The New York Times, Wall Street Journal worldwide news box, and Washington Post all lead with the administration's limited release of interrogation-related memos and its disavowal of a Justice Department memo that argued it was OK to torture al-Qaida suspects—the White House's top lawyer said that memo included "unnecessary and overbroad" language. The Los Angeles Timesfronts the memos butleads with militants in Iraq beheading a South Korean hostage, whose body GIs found yesterday. "It appears that the body had been thrown from a vehicle,'' said a military spokesman. "The head was recovered with the body." The killers, who said they were followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had demanded that South Korean troops leave, a move the country rejected. USA Today alsofronts the memos but leads with a judge's ruling that a lawsuit alleging that Wal-Mart discriminates against female employees can go forward as a class-action suit. About 1.6 million current and former employees can join in, making it "the largest private civil rights case ever."
Among the documents released was a February 2002 paper signed by President Bush asserting that he has "the authority under the Constitution" to deny protections of the Geneva Conventions to al-Qaida types. Prisoners, the memo continued, should be treated "humanely" and, according to the conventions, "to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity."
Most of the papers' headlines don't characterize the memo one way or the other, except the NYT: "WHITE HOUSE SAYS PRISONER POLICY SET HUMANE TONE." The original headline online went further: "ORDERS BY BUSH ABOUT PRISONERS SET HUMANE TONE."
Among the other memos released was a list of interrogation techniques Defense Secretary Rumsfeld approved in December 2002. Rumsfeld cleared some tough methods—included stripping prisoners and "mild, non-injurious physical conduct"—but rejected others, such as threatening to kill prisoners or their family. About a month later, Rumsfeld rescinded his approval of the techniques after military lawyers objected.
That mixed bag leads to mixed coverage. USAT announces, "RUMSFELD OK'D HARSH TREATMENT." The NYT says, "FILES SHOW RUMSFELD REJECTED SOME EFFORTS TO TOUGHEN PRISON RULES."
At one point, Rumsfeld approved putting prisoners in stress positions, such as standing, for four hours. On the memo, Rumsfeld handwrote, "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours? D.R."
The document dump happened late in the afternoon, giving the dailies little time to make sense of them all. (The papers mostly don't mention the timing.) Still, headlines aside, the papers get in some key context: While most top al-Qaida suspects are believed to be in CIA custody, the released documents focus on interrogations by the military. The Post says the White House's top lawyer "refused to comment on techniques used by the CIA, beyond saying that they 'are lawful and do not constitute torture.' "
A midday NYT story mentioned that the prosecution in the Abu Ghraib abuses case has agreed to "declassify all parts of the Army report written by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba." That could be a big deal because the still-unseen portions of the document reportedly contain ugly stuff, including apparent rape and electrocution. TP didn't see mention of the declassification in this morning's papers.
In other Iraq news: Two GIs were killed north of Baghdad; three Iraqis died in a car bombing in Baghdad; the dean of a law school and her husband were assassinated; four Iraqis were killed when U.S. planes struck a house in Fallujah the military said was controlled by Zarqawi's men; and another big pipeline was sabotaged, this one near Baghdad.
The NYT says inside that the White House has decided to offer North Korea some—very restricted—incentives to give up its nukes program. The Times calls the coming move, sourced to SAOs, "the first significant, detailed overture to North Korea" since Bush took office.
The NYT fronts a study concluding that about half of the 20 million women who've had hysterectomies and their cervixes removed are still getting Pap tests. "Women are being screened for cancer in an organ they don't have," said one doctor.
The Post fronts and the NYT teases the State Department's revised terrorism report, which concludes that twice as many people were killed by terrorism last year as the administration originally reported. Secretary of State Powell said it was an honest error: "We have identified how we have to do this in the future in order to make sure that we don't run in to this kind of problem again."
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