Today's Papers

Gitmo No Mo’?

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today front the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision at least temporarily upholding a lower court’s block of the antiporn Child Online Protection Act. The Supremes ruled that COPA, as it’s known, is probably a violation of the First Amendment, though they gave the administration another chance to prove that the law is the “least restrictive means” available to protect kids from Net porn. The Wall Street Journal’s worldwide news box and Washington Postlead with the Iraqi interim government’s announcement that it will take “legal custody“—but not physical custody—of Saddam Hussein and 11 of his top cronies.

The Journal essentially dismisses the Saddam handover, calling it “mostly symbolic.” But the non-transfer will mean changes. On a surface level: We’ll get to see Saddam since he’s set to be arraigned today. (Apparently, government video will be made available.) And then, as the Post notes, since Saddam is now in a criminal court system, interrogations might become tougher since he now has a right “to legal representation and the right to remain silent.” The head of the tribunals, Salem Chalabi (Ahmad’s nephew), said it’s unlikely Saddam or the others will go to trial this year.

Citing unnamed administration officials, the LAT says that faced with the Supreme Court’s decision granting enemy combatants some access to U.S. courts, the Bush administration is considering—among other options—shipping the detainees to prisons in the U.S. Without that, some officials figure, the detainees will pile up frequent flier miles, repeatedly shuttling back and forth between Gitmo and courts in the U.S. Another possibility being tossed around is to open up a court at Gitmo. Anyway, it’s all up in the air because as one “senior defense official” put it, the administration “really didn’t have a specific plan for what to do, case-by-case, if we lost. The Justice Department didn’t have a plan. State didn’t have a plan. This wasn’t a unilateral mistake on DOD’s part. It’s astounding to me that these cases have been pending for so long and nobody came up with a contingency plan.”

As everybody mentions, three Marines were killed and two wounded in Iraq by a roadside bomb. Militants there also released three Turkish hostages.

Most of the papers mention the Army’s decision to call up about 5,600 retired and discharged soldiers for duty, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s the largest such involuntary call-up since the Gulf War. (The LAT had this yesterday.)  Previously, the Army has issued stop-loss orders, preventing thousands of active-duty soldiers from leaving the service. (Slate explained how the Army can pull in retired soldiers.)

The NYT says the Marine kidnapped in Iraq, Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, appears to have deserted before he was taken. An unnamed Marine officer told the paper that the Lebanese-born Hassoun, upset after having seen a sergeant killed, wanted to “quit the game” and deserted with the help of Iraqi contractors, who then turned him over to jihadists. One of Hassoun’s cousins said Hassoun recently told him he knew of several Americans who had deserted. “He said a lot of soldiers, they don’t want to die, especially when they see someone dying in front of them,” recalled the cousin. Has anybody reported on the number of deserters, large or small?

Checking in on the reconstruction effort, a front-page NYT piece finds that “fewer than 140 of 2,300 promised construction projects are under way.” On the other hand, the Pentagon has been hustling over the past month, committing $1.4 billion just last week. Not that everything is now about to go smoothly. The article’s 33rd paragraph mentions that the Pentagon office in charge of reconstruction contracts has now “been split into two entities, a strategy office reporting to State and an implementing one reporting to the Defense Department.”  Said one contractor, “We’re still a little unclear about who we will have to interface with on a daily basis.”

The LAT says inside that the CPA’s auditor has just come out with three reports criticizing what the paper terms the agency’s “chaotic and haphazard” accounting system. (As TP once  noted, the CPA wasn’t bound by the federal accountability and disclosure rules.) It’s unclear whether that system is still in place with the office mentioned above.

According to the NYT, the Bush administration has been stonewalling many of the inquiries into detainee abuses. For instance, there are the 2,000 pages of the Taguba report missing from the copy given senators more than a month ago. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says the military is still working on finding them. Or consider the Pentagon’s promise to turn over Red Cross reports as soon as the international agency agreed. Turns out the agency agreed long ago. This all seems newsworthy … and it all comes via an editorial.

Filing from camps in Darfur, Sudan, the Post’s Emily Wax details how as part of their ethnic cleansing, government-backed Arab militias are raping thousands of African women. (In Sudan, a child’s ethnicity is considered to come from its father.) “It’s systematic,” said one aid worker. “The pattern is so clear because they are doing it in such a massive way and always saying the same thing.” One woman recalled being told, “‘Black girl, you are too dark. You are like a dog. We want to make a light baby.’ “