Today's Papers

Jack the Flipper

USA Today catches late-breaking word that 12 of the 13 miners trapped in West Virginia were found dead; only one is alive. The other papers fronted the initial, incorrect, reports that most of the miners survived. The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Post alllead with fallen super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff formally turning state’s evidence and pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials.

There were actually few new facts to grasp onto in Abramoff’s pleading yesterday. He’s promised to name names and, according to the Journal,has boasted that he “could implicate 60 lawmakers.” The papers, citing what are presumably prosecutors, have numbers a fraction of that—though still large enough to keep many in D.C. sweating. The Post says Abramoff has agreed to finger “about half a dozen House and Senate members.” And then there are the congressional staffers cited, one of whom allegedly was in on the fun while working as a former top aide to then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

One name that is surely on Abramoff’s list: Rep. Bob Ney, whose office has acknowledged he’s the lawmaker referred to in court documents as “Representative #1.”

The WP offers up two other legislators “being investigated”: Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Rep. John T. Doolittle, R-Calif.

Prosecutors are recommending about 10 years in the slammer for Abramoff, though the judge can sentence him to up to 30 years, depending at least partially on his level of cooperation. “With most cases, the plea is the end, but with Abramoff, the plea is just the beginning,” one FBI official told the NYT. “This one has legs.”

The NYT fronts Iran informing the U.N. that it has decided to restart research on a “peaceful nuclear energy program.” Iran had suspended all such work as part of an agreement with Europe about a year ago. As the Times notes, “research” has long been a code word for uranium enrichment, and the U.S. warned last night that if Iran goes ahead with enrichment, the international community will immediately and without hesitation, well, “consider additional measures.”

In a Page One piece, the NYT says the National Security Agency expanded “its domestic surveillance operations” right after 9/11 without a formal directive from President Bush. Word of the expansion comes via a just-declassified exchange of correspondence between the head of the NSA and the then-ranking Democrat on the House intel committee, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who was briefed on the effort and expressed concern. What the Times doesn’t say until the 17th paragraph is that the “expanded domestic surveillance” did not include the warrantless wiretap program. (The early effort apparently involved more limited passing along of some intercepts to the FBI.) The Post also covers the early NSA snooping but is more cautious and puts the story inside.

Everybody mentions Iraq officials saying a U.S. airstrike killed about a dozen members of a family, mostly women and children. The U.S. said a drone had spotted insurgents trying to plant a bomb and then entering a house. The Post says one of its reporters (or a stringer) “watched as the corpses of three women and three boys who appeared to be younger than 10 were removed.” A U.S. military spokesman said they’re investigating.

The NYT mentions inside that the administration yesterday appealed to federal judges to dismiss all lawsuits by Gitmo detainees. The administration cited the Graham Amendment, which passed, along with Sen. McCain’s anti-torture measure, and strips detainees of their right to habeas corpus appeals.

Back to Jack … The LAT looks at how Abramoff first acquired a taste for the black arts in politics—30-plus years ago, in junior high:

He ran for student council president at the Hawthorne School, an elementary and middle school, in 1972. Heading into a runoff election, he was disqualified for exceeding the spending limit. The principal, as [one student] recalled, penalized Abramoff for holding a party, stating it amounted to a campaign expenditure that pushed him over the limit.