A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 4 2001 6:26 AM

Yankees Bomb



The Washington Post  constructs a lead around a newly disclosed FBI affidavit that presents the legal arguments the government is using to detain Middle Eastern men as part of the FBI's counterterrorism probe. The paper studied the circumstances of 235 such detainees and concluded that the FBI is not looking for people who played a role in Sept. 11 so much as it is trying to snatch up and hold onto anyone who might be planning future terrorist attacks. The Los Angeles Times  offleads a similar story on the detainees and leads with a dispatch from Tajikistan where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that the U.S. has received permission to inspect three Tajik airbases to determine their fitness for launching bombing raids in Afghanistan. The New York Times  fronts neither the FBI affidavit nor the news about the Tajik airbases and leads with an announcement on how the Centers for Disease Control is planning for smallpox should there be an outbreak. The CDC has smallpox-vaccinated 140 epidemiologists who will be first-responders to a report of a case of the disease, and the CDC will begin teaching classes at its headquarters to train doctors to recognize smallpox. Details on this smallpox response plan are few: The courses will show doctors pictures of smallpox lesions; course planners want to put such pictures on the Internet so doctors anywhere can learn to recognize the disease; and doctors will be taught the procedure for vaccinating against it.


The WP lead quotes the affidavit, which explains that "the business of counterterrorism intelligence gathering in the United States is akin to the construction of a mosaic" for which you need pieces that together "will reveal how the unseen whole operates." So far, that rationale has led to the detention of 1,147 people. The paper cites evidence that the detainees are being held only in order to prevent future terrorism: 1) The number of people being detained in recent weeks has increased as the government has received intelligence about possible terrorist threats; and 2) none of those in custody has been charged in connection with Sept. 11.

The papers report Rumsfeld is touring Central Asia and Russia to check in with anti-terrorism coalition partners. The LAT lead says that if the Tajik airbases are found suitable for offensive operations and the Tajik government green-lights running bombing campaigns from them, the bases will put the U.S. within easy striking distance of Afghan targets such as Kabul.  Tajikistan expects to get tens of millions of dollars in aid in return for its bases. Rumsfeld has also stopped in Russia where he conferred with President Vladimir Putin on terrorism as well as arms control. Recent reporting has indicated that Russia and the U.S. are moving toward a compromise that will let the U.S. test missile defenses. Post-conference, Rumsfeld did not offer the papers any new information about such an arrangement. However, the papers continue to think that a compromise is imminent. For example, the NYT heard a semantic shift in Russia’s nuclear missile policy when the Russian defense minister said the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty “is an important, but not the only component, of strategic stability."

According to the WP front, Somalia, not Iraq, is the leading contender to receive U.S. attention in the next phase of the anti-terrorism campaign. Military plans for Somalia are the most well-developed, the paper reports, partly because that country is a top-choice refuge for Osama Bin Laden should he leave Afghanistan (and some intelligence reports have indicated he’s already there). One military option is for the U.S. to train and provide intelligence to the Ethiopians, who would go after al-Qaida in Somalia. Several administration officials told the WP that such use of regional allies could be a model for future anti-terror operations. 

The LAT fronts its discovery that the Treasury Department is now investigating domestic Islamic nonprofits, including some of the largest American Muslim charities, to see if they fund terrorist activities. Some of these eight organizations are being examined because they have past ties to al-Qaida. For example, the Islamic Center in Tucson, Ariz., was once headed by the man the U.S. now believes to be in charge of logistics for Bin Laden. Experts told the paper that it will be hard to tell for sure if the money these charities raise ends up going to terrorists and, if so, whether the charity groups knew it would. Often, much of their money does go to good causes while some can get redirected elsewhere. 

A WP front-pager reports that even though the Northern Alliance is outnumbered by the Taliban, it has decided to fight anyway and is getting ready for a major push toward the capital. Basically, one Northern Alliance leader said, “we want to attack them before they attack us.”  

The NYT reefers a report that the CIA's secret New York City branch was destroyed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. No agents were hurt, and a former member of the CIA suggested that no secrets were compromised due to the agency’s strict procedures for ensuring that documents are destroyed in emergencies. The report says that the destruction of the New York office seriously disrupts U.S. intelligence operations but doesn’t say specifically how the CIA's work has been compromised. But the paper does say that the New York office has led the investigations of the terror attacks on the U.S.S. Cole and the U.S. Embassies in Africa and is thought to be the most important domestic CIA office outside Washington.

The papers stuff Bin Laden’s latest videotaped diatribe, this one attacking the U.N. and the Muslim nations who support it.

The papers go inside with news that on Saturday, the Americans heavily bombed Taliban troops set up to defend important cities.

The NYT top-fronts a photo, with a story, of the Arizona Diamondbacks creaming the New York Yankees 15-2 in Game 6 of the World Series.