The New York Timesleads with Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge warning about possible “large-scale” attacks, with the paper headlining nameless SAOs suggesting Osama and/or his top lieutenants appear to be behind the planning. “What we know about this most recent information is that it is being directed from the senior-most levels of the al-Qaida organization,” said the SAO, who was speaking at a background briefing for reporters. (None of the other papers give it significant play.) In an impressive bit of investigative reporting, USA Today’s lead states: “USA TODAY has learned” that President Bush “plans to contrast John Kerry’s recent claim he the represents ‘conservative values’ with the Democratic candidate’s voting record.” The Washington Postleads with the unsealing of charges against Enron founder Ken Lay, who stands accused of hiding the company’s loses while simultaneously hyping Enron in public and dumping tens of millions of dollars worth of stock. He pled not guilty. The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that Adelphia cable’s founder, John Rigas, and one of his sons were found guilty of defrauding investors and diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from the company. Among the items bought by Rigas with company cash: $25 million in woodlands to preserve the view from the family house.
Ridge warned that a coming attack might try to “disrupt our democratic process.” It’s unclear whether the warning was prompted by new intelligence, though Ridge said it was based on “pieces of information that we can trace comfortably to sources that we deem to be credible.” As with the other recent, vague-but-dire warnings, the government didn’t go to orange. “We are basically laying out before the general public the kind of information that we’ve received,” said Ridge.
The Post and LAT front the Republican-controlled House defeating a bill—via a 210-210 deadlock—that would have watered down the Patriot Act and barred the FBI from poking around library records. The bill was actually set to be passed and was ahead by at least 18 votes—but then House Republican leaders held the vote open for 23 extra minutes while they pushed some of their GOP cohorts to change their positions and while Democrats chanted, “shame shame shame.” Republican leaders said the extended vote—the same tactic used by Republicans last fall to push the Medicare bill through—was simply an effort to “educate members” about the bill’s dangers. One conservative legislator who had pushed the bill said, “You win some, and some get stolen.”
A front-page LAT piece says the Pentagon has tentatively decided to keep a few high-level Gitmo detainees off the books and deny them access to the reviews that the Pentagon said all Gitmo detainees “held by the Department of Defense” will get. The Times explains that the administration might be able to pull that off because some of the detainees there may actually be in the CIA’s custody. A bit of context the LAT missed: It’s long been known that the U.S. has stashed a few top al-Qaida suspects at CIA facilities around the world, without reporting them to the Red Cross or anybody else.
The NYT fronts an interview with an Iraqi exile who funneled defectors to Ahmad Chalabi’s INC and now says the defectors starting lying after they met with some of the exile group’s top honchos. The INC “intentionally exaggerated all the information so they would drag the United States into war,” said the middleman. “We all know the defectors had a little information on which they built big stories.”
Five GIs and two Iraqi soldiers were killed when a mortar barrage hit a base in Samarra, north of Baghdad. Twenty GIs and four Iraqi soldiers were wounded in fighting that followed.
The Post and LAT front word that Wassef Ali Hassoun, the Marine corporal who may have been kidnapped, has turned up at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. He appears to have gone there on his own. Other than that, his last few weeks remain a mystery. Asked by the LAT whether Hassoun is considered a deserter, one White House official said, “not interested in serving is a better way to put it.”
Yesterday’s LAT said things had calmed down in Baghdad’s Sadr City. Today’s Post says that’s basically right but adds a few twists. Troops that head out on patrol nowadays aren’t fired at; instead they’re greeted by rocks. As one soldier prepared for the day, he gathered up a few rocks of his own, explaining, “I don’t throw unless thrown upon.” Another soldier said, “They throw rocks. We throw candy—really hard candy. With sticks in it.”