The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Today all lead with the unofficial announcement—via SAOs—that President Bush has chosen former NYC police chief Bernard Kerik as the new Homeland Security chief. Kerik was the city’s s top cop on Sept. 11; one “presidential advisor” told the WP he brings “9/11 symbolism into the Cabinet.” Bush also nominated Nebraska Gov. Michael Johanns as secretary of agriculture. And U.N. Ambassador John Danforth announced his resignation, after only six months on the job. The Los Angeles Timesfronts the Cabinet moves but leads with an archdiocese in Orange County agreeing to settle claims by 87 people who’ve charged that priests sexually abused them. The Times hears the payout will exceed the previous church record in the U.S.: $85 million.
Kerik was the top cop in Iraq for a few months after the invasion. The police training program he started got low marks, says the LAT. After he returned, Kerik talked up the war effort. “We are winning the battle,” he said in late 2003. Then came campaign season. As USAT notes, Kerik warned one stump crowd about the likelihood of a terrorist attack: “If you put Senator Kerry in the White House, I think you are going to see that happen.”
The Post mentions that the Homeland Security Department’s problems go beyond who’s in charge: “A number of panels of experts have concluded that the department is severely underfinanced and understaffed in many of its key functions. In particular, Homeland Security has almost no high-level staff members who are assigned to develop strategies about key policy problems.”
According to early morning reports, a car bomb exploded in northern Baghdad, killing 14. Also this morning, guerrillas overran a Baghdad police station, killing 11 and apparently freeing prisoners inside.
Yesterday, a barrage of mortar rounds hit central Baghdad, killing one civilian and wounding about a dozen. A few rounds hit inside the Green Zone, though nobody was wounded. Also yesterday, a GI was killed in Mosul, where officials said they’ve discovered another dozen bodies, bringing the total there to about 60. A top Iraqi cop was beheaded in Baghdad. And two city councilmen were assassinated in Baquba.
The WP fronts Bush ruling out delaying the vote in Iraq. “It’s time for the Iraqi citizens to go to the polls,” he said.
A separate piece inside the Post says the U.S. embassy has now joined with its British counterpart in banning employees from taking the road to the airport. Employees had been riding an armored bus, nicknamed the Rhino. Then it was hit by a bomb. Now anybody traveling from the Green Zone to the airport—about 10 miles—will go via chopper. The Post says the road is averaging “several” suicide attacks per week.
The Christian Science Monitor reports from Fallujah, where Marines keep clearing the city and insurgents keep coming back. One Marine was killed there Monday.
The Post fronts a classified report on U.S. prisons in Afghanistan concluding that interrogators have been given little or no guidance, a situation that creates a “opportunity” for abuse. The report came in response to the Abu Ghraib revelations and was filed over the summer. The WP doesn’t wonder why the report was classified.
As the NYT fronts, Russian President Putin, ever the freedom-loving man, came out against a redo of the apparently fraudulent elections in Ukraine. “A rerun of the second round may also produce nothing,” he said. “What happens then? Will there have to be a third, a fourth, a 25th round until one of the sides obtains the necessary result.” The NYT says the White House “chose to emphasize the positive aspects of Mr. Putin’s comments.” That’s not what the Post picks up. It points out that the president pointedly noted that the election “ought to be free from any foreign influence.”
Also in Ukraine, protestors don’t seem to be buying into a de-escalation deal worked out earlier this week and are still blockading government buildings.
The NYT stuffs newly declassified documents showing that the CIA knew of a 2002 coup plot against Venezuala’s President Hugo Chavez, despite the administration’s longtime claims that it was taken by surprise. One CIA memo states, “Disgruntled officers are planning a coup.” It’s also unclear whether the U.S. warned Chavez about the plans. The Times credits a FOIA-friendly freelance journalist with flushing out the documents. One question: If the Times had found the documents on its own, would the story still be stuffed?
The NYT notices inside that Bush’s chief economic adviser warned today’s young’uns not to hold their breath for the level of Social Security benefits given today. “The benefits now scheduled for future generations under current law are not sustainable given the projected path of payroll tax revenue,” he said. “They are empty promises.” A White House spokesperson reacted with pursed lips, saying Bush hasn’t decided on any specific changes to the program.
A Post news brief mentions that in the course of arguing against a lawsuit brought by Gitmo detainees, the government side said military tribunals can accept evidence gained through torture. Explained a gov lawyer, “Nothing in the due process clause [of the Constitution] prohibits them from relying on it.”