Basement Motives

Basement Motives

Basement Motives

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 5 2001 7:29 AM

Basement Motives

The Washington Post's lead is actually a follow to yesterday's New York Times revelation that one of the goodies spy suspect Robert Hanssen may have sold is that U.S. intelligence operatives built a listening-device-equipped tunnel under the Soviet/Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Relying on unnamed former intelligence officials, the thrust of the Post's effort is that the tunnel was a trouble-plagued, costly bust. "I am certain we never got anything out of it," is one ex-spook's verdict. The Los Angeles Times goes with a suicide bomb attack in an Israeli seaside tourist town that, besides the bomber, killed three Israelis. The paper notes that the explosion came one day after Hamas pledged to increase attacks inside Israel and that a recent Hamas leaflet claimed the organization has 10 suicide bombers prepared to act as soon as Israel has finished forming its new government. The story also reports that after the explosion, an enraged Israeli mob attacked Palestinians who had nothing to do with it. The NYT bombing fronter reports on that attack in considerable detail under a headline that also mentions recent Palestinian deaths, although the story goes into no detail about how they came about. USA Today leads with today's start of the U.S. Navy's formal inquiry into the Greeneville accident. The paper says that at stake are not just the sub's skipper's career, but also those of the two officers immediately above him in the chain of command, one of whom was also on board. The NYT lead reports President George W. Bush's strategy for getting his tax cut through Congress: make it look unstoppable by getting quick House passage and negotiate with/pressure conservative Senate Democrats to come around--which is important because a few Republican senators have already come out against Bush's cut. The risk, says the paper, is that this very speed means no talk of compromise, which might alienate some of those otherwise favorable Democratic senators.

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The WP lead has one former intel official saying that the entrance to the tunnel under the Soviet/Russian Embassy was hidden in a townhouse nearby. But an inside Post story says maybe not so well-hidden: Some folks in the neighborhood spoke of the "FBI house" in their midst, frequented by men with thick briefcases coming and going via a changing cast of unfamiliar cars. And the lawn was exceptionally well-tended.

The USAT lead says that prior to the emergency surfacing maneuver that ended in the collision with that Japanese trawler, a sonar technician had tracked the vessel as being as close as 2,000 yards away but didn't report this after the sub's captain said he saw nothing through his periscope. An inside WP effort says the technician concluded therefore that he'd been wrong about the surface ship's proximity. Oddly disappeared from the sub coverage is the allegation (first published by Navy Times) that USAT led with recently: that the Greeneville surfaced outside the designated sub operating area that transiting surface ships are warned about on ocean charts.

The NYT fronts the boom times of an investment firm, the Carlyle Group, that buys and sells companies all over the world in fields ranging from military hardware to banking to telecommunications. The company has specialized in employing ex-political heavyweights, like former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of State James A. Baker, and former prime minister of Great Britain John Major. And as the headline emphasizes, former President George Bush. The company appears to have thrived by using the worldwide connections these veterans have without having to worry about U.S. lobbying laws, because Carlyle's officials strenuously insist they don't lobby the U.S. government. They just meet with old friends. One thing the story should have done is say enough about these laws to explain why such obviously profitable meetings don't count as lobbying.

The NYT reports that the federal judges hearing Microsoft's appeal of the antitrust verdict against it use laptop computers during the proceedings to communicate with their clerks and to study legal documents. The computers come equipped with both Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator browsers and run on Microsoft's Windows operating system.

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Wait till you hear her incredibly nuanced interpretation of the Turner thesis. The NYT reports that Monica Lewinsky has agreed to "fully participate" in an HBO documentary about her affair with Bill Clinton. The story implies that she will be paid for doing so but doesn't say how much. An HBO production executive is quoted saying that the documentary will "primarily revolve around discussions that Ms. Lewinsky will have with graduate and undergraduate students of constitutional law, women's history, psychology and American history from various colleges and universities."