The New York Times leads and others go inside with the White House's refusal to give the 9/11 commission thousands of pages of classified documents from the Clinton administration. The Times says Clinton OK'd the release of nearly 11,000 pages but the White House has only agreed to turn over about a quarter of them. A White House spokesman said some of the papers were "highly sensitive" while others were "duplicative or unrelated." The Washington Post's top non-local story says that Sen. Kerry has raised $43 million so far this year, smashing Democratic records, and has been doing much of it through the 'net. The Democratic National Committee has also raised record amounts. President Bush has raised $170 million in total and the Post says some Republicans think he can up it to $250 million if need be. The Los Angeles Times and USA Today lead with follow-ups on Fallujah: A U.S. military spokesman said, "We are not going to do a pell-mell rush into the city." He added that the response "will be precise and it will be overwhelming. We will reestablish control of that city and we will pacify that city."
In continued violence that everybody stuffs, a car bomb in central Iraq killed six Iraqis and wounded at least another four. Guerrillas also attacked a Marine convoy near Fallujah, wounding three soldiers. After one Humvee was abandoned, a crowd gathered and torched it.
Meanwhile, the military defended its decision not to go into Fallujah Wednesday after the security contractors were killed. "Should we have sent in a tank so we could have gotten, with all due respect, four dead bodies back?" said one officer. "What good would that have done? A mob is a mob. All we would have done was provoke them."
The NYT and Post both ponder the explosion of security contractors in Iraq, many of whom (including those murdered Wednesday) are former special ops troops. Among the jobs that have been outsourced to these men: guarding Iraq proconsul Paul Bremer. Slate's Fred Kaplan points out that one of the reasons so many of these guys are pulling guard duty is that the military can't; it's overstretched.
Everybody mentions that a U.S.-sponsored trade fair in Baghdad was canceled. Officials cited the security situation.
Citing unnamed prosecutors, a NYT story teased on Page One says that prosecutors investigating an apparent administration official's outing of a CIA agent have expanded their investigation and are now looking into whether White House officials lied to investigators. The Times says prosecutors have found contradictions between some witnesses' statements as well as between emails and witnesses' recollections.
The LAT teases on Page One word that House Republicans effectively killed a congressional inquiry into administration officials' keeping estimates of the prescription drug bill's cost from Congress. The Republicans declined to challenge the White House's refusal to allow two officials likely involved to testify. A White House spokesman explained that there were "separation of power" issues, the same argument they used with Condi Rice, until they backed down. Health and Human Services has launched its own internal investigation, which is continuing. The WP and NYT go inside with the kibosh.
The NYT checks in (inside) on the Iraq intel commission that Bush reluctantly named two months ago and finds not much happening. Only a "handful" of staff have been named and the executive director currently has another job. He's Bremer's deputy until May.
The NYT says that according to e-mails—uncovered by House Democrats—the White House worked with the chemical industry to oppose a European Union proposal that would have required chemical makers to prove their substances are safe.
The LAT off-leads on Page One: "U.S. WON'T ALERT PARENTS, DOCTORS ON MERCURY IN FLU SHOTS FOR KIDS." The article begins: "Hundreds of thousands of infants and toddlers who get flu shots starting this fall could be exposed to a mercury-laced preservative that has been all but eliminated from other pediatric vaccines because of health concerns." That makes it seem like an obviously bad decision. But it's not. As the article itself notes further down, "many scientists" believe that the amount of mercury in the shots is so low as to be harmless and that recommending against the shots would cause greater harm since it would likely cause a run on and shortage of mercury-free shots, meaning more kids would be exposed to the flu. Countering the story's scary beginning, some scientists told the paper that it is exactly because mercury was eliminated from other vaccines that many researchers said they're comfortable with it in flu shots, since the overall exposure would still be low.