Today's Papers

Revealing Secrets

All the papers lead with President Bush for the first time acknowledging the existence of secret CIA prisons around the world. The 14 terrorism suspects who were held in these secret locations have now been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where, according to Bush’s plan, they will face trials under a proposed military tribunal system that the president urged Congress to approve. Although the transfer of these prisoners means there will allegedly be no one left in the secret prisons, everyone points out the president still wants the CIA to have a role in interrogating prisoners, particularly if any more high-level suspected terrorists are caught.

During his remarks at the White House, Bush said the CIA used “an alternative set of procedures” because these “high-value terrorist detainees,” (who were all identified and included alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed), were trained on methods to resist traditional interrogation methods. These techniques, which Bush emphatically said did not amount to torture, allegedly provided officials with useful information regarding other terrorists and possible terror plots.

The administration’s plan for the military tribunals immediately raised some questions because it would allow evidence that may have been obtained through coercive methods and permit classified evidence that neither the accused nor their lawyers can know about.

Senate Republicans, who have been developing their own bill to deal with the subject of tribunals, expressed some concern over these factors and whether these were any different from the system the Supreme Court rejected earlier this year. Regardless, Republican leaders expressed optimism that a compromise could be reached.

A law professor who helped develop the administration’s legal policies tells the Wall Street Journal: “It does not look like the procedures for these commissions differ in any significant way from the rules already in place before … the only difference is that [the president] is seeking Congress’s explicit support.” Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick is also experiencing déjà vu: “The laundry list of programs and powers Bush outlined … represent a big fat legal do-over.”

The Los Angeles Timessays Bush finally answered the question of how Republicans would try to get an edge over Democrats in the upcoming election. The New York Timespredicts the president is betting that with the elections in Congress’s mind he can get what he wants while still gaining a political advantage. USA Todaypoints out that Bush used the power of the presidency to shift the national debate to the war on terror, where he still has support from the public. The Washington Postpraises Bush’s political skills, which “showed that a president who polls show has his political back to the wall still has formidable tools: the ability to make well-timed course corrections on policy, dominate the news and shape the capital’s agenda in the weeks before Election Day.”

This all happened on the same day as Pentagon officials banned the use of harsh interrogation tactics for all of their detainees. (The LAT previewed this yesterday.)

The NYT fronts and the WP reefers word from Israel that it will lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon, which has been in place for eight weeks. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the announcement after he was assured the international troops were ready to take over the patrols in order to prevent any weapons from reaching Hezbollah.

The WP goes inside with several senators saying a report on the intelligence that was available to administration officials before the invasion of Iraq will probably not be released in its entirety until after the November elections. This report will compare public statements made by Bush administration officials about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and the intelligence that was available to them. The Senate will vote today on whether to declassify two of the chapters that, although those appear to be less controversial than other sections of the report, still promise to provide campaign fodder for the Democrats.

The NYT reefers and everybody else mentions that Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing increased pressure from within his own party to step aside as eight junior members of his government resigned and demanded he either leave now or set a departure date. The WP and NYT point out the parallels with Margaret Thatcher, who was forced out by members of her own party after she was in office for almost 12 years.

The former governor of Illinois, George H. Ryan, was convicted of 16 counts of racketeering conspiracy, fraud and lying under oath and was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison. Ryan became known around the world when he suspended executions in his state.    

The NYT and USAT mention a Government Accountability Office report that says no single agency is overseeing the $88 billion given to rebuild the Gulf Coast after last year’s hurricanes. This means Congress has no way of knowing “how much federal funding has been spent and by whom, whether more may be needed, or whether too much has been provided.”

The LAT, NYT, and WP all have a slightly humorous take on Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s first day back in the Senate after he lost the Democratic primary and decided to run as an independent. Reporters kept following Lieberman around all day trying to get juicy tidbits, but besides some awkward and probably uncomfortable situations, everyone from his party played nice. After Republican Sen. Susan Collins gave Lieberman a warm embrace, reporters asked her whether she “pull[ed] out any of those knives in his back?” She replied: “I told him I’m going to get him a dog named Harry,” making a reference to Harry Truman’s adage that those who want a friend in Washington should get a dog.