The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead with the latest anthrax discoveries: at mail centers for the Central Intelligence Agency, the Supreme Court, and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and in three congressional offices in the Longworth House Office Building. The NYT and LAT headlines relay the Centers for Disease Control director’s prediction that anthrax is likely to be found in more letters.
According to the papers, no effort is being made to find suspicious mail until that mail has finished being decontaminated. The CDC director said it was “highly unlikely to virtually impossible” that the State Department employee who recently was diagnosed with inhalation anthrax was infected by handling a cross-contaminated letter. However, he said, cross-contamination might be responsible for the small amounts of anthrax found at the CIA and Walter Reed. Now thousands of workers who handle bulk mail in public and private organizations and apartment buildings in Washington are being told to take antibiotics. But official advice for the residents of those apartment buildings, like that for Americans everywhere, remains the same: Wash your hands after opening your mail. The White House spokesman reports investigators’ latest thoughts on who might have manufactured this anthrax: someone with a Ph.D. in microbiology and a sophisticated laboratory.
FBI and CIA officials think that a domestic source, probably not affiliated with al-Qaida, is likely sending the anthrax mail, reports the WP front. The reporting doesn’t offer clues that point toward a domestic source, such as American sympathizers with Islamic extremists, so much as it offers clues that point away from a foreign source. For example, tests on the bacteria samples have not established a clear path to a foreign government or laboratory, and intelligence has not tied anthrax in envelopes to al-Qaida or other terrorists. The only clue pointing toward foreign sponsorship of the anthrax is that the FBI has concluded that whoever wrote the letters likely did not speak English as a first language.
The papers top-front reports that the Taliban has caught and killed Abdul Haq, a prominent Pashtun rebel and ally in the U.S. struggle against the Taliban. A week ago, Haq sneaked into Afghanistan to encourage opposition to the Taliban. Though the State Department praised Haq and his cause, the NYT reports that the U.S. government didn’t assist Haq, other than to offer him satellite phones, but doesn’t say why. The NYT tells a dramatic story about Haq’s final hours: When surrounded by Taliban forces on a mountain road, Haq used a phone to get word out of his predicament, where it reached Robert McFarlane, Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser. McFarlane alerted the CIA, who asked the military to call in an airstrike to try to save Haq. The WP report has some of these details, but the LAT says that stories about Haq’s capture, including the one where U.S. helicopters attempt to rescue him, cannot be verified. The U.S. military arrived too late, the Taliban boasted, while the Pentagon wouldn’t comment on any such military operation.
Of all the papers, the LAT most thoroughly probes the consequences of Haq’s death for U.S. attempts to woo Taliban defectors and create a post-Taliban coalition government for Afghanistan. It also uses the strongest language to describe the problems Haq’s execution creates for the U.S., going so far as to call it “potentially devastating to the Bush administration's efforts to help form a government-in-waiting for Afghanistan.” In a separate front page piece, the LAT reveals that U.S. analysts believed an Afghan coalition government had a “fighting chance” as long as Haq was around because of his credibility, connections, and standing with the Afghan people. His execution may dissuade other opposition figures from trying to rally support in Afghanistan.
On a day when hope for political solutions in Afghanistan was dealt a blow by Haq’s assassination, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf advised that the best way for the U.S. to stop Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida would be for it to create a broad-based Afghan government which would be able to help the Americans, the papers report inside. According to the WP, Musharraf said Pakistan would “go along until the objectives are achieved” and that he wasn’t feeling personally stressed about his decision to do so. But, he noted, unless the U.S. eventually reigns in the bombs and embraces political strategies, people’s sympathies will increasingly be directed against America.
Musharraf’s determination to support U.S. objectives is undoubtedly reinforced by the thought of the several billion dollars that the NYT reports Bush will likely give him. This reward for Pakistan’s cooperation includes debt rescheduling, grants for many years to come, and trade benefits. It would make Pakistan the third-biggest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel and Egypt.
The papers all front pictures of the burning Red Cross building in Kabul that was hit a second time in error by U.S. bombs. The Pentagon apologized, saying military planners had chosen the incorrect target. Another bomb destined for a Red Cross warehouse fell in a residential area.
The NYT fronts and the others go inside with a report that the Czech Republic has confirmed, without giving details, that a meeting did take place between hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague last spring.
Each paper reports below-the-fold that Lockheed Martin beat out Boeing to get the $200 billion Pentagon contract to build 3,000 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.