The New York Timesand Los Angeles Timeslead, while the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with the bombings in Iraq that destroyed the two minarets at the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of the country’s most revered Shiite shrines. Militants bombed the same mosque in February 2006 and destroyed its golden dome, an event that is widely credited with sparking a brutal wave of sectarian killings that, according to the LAT,left approximately 34,000 people dead. USA Todayleads an interview with the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, who acknowledged that the bombings could spark a new round of sectarian violence. Petraeus said that although sectarian killings have been decreasing in Baghdad, “we’re going to have to see what the impact of this tragedy in Samarra is on that.” If there is an increase in sectarian killings, “This attack may well prove to be the nail in the coffin of the security plan,” an analyst tells the LAT.
The Washington Postleads with the House and Senate judiciary committees issuing subpoenas to two former senior White House officials as part of their continuing investigation into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys. Along with the subponeas for former counsel Harriet Miers and political affairs director Sara Taylor, the committees also requested White House documents. The move immediately raised tensions between Congress and the administration as the White House accused Congress of “trying to create some media drama” and urged lawmakers to interview officials privately and not under oath.
Worried about the potential for new violence as a result of the bombings in Samarra, the Iraqi government imposed curfews and stepped up protection of mosques around the country. Political and religious leaders urged Iraqis to practice restraint. Although everyone notes there were some attacks against Sunni mosques across the country, the NYT is cautiously optimistic that perhaps there won’t be a new round of violence.
Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, whose militia has been blamed for much of the sectarian violence that took place after the mosque was bombed last year, also urged restraint as he said Sunnis weren’t responsible for the latest attack, and he blamed “the hidden hands of the occupiers.” Petraeus said Sadr’s call for restraint was “very constructive.” But the 30 lawmakers of Sadr’s political bloc said they will boycott parliament until the government begins to rebuild the Samarra mosque. The NYT has a good slideshow with photographs of the shrine after each bombing.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the bombing, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed Sunni insurgents with ties to al-Qaida. Everyone notes suspicion immediately fell on the mosque’s guards, who were detained for questioning. But the WP interviewed some witnesses who said “a special unit of commandos” went to the mosque on Tuesday night and forced the guards to leave.
The WP off-leads, and everyone mentions, a new Pentagon report that says violence in Iraq has been increasing in recent months. Ever since the new security crackdown put more U.S. troops in Baghdad and Anbar, attacks have increased in most other parts of the country, including areas where there was little violence before the “surge.”
The NYT and WP front Hamas forces continuing to gain control over large portions of the Gaza Strip. Approximately 22 Palestinians were killed yesterday. The United Nations agency that gives aid to a significant portion of Gaza’s population announced that it cut back its operations after two of its employees were killed. Everyone reports that while Hamas has been stockpiling weapons for months, Fatah fighters are running out of ammunition. Meanwhile, the fighting spread to the West Bank as Fatah gunmen raided a production company. The NYT says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas might agree to give Hamas control over Gaza as long as he can keep the West Bank.
Remember the report in March that said the FBI had frequently made errors, and potentially broke the law, while collecting personal information without judicial approval through national security letters? Well, the WP fronts an internal FBI audit that reveals the problem is much worse than initially thought. The audit found that these types of errors were made more than 1,000 times. And since the audit only looked into 10 percent of the national security investigations since 2002, the real number is likely to be much higher. Most of the violations were a result of agents keeping extra information they got from telephone companies and Internet providers. But in more than 20 cases, agents specifically requested information “that U.S. law did not allow them to have.”
In other Justice Department news, the NYT fronts a look at how the Bush administration has “recast the federal government’s role in civil rights” by focusing on religious discrimination while spending less time pursuing cases that involve race.
The WSJ goes high with a new inhouse poll that says President Bush’s approval rating is now 29 percent, which marks a significant decrease from the 35 percent he received in April. In other bad news for the GOP, 52 percent of Americans say they want a Democrat to win the presidential election, while only 31 percent say they want a Republican.
Although there’s been much (probably too much) talk about whether Paris Hilton got special treatment when she was briefly released from jail, the LAT takes a look at the data and says on Page One that the hotel heiress will spend more time behind bars than most other inmates who had similar offenses. Assuming Hilton ends up serving the full 23-day sentence, she will be in jail for longer than 80 percent of people who were in similar circumstances. In fact, under current guidelines meant to ease overcrowding, “most nonviolent female offenders sentenced to less than 90 days are released immediately,” says the LAT.