FOIAled

FOIAled

FOIAled

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 18 2003 4:58 AM

FOIAled

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with an appeals court's ruling that the government is allowed to keep secret the names of the 762 immigrants detained in the post-Sept. 11 sweeps. The New York Times leads with, and others stuff, the Canadian government's move to legalize same-sex marriages. The government endorsed the change after the top court in Canada's largest province, Ontario, ruled last week that the government's traditional hetero marriage laws are discriminatory and unconstitutional. USA Today leads with the World Health Organization's announcement that SARS has been stopped "dead in its tracks." China and Hong Kong reported no new cases for the sixth consecutive day. 

By a 2-1 margin the appeals court said that the judicial branch isn't equipped to evaluate national security concerns and should defer to the executive branch. In this instance, that meant supporting the feds' argument that abiding by the Freedom of Information Act and releasing the name of even one detainee could help al-Qaida. As the papers note, many of those detained were later found to have no connection to AQ. The dissenting judge issued a scathing rebuttal: "The court's uncritical deference to the government's vague, poorly explained arguments ... as well as its willingness to fill in the factual and logical gaps in the government's case, eviscerates both the FOIA itself and the principles of openness in government that FOIA embodies."

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Despite the LAT and Post's lead play of the case, the court's decision almost certainly won't be the final word—the case is probably going to the Supremes. The Post, whose parent company filed a brief in favor of revealing the names, weighs in with a lead editorial: "INDEFENSIBLE SECRECY."

The WP, NYT, and USAT all reefer news that a GI in Baghdad was killed yesterday by a sniper. At least 41 soldiers have been killed in the past seven weeks. The Post notices inside what may be a change in tactics by guerrillas: Yesterday they fired at the mayor's office in Fallujah, one of the first times they've targeted civilian-occupied buildings. (Other coverage has long mentioned that guerrillas seem to be sabotaging infrastructure, like gas and electrical lines.) USAT says that one of the Iraqi National Museum's most prized artifacts, the 5,000-year-old Warka Vase, which disappeared during looting in April, was returned a few days ago.

The NYT off-leads, and everybody else stuffs, President Bush's order yesterday barring federal agents from using racial profiling in investigations except those involving national security. A Justice Department report found that while racial profiling isn't a "systemic problem" within federal law enforcement agencies, only seven of 70 agencies actually had policies specifically prohibiting it.

It's not exactly clear what's going on with the cease-fire talks in Israel: According to the Wall Street Journal, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas "failed to persuade militant groups to end attacks." But according to the NYT, "Palestinian officials said they were nearing a cease-fire agreement." A Hamas official told the Times that Hamas is willing to endorse a cease-fire if Israel meets a long series of demands, including pulling most troops out of the occupied territories. Meanwhile, a 7-year-old Israeli girl was shot and killed and her sister seriously wounded by a Palestinian gunman north of Tel Aviv. The Post says inside that the negotiations over the potential withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza have just about deadlocked. 

A front-page LAT piece reminds that many settlers are living in the West Bank because of cheap mortgages and big houses—not because they're ideologues. According to one recent poll, 68 percent of settlers said they will leave if the government orders them to do so.

Everybody mentions inside a new report by the National Academy of Sciences that found that the poor health of the uninsured costs the U.S. between $65 billion and $130 billion annually. The study calculated something called "health capital," which is an estimate of the dollar value of person's health over future years, including their earning potential and children's mental and physical development—hence the huge range in the above number.

The WP's Lloyd Grove notices one person, probably among many, who isn't going to be thrilled when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's book surpasses one million sales. CNN Crossfire host Tucker Carlson has made repeated, potentially costly, predictions against it. As he put one day on his show, "If she sells a million copies of this book, I'll eat my shoes and my tie. I will." By last Friday, a week after its release, 600,000 copies had been sold. "I feel a little sick to my stomach just thinking about it," said Carlson, who suggested he'll soon be checking out "fetishistic Web sites for edible footwear."

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