Today's Papers

Evidence of Absence

The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times lead and the Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide news box with news of a Senate Intelligence Committee report which partially concludes that, far from colluding with al-Qaida, Saddam Hussein actively shunned the organization. The report also claims that Iraqi exiles knowingly gave false information to America regarding Iraq’s prewar weapons capability in attempts to influence the invasion decision.

The Washington Post off-leads the report and leads news of a suicide bombing near the American embassy in Kabul that wounded 17 and killed 16, including two American soldiers. A photograph of the flaming scene spans the top four rightmost columns, including the spot where the lead story customarily appears.

Drawing heavily upon a recently declassified CIA intelligence assessment, the report found that Iraq “did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward [Abu Musab al-]Zarqawi and his associates.” At one point, Hussein even tried to arrest Zarqawi. Directly contradicting several statements made by administration officials as justification for the war, the report concludes with a jab at Donald Rumsfeld: “There comes a point where the absence of evidence does indeed become the evidence of absence.” Three chapters of the report, which concern the Bush administration’s use of intelligence in the war run-up, are yet to be released.

The Post focuses on the report’s harsh and controversial assessment of the Iraqi National Congress, the exile organization charged with peddling false intelligence to U.S. officials. An INC spokesman called the report “tendentious, partisan and misleading”; committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., was “disappointed” by what he considered Democratic efforts to overstate the INC’s role in intelligence gathering.

Two committee Republicans voted to release the INC portion of the report; the fact that the al-Qaida portion of the report was released by a near-unanimous vote makes it hard to dismiss its findings as mere partisanship. Still, Bush spokesman Tony Snow tried his best, claiming the reports were merely “re-litigating things that happened three years ago.”

Whereas suicide bombings were once nearly nonexistent in Afghanistan, they have increased in frequency over the past year as Taliban insurgents have grown bolder. A frustrated NATO general told the NYT  that the war would be easier to win if the NATO nations would meet their troop obligations. Afghani officials suspect that yesterday’s bombers were trained by Pakistani intelligence services. Pakistan denies the accusations. Meanwhile, approximately 29 people were killed in a western Indian city when suicide bombers riding explosive-laden bicycles attacked during preparations for a Muslim religious festival.

President Bush will visit 9/11 memorial sites Sunday and Monday to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the WSJ reports. Although Bush is not scheduled to speak at any of the stops, the administration hopes that the visits will remind wavering voters of the importance of staying the course.

The WSJ fronts an economic retrospective on the effects of the 9/11 attacks on businesses, concluding that, contrary to expectations, new security expenses have had little effect on companies’ bottom lines. What stalled the expected increase in security spending? “Any one owner of any facility is very unlikely to be attacked, yet quite likely to suffer competitively if he [or] she pays the price for more protection and no one else in the same economic sector does the same,” said a Brookings Institute scholar.

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger publicly apologized for insensitive remarks he made during a private staff meeting last week, the LAT reports. In remarks that were tape-recorded and leaked to the LAT, Schwarzenegger said that Cubans and Puerto Ricans are “hot” due to their admixture of Latino and African ancestry. California Latinos are treating the remarks with equanimity: ” ‘It’s probably true,’ said Frank Rodriguez.”

Fugitive Ralph “Bucky” Phillips surrendered in northern Pennsylvania last night, ending a five-month search that intensified over the past week when Phillips was added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. Phillips, who escaped from an upstate New York jail in April, is suspected of shooting three state troopers—one of whom died—in the course of his flight. The searchers closed in on Phillips’ location when police dogs picked up his scent from a car he had abandoned earlier that day.

The NYT fronts a long profile of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader and the bite behind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bark. Disenchanted with former president Mohammad Khatami’s moderate regime, Khamenei consolidated his power and engineered Iran’s recent swing toward aggressive fundamentalism. The Post and the WSJ note the U.S. government’s recent attempts to impact Iran’s finances by barring one of its largest state-owned banks from doing business with U.S. banks.

The Sudanese government agreed yesterday to release Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Salopek from custody, the Postand the NYT report. Salopek, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent known for his immersion reporting, was captured by militants in Darfur five weeks ago; he had been jailed by the government on ill-defined espionage charges ever since.

The NYT goes below the fold with the latest dispatches from Joe Lieberman’s Loneliness Tour. With no party organization and a rapidly shrinking list of endorsements, Lieberman is stumping Connecticut trying to rally swing voters around his patented blend of experience and bipartisanship. “People treat the parties as if they are the only thing that matters,” said Lieberman. The Lamont campaign, for its part, says that Lieberman’s only interested in “the party of one.”

Although it’s been slightly re-edited, ABC still plans to air the controversial docudrama The Path to 9/11 on Sunday and Monday nights, the LAT reports. Democratic officials have decried what they call the miniseries’ inaccurate depiction of the Clinton administration’s assessment of and response to the threat al-Qaida posed to America. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., even went so far as to threaten ABC’s broadcast license. Two bucks says that football gets much better ratings both nights, anyway.

Israel lifted its two-month long naval blockade of Lebanese ports yesterday, everyone reports.

Would you like an “It’s a Child, Not a Choice” bumper sticker with that?: The Post fronts a feature on Christian pregnancy counseling centers that use sonogram images of fetuses as means to dissuade women from procuring abortions. Pro-choice leaders blast what they call the centers’ deceptive marketing techniques, which include downplaying their Christian affiliations. The centers, some of which are partially taxpayer-funded, set up shop near abortion clinics, “[j]ust like McDonald’s and Starbucks look for competitors to be next to,” said the executive director of one center.