The Washington Post's top non-local story cites unnamed officials as saying Iraq administrator Paul Bremer has decided to support the quick creation of an Iraq paramilitary force—made up mostly of Kurdish and exile party militias as well as former members of "security services" (secret police?)—something Bremer had been opposed to. The Post says that Iraq's Governing Council wants such a force to have a "domestic intelligence-gathering unit and to have broad powers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects." USA Today's lead cites an unnamed "top law enforcement official" as saying that the feds think they've identified an AQ operative who was slated to be the 20th hijacker but left the U.S. shortly before 9/11. The unnamed source didn't name the suspect or "say why the operative left, whether he is alive or whether he is in U.S. custody." The New York Times' top non-local story looks at Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean's plans to poll supporters about whether he should forgo public financing and thus be free of spending limits. Dean promised last March to stick with public funds. One "person close to the Dean campaign," said the poll was, in the NYT's paraphrase, "political cover for abandoning the system." The Los Angeles Times leads with Gov.-Elect Schwarzenegger's apparent and still unannounced (except in the LAT) pick of a well-regarded environmentalist as head of the state's environmental department.
Everybody stuffs or folds into other stories what appears to have been another attack on U.S. headquarters in Baghdad. There were three explosions, all apparently from large mortar rounds, leaving four people wounded. Also yesterday: An Iraqi judge was assassinated in Basra; guerrillas fired RPGs at the military's HQ in Mosul; and the Spanish government announced that it's pulling all but four or five people out of its embassy.
The LAT travels to Saddam's birthplace, the village of Auja, which the military has surrounded with barbed wire and checkpoints. One officer explains to the Times that residents "have a level of security most people don't have. Once they get their ID cards, they are free to come and go. You could compare it to one of those gated communities." The Times deadpans, "It's not every gated community that has U.S. soldiers registering residents, photographing them and taking their thumbprints."
According to a poll flagged inside the Postjust 14 percent of Americans buy the White House's assertion that Iraq is the "most important part of the war on terror." As the story also mentions, but doesn't emphasize, 61 percent of respondents also said Iraq is part of the "war on terror."
The WP—in the only significant coverage of this story—fronts the press conference of a Canadian man who was detained at JFK Airport last year on suspicion of having connections with terrorists, and then shipped to Syria, his birth country, where he was tortured. The guy apparently was turned over as part of the U.S. government's policy of "rendition"—that is, shipping suspected terrorists to countries like Syria where they can be roughed up. One unnamed official told the Post, "There are obviously a lot of rendition activities. They have been very productive."
The WP, NYT, and USAT front, and the LAT reefers CBS's decision to yank The Reagans mini-series after conservatives complained that it was a hatchet job. After excerpts of the program were published in the NYT, CBS received 80,000 emails. The movie will now be shown on CBS corporate cousin Showtimesometime next year. Everybody notes CBS's explanation that CEO Leslie Moonves made the call after he repeatedly watched the movie and then decided he couldn't defend it. The Republican National Committee says it still wants the movie to be edited or else have a crawl at the bottom saying, "This is a work of fiction."
Everybody fronts the 85-count indictment of the CEO of one of the U.S.'s largest health services companies for alleged fraud totaling $2.7 billion. Richard Scrushy, of Health South, is the first top exec accused of violating the new corporate governance law Congress passed last year.
The NYT's Nicholas Kristof complains that the Bush administration doesn't so much lie as fools itself. That's probably true. But Kristof's own column has what seems to be an example to the contrary: Vice President Cheney recently cited a Zogby poll as evidence that there's "very positive news" in Iraq. Meanwhile, the poll's author, John Zogby, told Kristof, "I was floored to see the spin that was put on it; some of the numbers were not my numbers at all. I am not willing to say they lied. But they used a very tight process of selective screening, and when they didn't get what they wanted they were willing to manufacture some results."
Yesterday's NYT had an op-ed by a guy named Mark Medish arguing that Iraq's massive foreign debt shouldn't be forgiven. In order to be a legit country, Medish wrote, Iraq "must respect one of the first principles of the rule of law: contracts should be honored." Or as the headline put it, "MAKE BAGHDAD PAY." Now here's the fun part: The Times describes Medish as "a lawyer, [who] was deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury from 1997 to 2000." As a blog called HipperCritical first noted, that leaves out one itty-bitty thing: The bio-line in a WP article Medish wrote last month said, "Medish a lawyer in Washington and was a senior Treasury and National Security Council official in the Clinton administration. He represents international corporate creditors of Iraq."
Bonus hypocrisy! Medish wrote an op-ed last year for the Financial Times arguing that Russia's old debt should be ... yes, forgiven.