USA Today leads with its own analysis showing that Army National Guard troops in Iraq are one-third more likely to be killed than their active-duty counterparts. Despite the SecDef’s comments to the contrary, reports from the field suggest that National Guard often do have worse equipment and training than active duty troops. The Washington Postleads with Republicans “preparing for a showdown” to stop Democrats from using the filibuster to kill judicial nominations. If the Republicans actually go ahead, they could confirm judicial nominees with 51 votes rather than the 60 normally required. The Los Angeles Times’ lead says turnover of top FBI officials and intel specialists is causing “disorder” within the bureau and undercutting its counter-terrorism efforts. Five people have held the FBI’s top counter-terrorism job since Sept. 11. The New York Timesleads with a “bitter, high-level debate” inside the Pentagon about whether to launch what the paper characterizes as “an official program that uses disinformation to shape perceptions abroad.” The Times might want to have a high-level debate about crediting other newspapers: The LAT had a similar story two week ago. Both papers note that the “information warfare” effort seems to be coming from the office of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. And both say the known details are at a minimum since the programs are either not off the ground, classified, or both.
In the kind of forward-leaning (but factual) contextualization you don’t see too often, the Post’s leadgoes right up high with the GOP’s stated reasoning for their potential filibuster move (emphasis on “stated”): “Republicans claim that Democrats have abused the filibuster by blocking 10 of the president’s 229 judicial nominees in his first term—although confirmation of Bush nominees exceeds in most cases the first-term experience of presidents dating to Ronald Reagan.”
According to early morning wires, about 10 Iraqis were killed and a dozen wounded in a suicide bombing at an entrance to the Green Zone.
The Wall Street Journal, alone among the papers, goes high with seven Marines killed Sunday in at least two separate attacks in the Anbar province. (The Marines made the announcement early Monday.) A GI was also killed near Baghdad. Anbar includes Fallujah, where the Associated Press said there were “running gun battles” and U.S. airstrikes. But it’s unclear whether the deaths were in the city. The Marines’ policy on announcing KIAs is to skip most details, including the location. (How many Marines have been killed in Fallujah since the main offensive ended? Are the Marines releasing those stats?)
The Post has a Page One dispatch on the Army’s 29-square-mile repair depot in Texas that patches up equipment from Iraq. The piece details how much workers are hustling and the increased workload brought by the Army’s continued restructuring. But it leaves what seems like a key point until the kicker—that is, the end of the 32-paragraph story: The “real bottleneck may lie in Washington.” A few hundred damaged Humvees are sitting around waiting to be repaired. “The reality is, there isn’t the funding,” said one of the depot’s managers.
Everybody mentions that jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti is again pulling out of the coming elections. That means Mahmoud Abbas, a critic of the intifada, has no serious challengers. The NYT says Fatah “stepped up pressure” on Barghouti to quit the race.
In Gaza, five Israeli soldiers were killed by a bomb buried beneath their outpost; the worst Palestinian attack in months. There had been a semi-calm after Arafat’s death, but the NYT says “tensions have been rising in recent days, particularly in Gaza.”
The NYT fronts a detailed report on impediments to the search for Osama Bin Laden. Topping the list, say U.S. intel officials, is the Pakistani government. The CIA set up some secret bases about a year ago in Pakistan’s border area, but the agents have government minders wherever they go, making it “virtually impossible for the Americans to gather intelligence effectively” (Times). The paper also quotes non-officials saying that, contrary to talk otherwise, Bin Laden does have a cell of terrorists working directly for him. Nor does Osama appear to be otherwise isolated. “Bin Laden is getting his logistical support from the tribes,” said one intel official. “He still has operational communications with the outside.”
The Journal notices inside that six months after the White House disavowed a Justice Department memo that essentially justified torture, the administration has not gotten around to giving intel agencies and the military a new set of legal guidelines for interrogations. Apparently, some in the administration don’t think it’s worth the potential trouble. “The question is,” said one official, “Why do people have to write opinions about how far you can go?”