Today's Papers

Witness a Fiasco

The Los Angeles Timesand Washington Postlead with a judge barring government aviation experts from testifying in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui after the prosecution said one of their lawyers coached the witnesses. As the Post puts it, the decision “guts the case that prosecutors had been building.” The New York Timesleads with the  Israeli army raiding a Palestinian jail in Jericho and seizing six men, most implicated in the 2001 killing of Israel’s tourism minister. Two Palestinians were killed, including a prison security guard, and about a dozen were wounded. The incursion was the biggest in the West Bank in months, and in response, Palestinian militants and mobs attacked a handful of Western-affiliated offices and kidnapped nine foreigners, most of whom were quickly released. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with, and others front, as many as  85 bodies turning up in Baghdad, most shot execution-style or strangled.  USA Todayleads with an interview with a top U.S. general who tells the paper that Iraqi investigators recently uncovered a kidnapping and extortion gang comprised of Iraqi police and apparently led by a general.

The prosecutors in Moussaoui’s trial argue that had Moussaoui told investigators that he knew al-Qaida was interested in suicide hijackings, the FAA could have tightened security and thus thwarted 9/11. The now-tainted and banned security experts were going to explain how that would have worked.The judge also pointed to other shenanigans by the prosecution lawyer who coached, saying, “I don’t think in the annals of criminal law there has ever been a case with this many significant problems.”

The LAT focuses on the administration’s near-perfect record of blowing—and overselling—terrorism cases. “There have been a lot of flubs,” said one law prof. “The good news may be that there are not as many threatening people out there as we once thought.”

The Palestinian prisoners taken by Israel had been held at a jail where British and American monitors were tasked with keeping a watch on things. Since Hamas won the elections, the monitors had been complaining of slackening security. They pulled out yesterday; soon after, Israeli forces went in—though the U.S. and Britain said they didn’t coordinate with Israel.

The NYT says many of the bodies found in Baghdad “bore marks of torture—badly beaten faces, gagged mouths and rope burns around the neck.” The paper adds that bodies were found in the same areas where cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite militiamen rampaged after the shrine attack last month. All the papers point to suspicions that the killings were in response to the attack earlier this week on a market in Shiite-dominated Sadr City. The Post says the Health Ministry, now controlled by al-Sadr, refused to release the latest death figures

Knight Ridder notes that U.S. airstrikes in Iraq have surged—up 50 percent in the last five months. The WP flagged the jump a few months ago, but the paper buried it.

The NYT goes Page One with some in Tehran complaining about President Ahmadinejad’s big mouth. “For 27 years after the revolution, America wanted to get Iran to the Security Council and America failed,” one “senior Iranian official” told the Times. “In less than six months, Ahmadinejad did that.” Yesterday’s LAT highlighted rumblings inside Iran that the government might be open to talks with the U.S. But it’s hard to know whether any of this amounts to anything. As the NYT notes, “There are mixed signals, and the government does not always speak with the same voice.”

The Post’s Dana Milbank looks at Democrats’ quick reaction to their colleague Sen. Russ Feingold’s proposal to censure the president over the warrantless spying:

“I haven’t read it,” demurred Barack Obama (Ill.).”I just don’t have enough information,” protested Ben Nelson (Neb.). “I really can’t right now,” John Kerry (Mass.)

The LAT fronts a federal judge suggesting he’ll approve the government’s much-scaled-down request for a few thousand non-personally identifiable search queries from Google.

Everybody notes Mike Wallace announcing he’s retiring from 60 Minutes. He’ll be 88 in a few months and has been with the show since the beginning. Wallace said last year he would only retire “when my toes turn up.” “Well,” he told the NYT yesterday, “they’re just beginning to curl a trifle.” He’s still going to do the occasional segment.