Commission Permission

Commission Permission

Commission Permission

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 2 2004 4:12 AM

Commission Permission

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox (online), and USA Today all lead with the word from the White House that it will appoint a bipartisan panel to review intel agencies' work. The decision, which Sunday's Washington Post broke news of, hasn't been formally announced, and details are still sketchy. The panel won't report its findings until sometime next year, after the November elections. The Post andLos Angeles Times lead with Sunday's twin suicide bombings in northern Iraq against the country's two major Kurdish parties. At least 56 people were killed, including top officials from both parties, and about 200 wounded. The bombings were the deadliest in Iraq since last August's attack in Najaf. Also, one GI was killed and 12 wounded by a rocket attack on their base in central Iraq. Another GI was killed when his Humvee crashed.

The NYTimes says that the White House, besides being eager to keep scrutiny away from itself and how it presented the intelligence, doesn't want to upset the intel community, specifically spy chief George Tenet. The result is that the administration may try to keep the commission "from delving too deeply" into specific prewar failures and is pushing for a wide mandate to investigate not only prewar intel but also such boo-boos as the failure to predict India and Pakistan's nuke tests in the late 1990s.

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"It became clear to the president that he couldn't sit there and seem uninterested in the fact that the Iraq intel went off the rails," one "senior official" told the Times. "He had to do something, and he chose to enlarge the problem, beyond the Iraq experience."

Most of the papers note that Democrats want the commission to examine how the White House used intel before the war. They leave it at that. Not the Post's Dana Milbank: "The White House, at various times, went beyond what the CIA advised."

Milbank also notices that the White House is still refusing to publicly acknowledge that the intel was probably wrong: "Bush aides have learned through hard experience that admitting error only projects weakness and invites more abuse. Conversely, by postponing an acknowledgment—possibly beyond Election Day—the White House is generating a fog of uncertainty around [former weapons-hunter David] Kay's stark findings, and potentially softening a harsh public judgment."

Meanwhile, Post columnist William Raspberry quotes from Secretary of State Powell's seemingly solid Iraq U.N. speech last February. "Every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions," Powell said. Raspberry ponders that and concludes it's about more than bad intel. He says he is "increasingly inclined to believe that the administration lied to us."

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The Journal leads its business box with concern from Pentagon auditors that Halliburton has overcharged $16 million at a U.S. base in Saudi Arabia. The auditors were alerted to the potential problem after they found an e-mail Halliburton had written to a subcontractor catering company advising them to charge "for the projected number of meals or the actual head count—whichever is greater."

The NYT, alone among the papers, fronts the resignation of one-third of Iran's parliament. They resigned after a three-week sit-in, to protest hardline clerics' disqualification of thousands of reformist parliamentary candidates. In response, Iran's president warned that the coming elections might be canceled, a move that one reformist leader said would constitute "a full-fledged coup." Iranian student groups said they'll hold protest marches Wednesday.

The NYT fronts and others stuff word from Pakistan that its top nukes scientist has admitted that he sold nukes technology and know-how to Libya, North Korea, and Iran. Pakistani officials said that the scientist was moonlighting and that the government had nothing to do with it, which is interesting since some of the material "appeared to have been transported on government cargo planes."

A front-page piece in USAT notices that when U.S. immigration agents catch illegal immigrants from many Central American countries, they often end up releasing them in U.S. cities after those caught double-promise to show up for a later deportation hearing. Officials explained that they don't have much choice since the government doesn't have enough money allocated to repatriate them. USAT says the practice is a national security issue, noting that al-Qaida sympathizers might come in this way.

Most of the papers tease on Page One news that 244 Muslim pilgrims were crushed in a stampede in Saudi Arabia during the final ceremony of the Hajj, a ritual stoning of the devil.

A Post editorial calls Bush and his budget people "hucksters peddling a miracle diet." The paper says getting the budget anywhere near balanced will now require more than just ending the administration's various tax cuts. And should the president succeed in making the cuts permanent, and government spending just keeps pace with inflation and population growth—that is, far less than the White House and Congress plan to spend—then the annual deficit in 2014 would be between $700 billion and $1 trillion.

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