The New York Timesleads with a piece detailing how in 2002 an al-Qaida suspect “fabricated” claims of connections between Iraq and AQ after he had been sent by the U.S. to Egypt and was at least afraid he would be tortured. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi’s comments, which he later recanted, were the main “evidence” for the White House’s assertion of AQ-Saddam links. His bogus confession—which a U.S. intel agency flagged as likely BS back in 2002—and its connection to possible torture has been written about before, seemingly first in a somewhat buried reference in Knight Ridder. The Los Angeles Timesleads with GOP House and Senate negotiators agreeing to renew the Patriot Act. Most of the law will be made permanent, while its two most controversial provisions—one for poking around libraries and the other for expanded wiretap powers—will get a four-year lease. The deal appears to be nearly the same one heralded a few weeks ago. Presumably that’s why the other papers don’t give it front-page play. Also, the deal is projected to go to a vote next week, but there’s a solid chance of a filibuster.
USA Todayleads with what it portrays as a new angle in the military’s habit of paying Iraqi journalists for play: Some reporters were paid via the “Baghdad Press Club,” which was created and funded by the U.S.USAT, though, isn’t clear: Was the club’s U.S. funding publicly acknowledged? If so, the funding wasn’t the problem, it’s what it was used to buy: fluffy stories. For what it’s worth, a Pentagon press release described the club last year not as a U.S. creation exactly but rather as “a group of prominent print, television and radio media from Baghdad.” Finally, Knight Ridder looked at the press club a few weeks ago. (And no, its coverage wasn’t clear on that point either.) The Washington Posttop nonlocal story goes to New Orleans’ Tulane University announcing it will lay off 230 faculty members and cut its budget by $100 million. Doing a heckuva (spin) job, the school’s president described the cutbacks as “a win-win,” explaining, “What we are offering is a first-rate education and the opportunity to be a part of the biggest recovery in the last 100 years.”
The papers all go inside with a suicide bomber killing about two dozen Iraqis on a bus in Baghdad bound for the mostly Shiite city of Nasiriya. Also, an insurgent Web site claimed to have executed an American contractor; though it didn’t name him, the group earlier showed footage of abducted contractor Ronald Schulz.
In a piece TP missed yesterday, the WP saw signs that Iraqis are far more engaged and savvy about the coming vote than they were around January’s elections. “It is like night and day from 10 months ago in terms of level of participation and political awareness,” said a Canadian election specialist.
The NYT looks at the possibility that the Shiite super-coalition in Iraq might break apart: “There has been a palpable drop in support among moderate voters and the leading ayatollahs, who are disenchanted with the performance of the current Shiite government.” If there’s a breakup, U.S.-favored secular parties could gain.
The WP fronts word that the military is investigating a video posted on the Web that appears to show security contractors in Iraq shooting civilian cars. The Post quotes Iraqis complaining about trigger-happy contractors. What the Post doesn’t explain is the larger context. As Slatehas detailed, contractors operate in a legal gray zone, exempt from Iraqi law as well as military codes.
The WP goes inside with FEMA’s second-ranking official in Louisiana going off-the-reservation and complaining about the government’s plan to spend a few billion dollars building trailer homes. He agreed with experts on all sides who have been arguing that the money would be better spent on vouchers or simply cash to evacuees. “Temporary housing is not cost effective or customer-oriented,” said the official.
Everybody mentions that Britain’s top court ruled that evidence gained through torture is verboten in U.K. courts.
The NYT and WPgo inside with European ministers having din-din with Secretary of State Rice, after which many, as the Post puts it, said they “were satisfied with Rice’s explanations” of U.S. detainee policy. As the NYT emphasizes and the WP continues, oddly, to deny, Rice has not announced new policies, nor has she categorically denied that the U.S. uses cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. But if Condi didn’t change policy, why were some Europeans expressing “satisfaction”? The papers don’t really answer that. This TPer’s theory: It’s Kabuki theater tush-covering.