Today's Papers

Finding Memo

The Washington Postleads with and New York Timesfronts a Justice Department report detailing how the FBI bungled chance after chance (supposedly five in total) to nab the two 9/11 hijackers who had been living openly in San Diego. It’s long been known that the government flubbed opportunities to nab the men, but the latest report adds details. And the Los Angeles Times catches the most eye-popping one: A CIA bureaucrat—in an apparent bit of interagency pettiness—actually blocked an underling from warning the FBI that the two men had entered the U.S.

Citing a “senior official involved in the negotiations,” the NYT’sleadsays Britain and the U.S. have agreed on a debt-relief deal for 18 of the world’s poorest nations. About $16.7 billion will be written off in what one debt-relief group called “an excellent proposal.” The Times also notes that Prime Minister Blair failed to get the U.S. to budge on a big increase in aid to Africa and on doing anything about global warming. USA Todayleads with the recruit-strapped Army proposing to double its top enlistment bonus to $40,000. The Army also said it’s now happy to welcome older recruits and those who’ve been nailed for what USAT dubs “minor crimes.” 

A CIA memo was drafted in January 2000 warning the FBI that the two known al-Qaida men had entered the U.S. But it was never sent. Instead, a note was attached to the draft, “Pls hold off on (memo) for now per (the CIA deputy chief of bin Laden unit).” As for the Justice Department report itself, it’s been finished for a year and now arrives heavily redacted. As the NYT details, the blacked-out bits include the “entire 115-page section on one terror suspect.”

As the Post fronts, the House Appropriations Committee proposed hitting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with a 25 percent cut next year and eliminating all federal funding in two years. The Wall Street Journal looks at the committee’s wider proposed cuts—community-service grants were hit particularly hard. (Slate’s Jack Shafer recently argued that public broadcasting would benefit from getting off the dole.)

The Post fronts the Justice Department revealing a bit more of the back-down in the big tobacco suit. The reason the government is asking for only a fraction of the money that had been expected, says the WP, is that the government wants the tobacco industry to fund cessation programs only for smokers who take up the habit in the year after the suit closes. The 45 million current smokers would be SOL. Neither the NYT nor LAT focus on the first-year bit. In fact they refer to five years of cessation funding. Did the Post get it right?

The NYT cites a “senior administration official” saying the U.S. has “credible information” that Syria is plotting to assassinate some Lebanese leaders. The SAO even referred to a “Syrian hit list.” Then there’s this, buried in the eighth paragraph:

Intelligence officials said they could not immediately substantiate the reliability of the information cited by the administration official. A State Department official said that word of a “hit list” had been “circulating among the Lebanese” but that no one in the administration had actually seen such a list.

The Times still deems the story Page One reefer-worthy and headlines: “U.S. HAS ‘CREDIBLE’ WORD OF SYRIAN PLOT TO KILL LEBANESE.” Exactly how is “U.S.” defined there? Meanwhile, the Post doesn’t play along: “U.S. WARY OF SYRIA TARGETING LEBANESE.”

The WP’s Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru spent some QT patrolling with Iraqi soldiers assigned to accompany GIs. The reporters were directed to the unit by the U.S. military. But nobody thinks the soldiers have enough training, equipment, or morale to do their job. “I know the party line. You know, the five-star generals, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld: the Iraqis will be ready in whatever time period,” said a named American lieutenant. “But I know I’ll be back in Iraq, probably in three or four years. And I don’t think they’ll be ready then.” The mostly Sunni soldiers agreed—and said they’re planning to quit. Then they sang odes to Saddam. “We have lived in humiliation since you left,” went one line. Of the 107 purportedly operational Iraqi battalions, U.S. commanders say three are capable of acting independently.

The Iraqi perspective and cultural disconnects painted in the WP piece are remarkable—”The people have been destroyed,” said one Iraqi soldier, “by them” pointing at GIs. The Post was probably able to get the views because Shadid speaks Arabic. But here’s at least one other reason: cojones. He appears to have patrolled with the Iraqis in the back of one of their (typically) unprotected Humvees. “Is he riding in the back of that?” asked one horrified GI. “I’ll be over here praying.”