The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead with a military jury in Guantanamo Bay sentencing Osama Bin Laden’s former driver to five and a half years in prison. The WSJ is the most direct and calls it “an embarrassing blow to the Bush administration’s first war-crimes prosecution.” After the jury convicted Salim Hamdan of supporting al-Qaida but not of the more serious conspiracy charge, prosecutors argued he should be sentenced to at least 30 years. Considering that the judge had already said he will credit him with at least five years and one month of the time he has already served, Hamdan could be released in five months. But no one knows what will actually happen, as the Bush administration has made it clear that it holds the right to keep enemy combatants imprisoned indefinitely.
USA Today leads with a look at how the Transportation Security Administration is currently debating whether it will allow airports to ban firearms in unsecured areas. Of course, passengers aren’t allowed to bring weapons to airport checkpoints, but many states permit firearms in parking lots, terminals, and other areas. The issue is being debated because of a request from Atlanta’s international airport, but the TSA’s decision could affect all airports. Ultimately, the courts might have to decide whether an airport can override state law.
Once again, supporters of the military commission system seized on the jury’s decision to argue that the tribunals are fair and should continue. Although the WSJ says the “surprisingly light sentence could be a bad omen for the government,” the WP highlights that even the judge called Hamdan “a small player” and future commissions will deal with men who have a much closer connection to terrorist activity. Now all attention will turn to whether Hamdan will be a free man next year. There will undoubtedly be lots of pressure on the administration to release Hamdan when he’s done serving his time. “We believe that the notion of fundamental fairness would be deeply offended” if he’s kept as a detainee beyond his sentence, one of his lawyers said.
The WSJ and WP both point out the interesting fact (the WSJ calls it ironic) that those who have been convicted in civilian courts of supporting terrorists received far tougher sentences. The WP notes that a spiritual leader in Virginia received a life sentence “largely for inciting followers to train for jihad against the United States.” The WSJ contrasts the military commission’s sentence of Australian David Hicks (time served plus nine months) and John Walker Lindh, who was also captured with Taliban forces but received a 20-year sentence.
The NYT off-leads word that Defense Secretary Robert Gates intends to endorse a plan to nearly double the size of the Afghan National Army that will cost $20 billion over five years. In what the papercalls “a closely related decision,” Gates will also restructure NATO and American forces to give the army officer who heads the multinational force command over most of the American troops as well. The two decisions are seen as “acknowledgement of shortcomings” in the Afghanistan operations as well as an attempt to deal with an increasingly violent insurgency. Officials say Gates would seek contributions from other countries to help pay the $20 billion.
The papers have more information about Bruce Ivins, the scientist that the FBI says was the sole perpetrator of the anthrax attacks. The WP goes inside with a piece that has a bit of new, potentially incriminating, information followed by lots of doubts. The paper gets word that Ivins was away from work for several hours on the day when the first round of letters were dropped in a mailbox. For some reason, the Justice Department didn’t include that information in the documents that were released yesterday. Experts analyzing the data say the Justice Department would have had a hard time proving its case in court. They point to the fact that investigators were unable to uncover tollbooth footage or credit card information to link Ivins to the mailings. The government also insists there was a DNA link between the anthrax in the letters and what Ivins kept in his lab, but bioweapons experts say it’s still not clear how exactly the FBI was able to discard everyone else who had access to the same strain of anthrax.
The NYT’s Page One piece takes a close look at how Ivins talked about the attacks, repeatedly offered to assist investigators, and sometimes even misled them. Ivins was part of the team that tested suspected anthrax during the hectic days after the attacks and was quick to offer up names of colleagues that he said could be suspects. He also wasn’t shy about talking of the attacks. One woman says Ivins talked about the attacks at a party and he “was just astonished” at the perpetrator’s skills for being able to get the anthrax to be so finely ground.
The WP fronts, and the NYT goes inside with, a look at the continuing negotiations between Barack Obama’s campaign and Hillary Clinton’s aides about what will take place at the convention. One issue seems to be settled, as both the NYT and LAT say that Bill Clinton will be speaking on Wednesday, the night before Obama is scheduled to formally accept the nomination. But it’s still not known what the formal nominating process will look like. Clinton told supporters last week that her delegates need a “catharsis,” which some saw as a suggestion that she would support a symbolic roll-call vote so her backers can express their preference before officially joining Obama. Although Obama’s aides might be tempted to simply ignore Clinton, the NYT points out that “she does have leverage” as polls reveal she is still as popular as Obama among Democrats.
The LAT notes inside that John McCain’s support for the deal that sold Airborne Express to the German company that owns DHL just might cost him the crucial state of Ohio in November. The corporate deal didn’t go exactly as expected, and thousands of people could be out of a job in nine Ohio counties if DHL closes its facilities. McCain already knew that the sensitive issue would give him some trouble, but the situation only got worse this week as the Cleveland Plain Dealerreported that his campaign manager was a lobbyist for the German group and helped push the deal through Congress.
The Beijing Olympics begin today and USAT gets into the China vs. United States prediction game. The paper forecasts that China will win the most gold medals with 51, while the United States will get 43. If accurate, it would mark the first time in 72 years that a country besides the United States or the Soviet Union wins the most gold medals at a Summer Olympics. Overall, USAT predicts that the United States will still be able to edge its way to the No. 1 spot in the overall medal count with 104 to China’s 97.
The LAT reports that Apple has removed an application called I Am Rich that iPhone users could have bought for a mere $999.99. So what did 1,000 bucks buy? “Once activated, the user is treated to a large, glowing gem,” says the LAT. “That’s about it.” A total of six people purchased it. “I am sure a lot more people would like to buy it—but currently can’t do so,” the product’s developer said. “The App is a work of Art and included a ‘secret mantra’–that’s all.”