The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and USA Todayall lead with the indictment of former Enron chief Ken Lay. The charges will be unsealed today, probably soon after Lay goes on a perp walk. Lay has long insisted he did nothing wrong and has blamed his underlings for cooking the books and then keeping him in the dark. We’ll see because one of his underlings, former CFO Andrew Fastow, has turned state’s evidence. The New York Timesfronts Lay but leads with something that has been well-reported elsewhere: Fallujah has become a rebel stronghold since the Marines pulled back from the town, but soldiers—Iraqi or American—don’t appear to be heading back in anytime soon. “We could take the city,” said Iraq’s head of intelligence, “but we would have to kill everyone in it.”
Everybody fronts the first joint campaigning by Sens. Kerry and Edwards, who swung from Ohio to Florida. The Wall Street Journal emphasizes President Bush’s swing. Asked to contrast Vice President Cheney with Edwards, Bush said, “Dick Cheney could be president. Next?”
Most of the papers front the Pentagon’s announcement that detainees at Gitmo will be given hearings in military court, allowing them to challenge their status as enemy combatants. The new policy appears aimed at gaining the government a more sympathetic ear for the hearings in federal court that the Supreme Court said the detainees are eligible for. “The administration is trying to make the best of a bad situation,” one military law professor told the Post. “It’s an effort to play catch-up ball, and to blunt the possible impact of the habeas corpus review.”
Everybody goes insidewith the interim Iraqi government formally giving itself the power to impose city-by-city-based martial law, which will include everything from curfews to monitoring phone calls. The new law, which most Iraqis interviewed in the papers seemed to love, explicitly prohibits invoking the emergency measures to delay the scheduled elections. Also, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi can only invoke the provisions if the government’s president, two vice presidents, and a majority of the Cabinet agree.
Everybody notes that Iraqi government forces on a new patrol in Baghdad came under heavy attack, resulting in what the NYT calls “one of the biggest” firefights in the capital since the invasion. The Post, which has the most detailed report, says U.S. air support was called in, but GIs at the scene apparently kept a low profile and soon left. Four Iraqis—two soldiers and two civilians—were killed and about 30 wounded. “We could see them on the rooftop,” recalled one wounded Iraqi soldier. “We could see them on the balconies, throwing grenades and shooting. We fired back, and then it seemed like all the buildings started to attack us.”
Also yesterday, mortar rounds hit near Allawi’s house and his party’s offices. Four Iraqis were wounded.
The LAT fronts a dispatch from Baghdad’s Sadr City, once a center of the resistance and now calm since radical cleric Muqtada Sadr told his followers to hang up their guns.
A front-page NYT piece says the Republican-controlled Senate intelligence committee’s coming report on Saddam’s missing weapons will “sidestep” the question of whether the White House accurately portrayed the intel. The lead story in Tuesday’s Times hyped a leak from the report suggesting that the CIA misinformed the White House about the weapons. But Tuesday’s story itself sidestepped the question of whether the Senate report was looking into the White House’s use of the intelligence—even though the committee’s limited purview has been an issue for about a year. Might today’s dispatch be something of a “rowback,” which NYT ombudsman Daniel Okrent described as a “way that a newspaper can cover its butt without admitting it was ever exposed?”
Today’s Times story on the Senate report also waits until the fifth paragraph to say that of the 200 intelligence sources interviewed by the committee, none said the White House pressured them.
The Post fronts word that a top general almost ordered the shooting down of a plane that wandered into restricted airspace over D.C. during the funeral for President Ronald Reagan. The plane, which ended up causing the evacuation of the capitol, turned out to be carrying the governor of Kentucky. Its transponder was broken, and though the pilot informed air-traffic controllers, the information seems not to have been passed on.
The WP reports on Page One that Palestinian militants linked to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement have penned a letter calling for sweeping reforms, which the Post calls “far more detailed and wider in scope” than those being sought by the U.S., Israel, and other countries. Said one Palestinian analyst, “This is a way of saying to Arafat that ‘It’s time for you to step down as head of the Palestinian Authority.’ ” Both Arafat and the Israeli government dismissed the demands as not being serious.
In a day marked by photo ops, the Journal notices a good one. As Kerry and Edwards, both very wealthy men, stepped off their rented campaign plane, “the mobile staircase had emblazoned just below them in big print the name of the service company: Million Air.”