Today's Papers

No Stopping Eavesdropping

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times lead with a federal appeals court’s 2-1 decision to dismiss a case that had challenged the Bush administration’s secret warrantless wiretap program. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that because the plaintiffs in ACLU v. NSA could not prove they had incurred any direct injury as a result of the wiretapping, they were not qualified to file suit in the first place. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with news that Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, escaped an assassination attempt yesterday. Islamic extremists are said to have fired at Musharraf’s airplane as it was taking off from an airport near Islamabad. Nobody was injured in the attempt.

Even though the case was dismissed on what is essentially a technicality, the 6th Circuit’s ruling still counts as a rare victory for an administration that has lately been doing its very best Anthony Young impersonation. The ruling effectively bars future suits from being brought: In order to prove injury, potential plaintiffs would need to present specific evidence that they had been targeted by the NSA—but the 1953 “state secrets” privilege prohibits that sort of information from being released or discussed in court. As the ever-literate LAT notes, it’s a classic Catch-22.

Senate judiciary committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called the decision “a disappointing one that was not made on the merits of the case, yet closes the courthouse door to resolving it.” Yet the NYT indicates that many expected the case would end this way: The original ruling had been criticized as tendentious and incomplete. Everyone mentions that a group of similar cases will come before San Francisco’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in August. That court will not be bound by the 6th Circuit’s decision.

Although Pakistani officials denied that Musharraf’s plane had been fired upon, anti-aircraft guns were discovered on a rooftop near the airport, and local residents reported hearing approximately three minutes worth of gunfire around 10 a.m. It is unclear whether the attack was related to the Pakistani government’s four-day-old siege of a mosque held by Islamic militants.

The LAT offleads a piece outlining the rising tide of dissent among Republican senators and adding two brand new names to the Lugar-Voinovich-Domenici axis of impatience: Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. (“It should be clear to the president that there needs to be a new strategy.”), and Judd Gregg, R-N.H. (“We don’t seem to be making a lot of progress.”) Although President Bush’s almost Procrustean insistence on staying the course shows no signs of changing, more GOP defections are predicted in the upcoming months. “It’s as if the dike has burst,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

The LAT fronts the somewhat embarrassing news that former senator and presumed presidential candidate Fred Thompson was once hired to lobby for an abortion rights advocacy group—a claim that Thompson, who will run as a pro-life Republican, emphatically denies. “I think it’s quite astonishing they’re denying it,” said the group’s former president, who released documents indicating that, in 1991, Thompson approached then-White House chief of staff John Sununu several times on its behalf. No word on whether Thompson also plans to deny all involvement in 1991’s widely panned James Belushi vehicle, Curly Sue.

Citing Virginia’s increasingly left-leaning independent voters, 40 percent of whom named George W. Bush as the worst president since 1960 in a recent poll, the Post offleads a piece contending that the state might go Democratic in the 2008 presidential elections. Other poll results: More than 50 percent of Virginians have a negative impression of the Republican party, and less than 33 percent of the state’s independent voters think that the Iraq war is still worth fighting.

The four Democratic senators seeking their party’s presidential nomination are each expected to offer anti-war amendments during next week’s floor debate on a defense spending authorization bill, the Post reports below the fold. These amendments will invariably be heavily touted on the campaign trail, as each candidate seeks to position himself or herself as the one true foreign policy heavyweight in the race. “The war has been absolutely huge for them,” said one political science professor.

The NYT fronts news that two of the men charged in last week’s failed terror attacks in London had previously sought to practice medicine in the United States. The Post stuffs the story on Page 7.

Department of Labor statistics show that 132,000 non-agricultural jobs were created in June, the WSJ notes in a front-page general feature on America’s buoyant economy. Experts believe that interest rates will not decrease any time soon.

The NYT devotes significant front page space to a sobering feature on Lebanon, asking whether the strife-ridden nation risks becoming the newest spawning groundfor Islamic militants. Lebanon has been figuratively aflame since last year’s war between Israel and Hezbollah, and its troubles have only magnified during a recent protracted clash between army troops and an Islamic militant group. “We have no sleeper cells in Lebanon. They are all waking up,” said one Lebanese army official.

The NYT goes below the fold with a sympathetic profile of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and her longtime professions of religious faith—professions that some feel are motivated more by politics than by piety. The piece is comprehensive but flackish—was gentleness a precondition of an interview with Clinton that was “granted only after months of requests”?The NYT also notes that Joe Biden talks too much.

Live Earth, a multinational concert promoted by Al Gore and devoted to raising awareness of climate change and other environmental issues, kicks off today, the LAT reports. The event has been met with widespread indifference. “The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert,” said Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who, which nevertheless participated in 2005’s Live 8 global megaconcert. Guess he won’t get fooled again …

“French Debate Role of Jogging”: The Post fronts its Stylesection with a feature on the semi-scandal caused by French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s “undignified” choice of physical exercise: jogging. “Charles de Gaulle … moved with the stately undulation of a giraffe, and never broke into so much as a trot,” one British commentator noted. Yes, and look where he ended up.