Today's Papers

Questioning Authority

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with George Bush authorizing the CIA to resume its controversial interrogation program for terrorism suspects. After setting out new rules in an executive order yesterday, Bush said the program complies with the Geneva Conventions. The New York Times fronts that story, but leads with other news relating to terrorism suspects. A federal appeals court charged with reviewing the status of Guantanamo detainees has ordered the government to hand over all its information on the prisoners. The Justice Department had previously tried to limit its disclosure of evidence.

The CIA’s interrogation program had been in a state of uncertainty since the Supreme Court ruled last summer that all prisoners in American custody were covered by the Geneva strictures. That prompted an intense debate within the administration about where to draw the line on CIA methods. The NYT notes that earlier this year, State Department officials rejected a draft of the new guidelines that they thought was too permissive.

The LAT reads the most into Bush’s order, saying it “places no restriction on employing coercive methods—such as sleep deprivation and the use of so-called stress positions.” But the NYT says it’s unclear whether sleep deprivation is still allowed. Several officials tell the NYT that “waterboarding” is now out and all the papers tend to agree that exposure to extreme temperatures is also forbidden. But the fact is, no one knows for sure—the CIA interrogation guidelines are contained in a separate document that is still classified. The Post and LAT quote Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch saying, “All the order really does is to have the president say, ‘Everything in that other document that I’m not showing you is legal—trust me.’ “

Or trust the Justice Department, which signed off on all of the new techniques. But, as only the Post notes, John Rockefeller IV, the Democratic chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, wants to double-check Alberto Gonzales’ work. Yesterday he repeated his committee’s demand to see a copy of the department’s legal analysis of the new program. The Post notes that “similar demands for internal documents … have been rebuffed by the White House.”

The federal appeals court in Washington, charged with reviewing the enemy combatant status of Guantanamo detainees, also wants more information from the Justice Department. Government lawyers had tried to convince the court that it only needed to see the official record of the military’s Combatant Status Review Tribunals. But, as noted in the NYT and WP, the three-judge panel said its review would not be possible without seeing all the information available to the tribunals, “any more than one can tell whether a fraction is more or less than one half by looking only at the numerator and not at the denominator.”

The NYT and WP front news that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has reinstated the country’s chief justice, who had been suspended by President Pervez Musharraf. Both papers see it as a defining moment in Musharraf’s presidency and question how much longer he will be able to hang on to power.

The LAT fronts a look at the appalling conditions of Iraqi jails. It’s a nice follow-up to yesterday’s slideshow on the NYT’s Web site (and the LAT actually puts a bunch of the same photos in its own gallery). “Partially treated wounds, skin diseases and grossly unsanitary conditions appear common,” says the LAT. The situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon. Iraqi authorities say that the awful conditions comply with their laws, and American officials disclaim responsibility.

The WP fronts a new study commissioned by the Pentagon that says the U.S. needs to rebrand itself in order to win over the Iraqi people. The military’s “show of force” brand isn’t working, say the authors of the study. They suggest adapting a “we will help you” brand.

All the papers with sports sections report that the feds are investigating allegations that an NBA referee bet on games and made calls that affected the margins of victory at the behest of members of organized crime.

Everyone notes that the last Harry Potter book went on sale today. The papers’ Web sites use it as an excuse to post pictures of people in funny outfits.

President for a day … The WP and NYT report that for a few hours today, as President Bush undergoes a colonoscopy, Dick Cheney will act as president. When Bush returns from the procedure, Cheney will go back to acting as, well, president.