Today's Papers

Failure To Launch

The New York Timesand the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead with, and everyone else fronts, the release of an internal CIA investigation completed in 2005 that says the agency failed to use its available resources to create a grand strategy to target al-Qaida before the 9/11 attacks. The agency’s inspector general called for more investigations to determine whether former CIA Director George Tenet, along with other top officials, should be held accountable. The Washington Postleads with President Bush offering a less than full-hearted endorsement of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday.

USA Todayleads with a look at how several state and local officials are questioning whether the hefty tax breaks often given to businesses are truly worth the cost. According to several academics, the financial incentives—totaling about $50 billion—handed out by state and local governments don’t provide a long-term benefit for the economy. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally with news that California’s Senate ended an almost two-month battle and finally approved a budget.

The full report by the CIA’s inspector general remains classified but Congress forced the agency to release a redacted version of the 19-page executive summary. CIA Director Michael Hayden said he didn’t want to release the report because it would be distracting and rehash old issues. It’s true that much of what is in the executive summary was already known, but it did reveal some key new details, and, perhaps more importantly, brought back to the forefront the fact that no one has been held accountable for intelligence mistakes.

Among other things, the report revealed that although the CIA wanted to capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, officials didn’t realize his importance within al-Qaida. Also, as many as 60 intelligence officials saw at least one cable in 2000 that said  two of the hijackers may have already been in the United States, but the information wasn’t shared with the relevant agencies. The report also reveals new details about the tensions between the NSA and the CIA, which prevented officials from gaining access to key information.

The LAT does a good job of following the money and focuses on how the report says that while Tenet was pleading for more funds to fight terrorism, the agency failed to effectively use all of its available resources. Overall, the report says there wasn’t a “single point of failure” but points to Tenet as the one who bears “ultimate responsibility” for the lack of an overall strategy. Tenet’s successor rejected the recommendation to create an “accountability board” because “singling out these individuals would send the wrong message.”

A day after the chairman of the Senate armed services committee called for Maliki’s ouster, Bush pointedly said it’s “up to the Iraqis to make the decision, not American politicians.” The president also acknowledged that Iraqis are growing impatient  with their government. “If the government doesn’t respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government,” he said. The Post says his words “suggested that the administration’s patience with the current leadership is wearing thin.”

The understatement of the day award goes to the Post: “Support for Maliki also appears to be eroding on Capitol Hill.”

The NYT fronts an analysis of Bush’s statements and says the president doesn’t really want to push Maliki out, “if only because there is no obvious alternative,” but he wants the American people to know he’s frustrated with the situation. All the papers mention Bush will use a speech today to make the case for staying in Iraq and will link Iraq to previous conflicts. The president will say the price of withdrawal from Vietnam was “paid by millions of innocent citizens” and led to the rise of Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. A few historians immediately criticized the comparisons. Bush will also say that terrorists often mention Vietnam when predicting that the United States will leave Iraq. The LAT emphasizes how this is an unusual move for a president who has avoided comparing Iraq to Vietnam.

According to early morning wire reports, 14 U.S. soldiers died when their helicopter crashed in northern Iraq. Officials are still investigating but said it looks like the helicopter suffered mechanical problems.

The NYT reefers word that, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, more than 500 people died and 1,500 were injured in last week’s bombings. If these figures are accurate, the paper notes the attack was the deadliest since the invasion “by a factor of three.”

The WP fronts a look at a relatively small no-bid contract awarded by the Department of Homeland Security to illustrate how the practice has “become common at federal agencies.” This is hardly new but the case cited by the Post is a good example of how government officials frequently award contracts without competition to friends and former employers. In this case, the private contractor even showed government officials how to arrange a no-bid contract, a practice that a Homeland Security spokesman said isn’t unusual.

In another example of the revolving door between the private and public sectors, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration will become the new chief executive of a trade group representing aerospace companies.

All the papers mention Iran released an American scholar who was in prison for more than 100 days. The LAT says the 67-year-old grandmother, who is one of at least four Americans arrested in Iran, is not allowed to leave the country.

The LAT went on a search for the person responsible for two authentic-looking videos of UFOs in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which quickly turned viral and sparked heated discussions of their authenticity. The LAT tracked down the man who made the videos, who says it was part of his research for a movie about two men who create a “UFO hoax.” He said the reaction to the videos has been “a little scary.” Why scary? “Many people refuse to believe it’s a hoax.”