Today's Papers

The Phantom Pollbooth-ers

The Washington Post leads with a secret memo authorizing the CIA to transfer detainees out of Iraq for interrogation, a practice that—surprise!—violates the Geneva Conventions. The New York Times leads with President Bush and Sen. John Kerry going all-out in 11 key states during the final stretch. Of these battlegrounds, Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Hampshire went to Bush in 2000, while Gore took Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. This time, both the Kerry and Bush camps think whoever takes two out of the top three (Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio) will win the presidency. The Los Angeles Times leads that the millions of new registered voters—1.5 million in Florida alone—are a question mark, since independents have recorded the largest increases.

According to the WP’s lead, DOJ drafted the prisoner memo back in March at the CIA’s behest. Since then the agency has moved perhaps as many as a dozen prisoners out of the country. Two “informed” U.S. officials tell the paper that the CIA has not disclosed the identities or whereabouts of these Iraqi detainees to the Pentagon, Congressional oversight committees, or even its own investigators who are reviewing detention policy, even in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.

And speaking of all things hush-hush, the NYT goes high with how the White House order for military tribunals came to be. Juiciest parts: Thanks largely to Dick Cheney, the final details were hidden even from Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, who was “particularly angry” when she learned of the order at the same time as the public; Bush played only a “modest” role in the debate; and the Pentagon muzzled objections by its own lawyers. Since the order was signed on Nov. 13, 2001, military investigators have struggled to tie any more than a dozen out of the 560 Gitmo detainees directly to “significant terrorist acts” and have only formally charged four.

While the WP doesn’t make any progress in ID-ing the new voters, calling them an “invisible army,” it does place the first-time voter bloc alongside other demographic variables—including Bush-haters, young voters, social conservatives, blacks, and Latinos—and says an overall cancelling effect is possible. Also, those pesky undecideds could very well swing the election, and although they usually favor the challenger, the paper notes that “Bush advisers say these voters are lukewarm toward Kerry—something Democrats privately confirm—and believe Bush has a chance to win a bigger than normal share of them.” In which states this could be a big factor, the paper doesn’t say. Interestingly, a Dem pollster floats the idea that in energizing the conservative base, Karl Rove might have actually shot himself in the foot: “When we look at this after the election, we’re going to look real hard at whether Rove … produced more anti-Bush voters than Bush voters.”

Insurgents detonated car bombs across Iraq yesterday, killing at least 18 Iraqi security officers and wounding six GIs—news the NYT fronts and the WP and LAT both reefer. A major Western private security firm tells the NYT that since the beginning of Ramadan nine days ago, the average number of attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces and civilians has jumped by about a third to approximately 90 per day. Perhaps afraid of straying off-message, the firm asked that the statistics not be attributed to it by name.

For the past two weeks, Marines have amped up ops around rebel-controlled Fallujah in preparation for a major offensive (post-Nov. 2, natch), and all the papers note that an early-morning raid netted a top lieutenant to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The LAT fronts a well-reported piece on how wavering U.S. resolve and an inefficient chain of command doomed efforts to save the city months ago. For example, when a Marine commander agreed back in April to hand control of the city to a local force called the “Fallujah Brigade,” the deal took Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Bremer, and Bush by complete surprise. Worse, “It was the equivalent of the poachers becoming the gamekeepers,” said the then-minister of defense.

En route to Tokyo for a three-day visit to Japan, China, and South Korea, Powell scoffed at North Korea’s demands that the U.S. abandon its “hostile” policy toward the hermetic regime and cough up rewards for North Korean cooperation in advance.

Forget faux Louis Vuitton purses—the hot new knockoff on the streets of China is a revised (and Communized) version of Bill Clinton’s autobiography, My Life. Explains the NYT

[F]ake publishers have certainly managed to take plenty of liberties with the text. One of the best examples is the very long opening sentence of Mr. Clinton’s version, which takes 48 words to detail his birth, even the stormy weather that preceded the big event. The first sentence in the pirated Chinese version says: “The town of Hope, where I was born, has very good feng shui.” … Another retranslation of the pirated translation last summer has Mr. Clinton explaining to Hillary that his nickname is “Big Watermelon.”