Today's Papers

Divide and Conquer

The New York Timesleads with news that Australian David Hicks pleaded guilty late yesterday to providing material support of terrorism. The 31-year-old Hicks, who has been held in Guantanamo for five years, was the first prisoner to be prosecuted under a new military-commission law passed by Congress last year. If his plea is accepted, he will become the first detainee from Guantanamo to be convicted of a crime. The Los Angeles Timesleads with word that there are increasing divisions between insurgent groups and al-Qaida in Iraq, a trend that U.S. and Iraqi officials hope to exploit to their advantage. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the announcement by Iraq’s prime minister and president that they will introduce legislation to allow many former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to hold government jobs.

USA Todayleads, and everybody else fronts, a new study that reveals angioplasty with the insertion of a stent to relieve clogged arteries provides no benefits over a conventional drug treatment. No one is arguing about the use of angioplasty in emergency situations, but, in normal circumstances, those who underwent angioplasty did not live longer and did not suffer fewer heart attacks. Many say the study will change the way doctors treat heart disease, particularly since angioplasty has become one of the most common medical procedures. The Washington Post leads with the resignation of Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small, who has been under intense criticism for what Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa called his “Dom Perignon lifestyle.” Although by all accounts Small was an extremely effective fund-raiser during his seven-year tenure, Congress and internal investigators were looking into his compensation and how he spent $2 million in housing and office expenses. Smithsonian officials named Cristián Samper, director of the National Museum of Natural History, as acting secretary.  

The LAT and WP also front Hicks’ guilty plea, which everyone says is a victory for the Bush administration, particularly since its first effort to hold trials for Guantanamo detainees was struck down by the Supreme Court. But the guilty plea came only after a day of much back-and-forth where Hicks’ defense attorney, Marine Maj. Michael D. Mori, repeatedly accused the military commission’s presiding officer, Marine Col. Ralph H. Kohlmann, of bias.

One of the aspects of yesterday’s proceedings that raised the most questions was Kohlmann’s refusal to allow two of the defense attorneys to participate in the process. One was disqualified because she is a Pentagon employee and the other, a civilian criminal defense lawyer, because he refused to sign a document promising to follow procedural rules that have not yet been established. After the hearings came to a close, Kohlmann called the tribunal back, and that’s when Hicks entered his plea. The LAT has the best coverage of questions surrounding the guilty pleaand quotes several critics who say yesterday’s events show how the trial was put together quickly for political purposes and that Hicks was essentially forced to plead guilty. The WP says prosecutors probably won’t seek anything longer than 20 years, which he probably will be able to serve in Australia.

The LAT talked to “insurgent leaders from two of the prominent groups fighting U.S. troops” who said they disagreed with some of al-Qaida’s tactics. On his last day in Iraq, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad spoke of these increasing divisions and said it has created an opening for negotiations. Iraqi government officials say they are currently in talks with insurgents. But the LAT is clear to warn that it is no panacea, as fights against al-Qaida forces are localized, and at least so far, the divisions are hardly universal.

A day after the NYT had a Page One piece on the poor living conditions in Baghdad’s Sunni neighborhoods, today the Post fronts a piece looking into daily life in the Shiite slum of Sadr City, where life is quite different. But the residents of Sadr City don’t have the government to thank for the aid and services available to them because it’s all due to cleric Muqtada Sadr. The slum “often appears to operate like a separate nation, where Sadr’s words carry the weight of law,” says the Post.

The WSJ goes high with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s announcing that Republicans will allow Congress to pass a war-spending bill that includes deadlines for withdrawal. Instead of using parliamentary tactics to delay a debate on Iraq, McConnell said they will rely on President Bush to use his veto pen. Republicans insisted they don’t want to spend any more time debating something that has no chance of becoming law. According to a new poll, 59 percent of Americans say they want Congress to support a bill that would withdraw all troops from Iraq by August 2008.

Everyone goes inside with news that a top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and announced she won’t testify about her role in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Monica Goodling, the Justice Department’s White House liaison, is currently on leave. Wondering about the significance of this latest twist in the scandal? The WPputs it plainly: “The decision means a senior aide to the nation’s top law enforcement official is in the remarkable position of refusing to testify for fear of implicating herself in a crime.” In an interview with NBC News, Gonzales said he was never involved in identifying which prosecutors should be replaced.

All the papers note that a medical examiner in Florida announced Anna Nicole Smith died because of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. At least nine drugs, including methadone and three different types of depression and anxiety medications, were found in her body. This mixture resulted in her death, although the primary culprit was the sleeping medication chloral hydrate.