Duck, Duck, Noose

Duck, Duck, Noose

Duck, Duck, Noose

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 24 2002 5:39 AM

Duck, Duck, Noose

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today all lead with the sniper: In a late-night press conference, Police Chief Charles Moose announced that authorities are searching for a man named John Allen Mohammed and a 17-year-old male, perhaps Mohammed's step-son, who may be traveling with him. Moose said Mohammad, a former Army soldier, should be considered "armed and dangerous" and "may have information material to our investigation." (According to early-morning reports, police have captured Mohammed and his companion in Maryland. The two were found sleeping in their car at a rest stop. As TP goes to press, there aren't any further details.) Moose announced federal firearm charges against Mohammed, but issued "a strong word of caution," against assuming that Mohammed, also known as John Allen Williams, "is involved in any of the shootings." Chief Moose also continued to try to communicate with the sniper, "You asked us to say, 'We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose.' We understand that hearing us say this is important to you." The New York Times leads with word that the U.S. formally presented its proposed resolution on Iraq to the full U.N. Security Council. Everybody says that the move seems to be a risky bid to show Russia and France that the U.S. has enough votes within the Security Council to pass the resolution without them.

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In another, apparently related sniper development, authorities in Tacoma, Washington (the other one), cordoned off a house yesterday and removed a tree from the backyard after they apparently found fragments in it. Most of the papers say that Mohammed lived in that house until late last year. The WP, which continues to have the most detailed reporting on the case (USAT is second), gives a glimpse of what may be going on: During one phone conversation, the sniper referred to a robbery he pulled off in Alabama. The Post says that disclosure led police to a robbery "in which a Tacoma, Wash., man was a suspect." John Allen Mohammed? The paper doesn't say. USAT adds that a number from a credit card stolen in that robbery was listed in one of the sniper's notes.

USAT and the WP name the teenager who apparently is traveling with Mohammed. Given that he's a minor (at least in most states), that police—at least as of last night—haven't announced his name, and that police haven't charged him with anything: Why are the papers naming him? The LAT's early edition outted the kid, but they took it out from the final version.

France and Russia have both recently criticized the U.S.'s proposed resolution, but the U.S. is betting that they won't have the guts to veto it. The resolution could come to a vote next week. The last time France vetoed an American resolution was in 1956. The LAT mentions that the latest version of the U.S.'s resolution drops several earlier demands for tougher inspections: It doesn't call for armed inspectors and doesn't demand that inspectors be allowed to take Iraqi scientists outside of the country to interview them. But it does still does include language authorizing military action should Saddam balk.

Everybody goes high with word that about 40 Chechen rebels, including some women, stormed a theater in Moscow and are holding about 500 hostages inside. The rebels apparently have wired the place with explosives and are demanding money as well that Russia withdraw its troops from Chechnya.

A front-page piece in the NYT says that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has compiled a team of his experts to give their own, CIA-free, analysis of intel data on Iraq. Dissed CIA folks argued that this is another attempt by Rummy and Co. to ensure that intel reports suit their world outlook (such as that Saddam is buddies with Bin Laden). The NYT skips a bit of related history, namely the first creation of such a group: In 1976 the Ford administration got some experts together to second-guess the CIA's analysis of the threat posed by the Soviet Union. That group, which came to be known as "Team B," was made up of various conservative Cold-Warriors who ended up having a much more pessimistic outlook than did the CIA. According to a NYT Magazine article by Bill Keller, the team's conclusions were filled with "worst-case scenario hyperbole" and eventually used to "politically bludgeon" opponents. Among the panel's members was current Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, though, in fairness, Keller says Wolfowitz's contributions were level-headed.

The WP—in a bit of self-congratulatory zeal—off-leadsAOL Time Warner's announcement that it overbooked $190 million in revenues over the past two years. As the Post says, back in July the WP nailed AOL for some funky ad revenue schemes. Most of the other papers skip that point. Here's a detail that deserves follow-up: The Post, which goes on for a while detailing how its July reports got the ball rolling, points out that after its stories were published, AOL asked its auditing firm, Ernst & Young, to recertify its reports. The accounting company did so and never announced anything about discovering a $200 million problem.

In another potential tech titan scandal, the LAT fronts what seems like a scoop: The Justice Dept. is investigating Microsoft—sugar-daddy to this site—for allegedly violating the terms of its anti-trust settlement. Microsoft allegedly has continued to hide computer code from its competitors so that other companies' programs can't work as well with Windows as Microsoft's programs do.

A piece inside the WP goes after the White House for making Republican wins on election day a "government-wide project." The Post explains that virtually the whole Cabinet—and other administration officials, including the head of NASA—have recently been out campaigning for Republican candidates. The article spends most of its time ogling at how much Bush is pushing his underlings into glad-handing candidates. But the story, which feels like it was written for insiders, would have done a better job of convincing readers of the evil in all this if it had taken a moment to clearly explain what the rules are and whether Bush is doing anything that different from other administrations. It also would have been nice if the Post hadn't waited until the article's last paragraph (the 18th), to give the White House's side of things.

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.