Today's Papers

Beware of Watchdog

The Los Angeles Timesand New York Timeslead with word that CIA Director Michael Hayden has ordered an internal investigation  into the agency’s inspector general, who has issued a number of critical reports. Some intelligence officials describe the investigation as unprecedented and worry that it could be an attempt to stop, or at least slow down, the work of Inspector General John Helgerson and his office. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with a U.S. airstrike targeting leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq that killed 15 civilians, including nine children, and 19 suspected insurgents. The paper also notes that one survivor and the families of three victims of the Sept. 16 shooting involving Blackwater sued the company in a U.S. court.

The Washington Postleads with major manufacturers of over-the-counter cough and cold medicine announcing a voluntary recall of their products designed for children under 2. The move came two weeks after some within the Food and Drug Administration argued that all of these medicines should be banned for children under 6 because they are useless and could be dangerous (hearings will be held next week). The companies contend their products are safe when used correctly, but others say they’re dangerous even at the recommended dosage. USA Todayleads with a look at how tourism in New Orleans is on track to increase more than 60 percent this year. The 6 million people expected to visit this year are still far fewer than the 10 million that went in 2004 before Hurricane Katrina.

It seems Hayden’s investigation is focused on whether the inspector general’s office is being fair in its assessments of the CIA’s operations. The LAT says it started months ago as a look into the inspector general’s investigations of the agency’s detention and interrogation programs but has since expanded to include other matters. The NYT reports that the investigation, which is being led by an attorney with close ties to Hayden, has “caused anxiety and anger” in the inspector general’s office and even caught the attention of lawmakers who worry the whole operation amounts to a huge  conflict of interest. Both papers talk to a former CIA inspector general who says the investigation would clearly be seen as an attempt to squelch the work of the inspector general. The NYT reports that the inspector general’s office is close to completing several inquiries. So, although the papers don’t mention it, perhaps the investigation is an attempt to attack the inspector general’s credibility before the new reports are released.

The LAT notes there’s concern that the investigators will eventually decide they need to crack open the inspector general’s files, which “could have a dramatic chilling effect” and make employees think twice before cooperating in future investigations. There are several officials who contend that Helgerson was unfair and “went in with a presumption of guilt,” as one put it. But there are ways for an agency head to complain about the work of inspectors general, including going directly to the White House. But one official tells the NYT that getting other parts of the government involved would “blow things way out of proportion.”

The WP got a look at a report filed by the first U.S. soldiers who arrived at the scene of the Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad involving Blackwater, which is described as a “criminal event” because there was “no enemy activity.” New information once again shows how every bit of detail that comes out about the shooting makes Blackwater look worse. Remember the claims that Blackwater guards started shooting after a sedan carrying a doctor and her son got too close to their convoy? Now it seems aerial photographs show the car had not even entered the “traffic circle, where the Blackwater vehicles had stopped, when it was fired upon.” At least two cars had only the back windows shot out, which means they were trying to leave the square. After the shooting, U.S. soldiers “went door-to-door” to look for victims and explain they weren’t to blame for the shooting.

The NYT off-leads a look at how Shiites in Baghdad are increasingly viewing the Mahdi Army as enemies rather than protectors because, in many neighborhoods, they are attacking members of their own sect. This raises a clear opportunity for the U.S. military to capitalize on these sentiments, and perhaps repeat the scenario that has played out with the Sunni tribes that turned against al-Qaida in Iraq. There are even reports that Shiites are beginning to contact Americans with information, “like they never have before,” one U.S. official said. It seems at least part of the reason for this is because of the U.S. military’s campaign to arrest senior leaders of the Mahdi Army, which created a “power vacuum” and an increase in young militia members who are widely seen as mere street thugs.

Everyone reports the Turkish government summoned its ambassador from Washington for consultations and once again warned that there would be serious repercussions if the House of Representatives approves a bill labeling the killings of Armenians as genocide. The ambassador tells the Post  that it’s “the first time that an ambassador has been recalled in many years.” The NYT reports that the U.S. military has a plan to continue sending supplies to Iraq through other countries in case Turkey decides to cut off access but “it could take months to increase operations in other logistical hubs.”

Al Gore and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize  today.

Doris Lessing found out she had won the 2007 Nobel Prize in literature from a group of reporters who were waiting outside her home. The NYT says she was in the hospital with her son, while the Post says she was grocery shopping. Whatever the case may be, the 88-year-old author of The Golden Notebook took the news “with characteristic aplomb,” as the LAT puts it. “I couldn’t care less,” she said. “This has been going on for 30 years. I’ve won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I’m delighted to win them all. It’s a royal flush.”