Today's Papers

Truth, Lies, and Intelligence

The Los Angeles Timesleads with word that the Senate intelligence committee is getting ready to release a critical analysis of claims that were made by Bush administration officials in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The long-delayed report, which is one of the last in a series of investigations relating to the Iraq war, sounds like it could be a bombshell, but officials emphasized it reaches a “mixed verdict” in its evaluation of whether the White House misused intelligence to make the case for war. USA Todayleads with new documents that claim Federal Aviation Administration officials gave Southwest Airlines preferential treatment and allowed the company to skip important safety inspections for years.

The New York Timesleads with news that the leaders of Pakistan’s two main political parties agreed to a power-sharing deal and vowed to reinstate judges who were fired by President Pervez Musharraf. The announcement is likely to lead the new government into a direct confrontation with Musharraf since the judges could decide to challenge his re-election. The new coalition also said it would work toward rescinding many of Musharraf’s powers, including his ability to dissolve Parliament. The Washington Postleads with a look at how colleges and universities are working to adapt to changes in the country’s demographic landscape (the NYT had a similar story yesterday). Starting next year, there will be fewer high-school graduates coupled with a steep increase in the number of minority students who traditionally are less likely to go to college. Some higher education institutions, including big public universities, are likely to adapt well to these changes, while smaller schools in remote areas could suffer. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with Sen. Barack Obama’s victory in Wyoming, which is likely to be followed by a win in tomorrow’s Mississippi primary. The paper also notes up high that several big-name Democrats have come out in favor of holding mail-in primaries in Michigan and Florida.

Officials familiar with the new Senate intelligence committee report say it’s unlikely to satisfy either side of the political divide. While it criticizes White House officials for not making clear that there were disagreements within the intelligence community about Iraq, it also notes that several of the claims that proved to be erroneous were in line with the intelligence that was available at the time. “The left is not going to be happy. The right is not going to be happy. Nobody is going to be happy,” one official said. But there’s little doubt that the White House is not eager to open up this debate again, particularly during a heated presidential campaign season when the candidates are likely to pick up certain aspects of the report and turn them into sound bites. Although members of the Senate intelligence committee will receive the report this week, it could be awhile before it’s released to the public since lawmakers can propose changes and much of what is in the report could be considered classified.

Last week, the FAA fined Southwest $10.2 million for continuing to fly planes that hadn’t gone through the necessary inspections. FAA officials had been raising concerns about Southwest’s ability to keep up with inspections since as early as 2003 but were repeatedly ignored by agency officials who had close relationships with airline managers. Oversight was only increased after Congress got involved in the issue last fall. Transportation committee Chairman Jim Oberstar said the investigation that led to the fine revealed “the most serious lapse in safety I have been aware of at the FAA in the past 23 years.”

The Bush administration had been hoping that the winners of Pakistan’s parliamentary elections would be able to have a working relationship with Musharraf, but yesterday’s announcement seemed to clarify that they’re not afraid to confront him on several key issues. The WSJ says some believe that if the chief justice is reinstated, Musharraf would be forced to quit.

The WSJ fronts a look at how the National Security Agency plays a little-known but pivotal role in domestic surveillance programs. The NSA traditionally handles foreign surveillance, but it’s now involved in analyzing huge amounts of data that it gets from several different domestic agencies to seek out suspicious patterns that could point to terrorist activity. The NSA uses powerful programs to analyze basic data from e-mail, Internet searches, airlines, telephone records, and financial information. As much as the agency can insist it’s focused on foreign threats, the truth is that “it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish between domestic and international communications in a digital era.” The NSA doesn’t need a judge’s permission to gather the data and carry out the type of analysis that gives the agency the power to build a detailed profile of someone’s behavior.

The WP fronts a look at a number of new studies published over the past few weeks that say countries need to work toward reducing carbon emissions to almost zero in order to prevent a dangerous rise in temperatures. But some think these types of goals are unrealistic and it’s better to focus on reducing emissions rather than “debating whether 88 percent or 99 percent is sufficient,” a climate expert at NASA said. “It’s like you’re starting off on a road trip from New York to California, and before you even start, you’re arguing about where you’re going to park at the end.”

Despite all the recent talk of stagflation, the WSJ says the chances of it actually taking place are slim. The tightening up of the credit markets probably means that the inflation part of the equation “will ultimately remain consigned to the attic, along with bell-bottom pants and disco balls.” An economist tells the paper that it’s common for inflation to increase during a recession but it ultimately ends up falling when a weak economy means a decrease in demand. “You get stagflation false signals in most recessions.”

The NYT notes that to advertise its commemorative Thriller album, Sony BMG videotaped professional dancers performing the well-known zombie dance in everyday settings, including the London Underground and a supermarket (watch the videos here and here). The videos have been a huge hit online and even attracted a fair bit of media attention, but also raised some controversy over when a promotional stunt sponsored by a corporation should be disclosed.