The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times (online, at least) lead with the release of a "stinging" opinion by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rejecting a secret request by the FBI to allow "broader cooperation and evidence-sharing between counterintelligence investigators and criminal prosecutors." The court, citing numerous past abuses by the bureau, rejected its request on the grounds that it did not offer sufficient privacy protection to citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. The Washington Post goes with the removal of enough weapons-grade uranium to make three nuclear bombs from an old Yugoslavian nuclear reactor. After a year of planning, U.S. and Russian officials seized the stash in what the Post terms a "dramatic, military-style operation." USA Today leads with a poll showing that only a "thin majority" of Americans think the U.S. should send ground troops to Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with President Bush's announcement that he is seeking to end the government's "hands-off" national forest policy and to allow lumber companies to remove wood from 190 million acres of fire-prone land.
The court said in its opinion that it had been hoodwinked by the FBI in over 75 cases, when the Fibbies used "erroneous statements" to receive permission to plant wiretaps and improperly shared intelligence with criminal investigators. The NYT says that the tension between the secret court and the FBI may help explain why investigators hesitated last summer to seek a warrant to search the computer of suspected 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. The papers disagree about who the court spanked hardest with the opinion: The WP headline is "SECRET COURT REBUFFS ASHCROFT" while the NYT emphasizes the FBI malfeasance with "… FBI AIDES MISLED JUDGES" and notes that most of the abuses that the court complained about took place during the Clinton administration or earlier.
In what one State Department official tells the WP is a "sea change," Russia's ministry of atomic energy has agreed to dispose of the seized uranium—Moscow has previously refused to take responsibility for Soviet-era nuclear material stored outside its borders. In another interesting twist, most of the money for the operation ($5 million) came from a private group, the Nuclear Threat initiative, which was founded by Ted Turner and former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn. The U.S. kicked in $2 million.
USAT cites growing fears that a war with Iraq would disrupt oil supplies, further malign the U.S. in the eyes of Arab nations, and inflame tensions in the Middle East as reasons for the waning support for an invasion. Nearly all of the respondents (94 percent) believe that Saddam either has or is developing weapons of mass destruction, and more than half think he had a hand in the 9/11 attacks.
A related story on the WP describes Israel's preparations for the fallout from a U.S. invasion of Iraq: Thousands of emergency workers are getting smallpox vaccinations, and families are stocking up on gas masks. An adviser of Prime Minister Sharon says that his government doubts the U.S. will ask them not to retaliate if Iraq attacks them, as they did during the Gulf War.
The NYT fronts and the WSJ tops its business news box with Bush's decision to exclude another 178 products from protective steel tariffs he passed in March, bringing the list of excluded products to about 700. The NYT says that the administration was "forced to backpedal on its protection efforts" after an outcry from both foreign trading partners and domestic companies, who complained that they couldn't get the products they needed after the tariffs were passed.
The NYT also reports the Bush administration's decision to pass (largely symbolic) trade sanctions on North Korea after finding that the North Koreans sold Scud missile parts to Yemen during the '90s.
Bad to Wurst? The WP runs a breathless peep inside New York's soon-to-open Museum of Sex, or MoSex. The museum will open (to adults 18 and older only) with an exhibit called "How New York City Transformed Sex in America." The show includes the touching story of how one German immigrant built the Ramses condom empire by making prophylactics out of … ahem … sausage casings. Sadly, the paper neglects to mention how much admission will cost or whether you'll have to pay it by continually plugging quarters into a slot.
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