The Washington Postleads with House-Senate negotiators tentatively agreeing to extend almost all provisions of the Patriot Act. There had been calls to scale back some of the act, but it didn’t happen. USA Todayleads with commanders of a U.S. special forces unit in Afghanistan telling the paper that the Taliban are, contrary to higher-ups’ assertions, getting stronger. Eighty-seven GIs have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, double the total of last year. Meanwhile, there’s a plan afoot to replace most U.S. combat troops with NATO peacekeepers, who aren’t equipped for heavy combat or counterinsurgency operations. The New York Timesleads with a no-big-news follow-up to yesterday’s revelation that Bob Woodward was the first reporter to hear about Valerie Plame’s CIA identity. The NYT, WP, and Scooter Libby’s lawyers all suggest that the development might help Scooter. But given how little is known, and that Woodward’s involvement doesn’t seem to pertain to the actual charges against Scooter, file it away as interesting speculation and spin. The Los Angeles Timesleads with word that, thanks to a zooming economy, California’s budget is on pace to be out of the red next year.
Fourteen of the Patriot Act’s 16 provisions will be made permanent. The two others, which include the power to rifle through library records, will be extended for another seven years. In one of the few concessions to civil-liberties types, the new bill requires that the Justice Department release stats on how often it’s invoking some of the more controversial provisions of the law, such as the library records and sending subpoena-like “national security letters.”
The WP: “CONGRESS ARRIVES AT A DEAL ON PATRIOT ACT.” Perfectly accurate and uninformative. The WSJ does better: “RENEWAL OF PATRIOT ACT NEARS AS LAW IS LEFT MOSTLY INTACT.”
Woodward won’t spill the name of his source. But he’s said it’s not Libby, and Karl has denied it, too. Today’s NYT crosses off a few more names:
A senior administration official said that neither President Bush himself, nor his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., nor his counselor, Dan Bartlett, was Mr. Woodward’s source. So did spokesmen for former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, former C.I.A. Director George J. Tenet and his deputy John E. McLaughlin.
The Times adds, “Vice President Cheney did not join the parade of denials.” His spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the standard line: an ongoing investigation.
The Post fronts Woodward apologizing to the Post for having stayed mum all this time. “I’m in the habit of keeping secrets,” he said. “I didn’t want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed.”
The NYT is still the only paper to front the latest on the discovery of a torture dungeon inside one of the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s main buildings. The Times says the guards were members of a Shiite militia, a group the head of the Interior Ministry is also affiliated with. But it’s the story’s 15th paragraph that has the makings of headlines: Citing an Interior Ministry official, the Times mentions there are “five official prisons in the Baghdad area and 8 to 10 unofficial jails run by special units. Those centers are generally used to hold people picked up without a legal basis, he said.” (According to one former minister, those “special units” report directly to the head of the Interior Ministry.)
The LAT’s John Daniszewski, who first reported on the torture chamber, continues his fine reporting—and the LAT continues to stuff it. Today Daniszewski, along with Knight Ridder, emphasizes the good will that U.S. forces have earned among Sunnis for exposing the abuse.”This is like a dream—the American forces free Iraqi prisoners tortured by the government?” said one man who’s brother has disappeared. “This is brand new.”
As only the WSJ says up high, the military announced that another five Marines were killed in the offensive by the Syrian border and three other troops were killed elsewhere. Getting comfortable again with body counts, the military also announced that 16 insurgents were killed.
Reporting from the scene, the NYT says the five Marines were ambushed in a house and another 11 wounded in the same incident. The Marines yesterday ran into dozens and dozens of bombs in the border town at the center of the offensive. “The place was rigged to explode, the whole city,” said one officer.
The LAT fronts another problem in the Iraq reconstruction effort, such as it is: The Americans assigned to it are changing all the time. Between July and September, says the paper, “all six U.S. agencies involved in the reconstruction effort lost all or some of their senior staff.” (As James Fallows details in this month’s Atlantic, the problem of turnover isn’t limited to reconstruction.)
Everybody mentions the vice president joining in the push-back on prewar intel. But it’s Knight Ridder’s coverage that includes a phrase you won’t often see in the papers: “This isn’t true.”
The Post fronts government documents showing that, contrary to the administration’s public statements, Justice Department lawyers objected to a Georgia voter-identification law, concluding it would result in discrimination against African-American voters. Top Justice Department officials overruled their underlings and blessed the law, which Georgia Republicans later pointed to as evidence that the measure was A-OK. (The Voting Rights Act requires feds to review voting laws in some Southern states.)
The WP goes inside with a World Health Organization study concluding that global warming is, as the Post vaguely puts it, “estimated to contribute to more than” 150,000 deaths and 5 million illnesses annually.
Pretty close … but no cigar! The WP’s columnist Richard Cohen: “It would be nice, fitting and pretty close to sexually exciting if Bush somehow acknowledged his mistakes and said he had learned from them.”