigator’s report that low-level Marines beat two defenseless Iraqis at a makeshift prison, one of whom died after being left injured and naked under the blazing sun. Then the investigation into the death was botched. The NYT notes that the  Denver Post first obtained Army documents indicating that “harsh treatment”—including alleged choking during interrogations, alleged asphyxiation of numerous prisoners, and alleged abuse of women and children—occurred at detention facilities throughout Iraq. This is consistent with earlier interviews with former detainees.

The Post stuffs word that a civilian contractor is being formally investigated by the Justice Department in connection with the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. Neither the Justice Department nor the Defense Department would name the contractor.

In an editorial, the NYT decides it is unlikely that the hearings and investigations into the abuse will produce satisfactory results: “The military has repeatedly assured us that it will get to the bottom of this mess, but it has not provided any evidence that it’s really capable of doing so.”

In Najaf Friday gunmen defending anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr fought U.S.-lead coalition troops, and 18 pro-Sadr fighters died in battle in Karbala. The LAT reports that an Al-Jazeera reporter was also killed in Karbala.

The Iraqi Governing Council held an emergency meeting in Baghdad on Friday, denouncing Thursday’s raid of council member Ahmad Chalabi’s home.

Meanwhile, while testifying on Iraq in front of House Armed Services Committee yesterday, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee, “I think we’re on the brink of success,” and that there is “great progress on all fronts.”