The New York Times leads with word that the United States has apprehended Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a top al-Qaida operative and the suspected "mastermind" behind the bombings of the USS Cole and the American embassies in East Africa. Al-Nashiri was taken into custody sometime earlier this month, but up until now, U.S. officials had said only that they were detaining a "senior al-Qaida official." The Washington Post and Los Angeles Timeslead the official announcement on expansion made at yesterday's NATO summit: Formal invitations were extended to seven East European countries, including three Baltic nations once part of the USSR. The NATO story also tops the world-wide newsbox at the Wall Street Journal.
"This is a serious blow to al-Qaida ... to catch a guy like this," a high-placed official tells the LAT. In the NYT, the coverage of the arrest explains that al-Nashiri became "surprisingly cooperative" once he found himself in an American "interrogation center" at an undisclosed location overseas. None of the papers give the most likely reason why al-Nashiri—accused of killing dozens of Americans—hasn't been brought to the U.S.: Holding him here would raise rights and due process issues that might get in the way of his "cooperation."
Why would the government choose to name al-Nashiri now, when it might be good strategy to keep his arrest a secret? USAToday (among others) suggests the move was a response to Democrats who have recently been heard questioning the strategy behind the war on terror. But the NYT offers a different explanation: Administration officials tell the paper they only went to press because certain news organizations were set to run the story anyway.
The WP lead declares that NATO "formally left the 20th century." Like the LAT, the paper sees the expansion as symbolic of a broader realignment against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, problems that defy the structure of Cold War-era geopolitics. Calling yesterday's fanfare "scripted," the NYT offers a much lower-key take on the event. "The stirring rhetoric about expanding NATO to the borders of its cold war enemy did little to disguise the very real cracks in alliance unity on Iraq," the story reminds.
Everyone covers the latest non-ultimatum to come out of the summit. The gathering of NATO leaders agreed that Iraq is failing to meet U.N. demands but fell short of saying the failure was a justification for war. Germany, for one, made no bones of its opposition to war, leading the NYT to discount the possibility of a NATO military campaign anytime soon.
Inside each paper is word that a second bombing suspect is off the streets. Indonesian officials announced yesterday that they had arrested Imam Samudra, whom they had labeled the prime suspect in the Bali bombing which took place a month ago.
The NYT spotlights Ariel Sharon's slow-moving response to yesterday's bus bombing in Jerusalem. Sharon is being pulled in two directions: Taking a hard line would help neutralize criticism from party rival Benjamin Netanyahu, but it would also go against American marching orders to keep a low profile while world attention is on Iraq.
The papers go inside with two shooting incidents in the Middle East. An American woman who worked as a nurse and a missionary in Lebanon was killed when she was shot three times in the head by a sniper. Meanwhile, two U.S. soldiers in Kuwait were seriously hurt (but are in stable condition) when a Kuwaiti policeman flagged down their vehicle and opened fire
The WSJ, WP,and LAT front a revised history of how man made his best friend. According to previous theories, dogs came about whenever people would take wolves as pets, which happened frequently at various times in small pockets throughout the world. Now, based on new DNA research, a group of scientists argues that a onetime fad of domestication hit Asia roughly 15,000 years ago—and that all modern dogs descend from the trusty breed those people took with them.
For the second time in a week, the NYT gets stuck with an embarrassing correction: "An article yesterday about a man accused of having tried to hijack an El Al plane en route to Istanbul from Tel Aviv on Sunday referred incorrectly to Tel Aviv. It is not the capital of Israel; Jerusalem is."
David Newman is a contributing editor at Legal Affairs.