Today's Papers

Be Our Guest Workers

The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox, and Los Angeles Times all lead with a Senate committee approving a fairly liberal immigration-reform bill that mandates tighter border enforcement but would also give millions of illegal immigrants “guest worker” status and let them apply for citizenship down the road. President Bush has suggested he’ll support the bill, unlike many Republicans. USA Todayteases the vote, instead leading with Zacarias Moussaoui taking the witness stand and promptly sinking his defense: Moussaoui told the court that—contrary to what he’s insisted over the years—he was actually slated to take part in the 9/11 attacks and, along with shoe-bomber Richard Reid, was going to fly a jet into the White House. 

The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on immigration reform today. But it’s possible that the committee-endorsed bill won’t ever get to a vote. That’s because Majority Leader Bill Frist might throw a curveball and support a competing bill—similar to the one the House has already passed—that has plenty of crackdown provisions and none of the guest-worker goodies. The House version, unlike the bill endorsed by the Senate panel, would make it a crime for charitable groups to aid illegal workers.

Meanwhile anti-anti-immigration protests are still continuing: As the LAT fronts, about 25,000 kids in L.A. walked out of class.

A feature-y piece in Knight Ridder looks at the impact of emigration on Mexico’s countryside, where town after town has been emptied of working-age men. In the state of Michoacan, “money sent home from the United States is 182 percent of in-state incomes.”

Moussaoui mostly skipped his trademarked ranting and raving and gave prosecutors another helping hand when he said he lied to investigators before 9/11 because, as he put it, “I wanted my mission to go ahead.” Prosecutors, whose case had been looking iffy, have argued that had Moussaoui spoken up when he was arrested, the government could have headed off 9/11. Moussaoui said he recognized almost all the hijackers from back when they all hung out in Afghanistan and said that while he was being held he even bought a radio in anticipation of the attacks.

But as only the LAT says up high, Moussaoui’s claim to be in-the-know was, as the Times puts it, “seriously doubted by intelligence officials.” It was also contradicted by the transcript testimony of captured 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who said Moussaoui was basically batty and considered too unstable be included in the attacks (though on the list for a potential second wave). Mohammed said Moussaoui didn’t know anything about the plans, and if he did they would have been changed after Moussaoui was arrested. As for Moussaoui’s assertion that Richard Reid was supposed to join him on Sept. 11, the NYT points out that “previous investigations have provided no evidence” for that.

The LAT and NYT front Shiite leaders ripping into the U.S. for what Iraqis said was a raid on a mosque that killed at least 16 civilians, including Shiite politicians. As the WP emphasizes, the U.S. said it wasn’t a mosque and was a “hugely successful” operation against a “terrorist cell.” They also said the operation was led by Iraqi troops. Shiite politicians suspended negotiations for a new government and demanded a joint investigation. “I warn [the U.S.] that a battle with the calm giant Shiite means they are falling into a dangerous swamp,” said a spokesman for the prime minister’s party.

Witnesses in the neighborhood say the men were civilians. “Some were shot in the head and others in the chest,” one man told the LAT. “Some of the bodies were ripped open with knives.” The Iraqi troops involved in the raid were from the Defense Ministry, which, as the LAT notes, is at least nominally controlled by a Sunni. According to a Pentagon press release, the unit involved was the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade. How about some background on those guys?

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber killed about 40 men at an army recruiting center in northern Iraq. The attack happened at a joint U.S.-Iraqi base, but no Americans were killed.

The papers go inside with congressional investigators smuggling some radioactive goodies across the border from Canada, enough to make two dirty bombs. The investigators purposely drove through border checkpoints that had radiation scanners, and, thankfully, were noticed by customs agents. Then they showed radiation licenses they had downloaded from the Internet. They were quickly waved on.