Today's Papers

Deep Threat

The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsboxlead with the National Intelligence Estimate released yesterday, titled “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland,” that says al-Qaida has managed to rebuild over the past two years, putting the United States in a “heightened threat environment.” Much of al-Qaida’s resurgence is blamed on Pakistan’s northwestern region, where the terrorist organization has been able to establish a safe haven. But the report also mentions Iraq and says al-Qaida has used the war as a recruiting tool and to re-energize supporters. The two-page declassified portion of the NIE didn’t reveal anything really new, but, as the LAT notes up high, it’s significant because it’s the “first comprehensive examination of the domestic terrorism threat” by all U.S. intelligence agencies in 20 years.

USA Todayfronts word that Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with lawmakers yesterday to try to figure out a way to shift around $1.3 billion so that Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles could be delivered more quickly to troops in Iraq. Gates said the Pentagon has “found a way to accelerate production … and it’s going to take a little extra money.” On Monday, USAT revealed the Pentagon ignored multiple pleas from those on the ground for more of these vehicles.

The NIE quickly entered the political arena yesterday, as the White House touted it as proof the Iraq war must continue to prevent al-Qaida from establishing a base of operations. But Democrats emphasized that Iraq has taken attention away from Pakistan and, ultimately, has made the country less safe. USAT notes intelligence officials said that despite this increased threat, Europe is at greater risk for another terrorist attack. Although the NIE focused on al-Qaida as the main threat, it also warned Hezbollah could be “more likely to consider attacking the homeland” if it sees the United States as a threat to the group or to Iran. Slate’s Fred Kaplan says “this amounts to a direct warning to the White House: Don’t attack Iran.”

The NYT fronts and the WP goes inside with analysis pieces on the NIE that help put the report into context. The NYT highlights  how the main terrorist threat to the United States “has the same name and the same basic look as in 2001.” An intelligence expert tells the paper that yesterday’s NIE could be titled the same as the infamous Aug. 6, 2001, presidential brief, “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.” For its part, the WP focuses on how the report raises questions about the effectiveness of the Bush administration’s strategy for fighting terrorism as well as its justification for the Iraq war.

The WP got its hands on the list of meetings that Vice President Cheney’s energy task force held with various interest groups and (surprise!) most of them were with the energy industry. These meetings became the subject of much controversy as the administration fought tooth and nail to keep the list private. But now the Post reports that by the time the task force met with environmental groups, there had already been numerous encounters with the industry and the first draft of the report was basically complete. Many of those who met with Cheney continued to be perplexed as to why the administration fought so hard to keep the list of meetings private. Interestingly enough, the paper notes that although the report was heavily criticized by environmental groups when it came out, some now say “that in retrospect it appears better balanced than the administration’s actual policy.”

The Post fronts word from Rep. Henry Waxman, D.-Calif., that officials from the Office of National Drug Control Policy were enlisted by the administration to help campaign for vulnerable Republicans before the 2006 midterm elections. This is seen as yet another example of how the Bush administration used typically nonpartisan federal agencies to try to get an advantage at the ballot box, which, according to Waxman “may be more widespread than previously known.”

As cots were rolled out and pizza was delivered for their all-nighter, the NYT notes on Page One that several of the Republican senators who publicly defected with the White House on Iraq have refused to support the Levin-Reed amendment, which would mandate a withdrawal of combat troops. Meanwhile, the LAT asked around and fronts a look at how the lawmakers who are pushing for withdrawal really have no plan to deal with the violence that many say will inevitably follow. Some insist that any violence would be short-term and the consequences won’t be as dire as the White House says. Regardless, most recognize that post-withdrawal discussions are likely to heat up in the coming weeks.

The LAT and USAT front above-the-fold pictures of a plane in Sao Paulo, Brazil that skidded off a runway and crashed into a gas station. It’s believed that all 176 people on board plus another 15 on the ground were killed.

The LAT fronts, and everybody mentions, the big kerfuffle over what appeared to be a leak of the final Harry Potter book, which will be released Saturday. Someone apparently photographed every page of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and then let it loose on the Internet. No one could be really sure of its authenticity, but it certainly looked the part and the book’s publishers were scrambling to pressure the different sites to take down the offending files.

Extreme tree huggers … A man from affluent Northwest Washington, D.C., realized his Hummer could bring him more than disapproving stares from his Prius-loving neighbors, reports the Post. Five days after he brought his “dream car” home, which he had to park on the street because it wouldn’t fit in the garage, two masked men broke every window and put a knife through each of his tires. In case he didn’t get the subtle hint, they scratched a message in the car’s body: “FOR THE ENVIRON.”