USA Today leads with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's reaction to a security faux pas last weekend at Chicago's O'Hare airport: A man, who had passed through security, reached the gate with an assortment of knives, a can of pepper spray, and a stun gun. When he went through the metal detector, security guards found two pocket knives, which they confiscated. He then went on his merry way, and his bag—which turned out to be holding the mini-arsenal—wasn't searched until a ticket agent decided the man looked suspicious. "I consider the O'Hare case a failure of dramatic proportions," said Mineta. The Los Angeles Times leads with Secretary Rumsfeld's announcement that the U.S. has more than doubled the number of special operations advisers in Afghanistan. "Now we're in four, maybe more" areas, said Rumsfeld. The paper waits until the 18th paragraph to note the actual number of commandos on the ground: about 50. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with Rumsfeld's comments that the insertion of U.S. troops has given American planes an "enormous advantage." The Washington Post leads with a less than fresh story: "Efforts to weaken [Taliban] forces in key cities have been frustrated by the movement of Taliban units out of their barracks and into residential areas." The New York Timesalso leads with news that's not exactly breaking: The administration is now working to buff up its message to those outside the U.S. Among the ideas: an ad campaign, says the Times, featuring "American celebrities, including sports stars, and a more emotional message."
Secretary Mineta said that in response to the O'Hare foul up, he is considering levying big fines against United, the airline that oversaw that security checkpoint. The LAT notices some fancy PR footwork by United. The airline said in a statement, "This system is built upon a series of cross-checks and backup procedures, which successfully resulted in the detention" of the guy with the seven knives at the gate. Argenbright, the company that runs security at that part of O'Hare and many other airports across the country, was fined $15 million last year for among other things, hiring felons.
The papers report that the Pentagon has continued to carpet bomb Taliban troops, and yesterday dropped a few 15,000-pound "Daisy Cutters," last used during the Vietnam War. The flowery devices create craters the size of several football fields.
The papers note a Pentagon official's contention that some front-line Taliban troops, perhaps feeling the ill-effects of all these bombs, haven't fired their guns in a number of days.
The papers report that U.S. commandos evacuated Hamid Karzai, an anti-Taliban leader, who had been trying to foment a rebellion in the south. The LAT says he was a "rescued." But the Post paints it as more of a weekend getaway. "He's just come out for consultations," Rumsfeld told the paper. (The Post also quotes Karzai's brother saying that Karzai is still in Afghanistan.)
Halfway through a stuffed man-on-the-ground report from Northern Alliance territory, the LAT has this analysis: "As U.S.-led efforts to foment a Pashtun uprising against the Taliban falter, Washington is providing increasing support to the Northern Alliance in the hope that the opposition force can win a ground war against the regime without the help of a large number of U.S. troops."
In a sort of meta-article, the WP reports that reports of Saudi Arabia's lackadaisical support of anti-terrorist efforts are hurting relations between the two countries. The Bush administrations says—and the Post hints that it agrees—that the Saudis have in fact been plenty supportive, it's just that they're trying to keep it on the down low. Reports to the contrary are making Saudi Arabia's crown prince very very angry. He told a local paper, "The ferocious campaign by the western media against the kingdom is only an expression of its hatred toward the Islamic system."
The WP fronts a visit by one of its reporters to the "tribal areas" in Pakistan where support for Bin Laden is high and foreign reporters are not allowed to venture. Sure enough, the reporter found plenty of support for al-Qaida. "If the ground war starts, we will all shut down our shops and go," said one pre-med student.
The NYT goes above the fold with investigators fervent hope that the case of the New York City hospital worker who died from anthrax will help them figure out who's been sending the stuff. Authorities are wondering whether the woman somehow came in contact with the anthrax sender. But they still don't know how the woman contracted the disease. "Nothing in her house. Nothing at work. Nothing in her mail. Nothing anywhere," said one official.
The WSJ reports, tabloid style, "New York City Mayor's Twin Towers Fund Raised $100 Million, but Hasn't Paid a Cent." One angry police official said, "The mayor's fund, what a joke that is. Not one nickel of that money has been dispensed." It all sounds very bad. But the paper doesn't ask some obvious questions. Did the fund, for example, incorrectly tell donors that their money would be quickly dispensed as emergency aid? (Today's Papers moseyed over to the fund's Web site. It states, "All donations are used exclusively towards long-term educational and housing assistance.")
Back when national crises were fun … Remember America's last collective gasp, when we discovered our country's future hung on a chad? The Post stuffs a report that, surprise, "one year later, most states have made little or no progress in overhauling their election laws."