The Washington Post and New York Times both lead with lawmakers' swift promises to convene hearings and draft legislation in response to the 9/11 Commission's final report, released Thursday. "Time is not on our side," intoned panel Chairman Thomas Kean, warning that voters would hold President Bush and Congress responsible for any foot-dragging. The White House seemed to agree and hinted, if a little unconvincingly, that it might consider an intelligence overhaul before the election in November—contrary to its previous stance. The Los Angeles Times leads, at least online, with the news that the Energy Department "effectively shut down" two dozen labs and several other nuclear weapons facilities in deference to ongoing security concerns, which the WP shunts just inside.
Congressional leaders are planning rare, recess-killing hearings for August and may even gather for a special session post-November in order to move things along. But even so, says the NYT, it's going to be tough to enact the more radical proposals that shift oversight of the intelligence community, especially one particular rec to give congressional panels direct fiscal say over all 15 intelligence agencies. "That recommendation, perhaps more than any other, is quite likely to generate turf battles that could doom it," the paper notes, since it would strip the Appropriations Committees of their budget authority.
According to the LAT, Sec. Spencer Abraham's lockdown order "was based on growing concern that the Energy Department had a system-wide vulnerability to losing important bomb secrets stored on removable devices"—aka CREM. (Earlier this month computer disks with classified information disappeared from Los Alamos National Laboratory.) Buried in the LAT article are unnerving statements from a security consultant/ex-FBI official who claims that the U.S. government was "always concerned about the potential for employees to use CREM to walk out with large quantities of data" and that "nuclear weapons sites were under almost daily attack by hackers trying to obtain electric data."
Although the 9/11 Commission will officially expire next month, Kean said that members are weighing options to give it a second act. "We're willing to take our own time and use our own money and go out on the road to promote what we believe," he said yesterday.
The NYT notes inside that the book version of the 9/11 report is topping online best-seller lists, having already sold up to 100,000 copies on Thursday. What seems to be missing from the coverage, though, is whether bookstores and the publisher, W.W. Norton, are actually profiting or if proceeds are being donated to some sort of 9/11 memorial or victims' fund.
The WP goes above the fold with the Defense Department's disclosure yesterday that the Air Force spent $2.6 billion to buy 50 Lockheed Martin C-130J transport planes that do not meet military requirements. The paper points out that the DoD's inspector general already slapped the Air Force's top acquisitions official once this year for mismanaging contract negotiations. Which is bad enough, but tucked away at the end, long after the jump, is another dispiriting revelation: Pentagon commercial-acquisition rules allow "contractors to be paid—often in full—for weapons systems before they have been tested to ensure that they meet combat needs."
Another weekend, another fronter about Kerry's bling. The WP's off-lead opens the senator's war chest and finds that he's achieved "rough parity" with Bush through a number of means, from online credit card donations (which bring in upwards of $10 million a month—thank Joe Trippi); to tapping trial lawyers (who give more than any other sector); to converting rookie donors (one-third of Kerry's big contributors have not given more than $20,000 since 1990); and finally, speaking the languages of both the East and West coast ($39.7 million to Bush's $28.5 million in New York and California).
The NYT reefers word that Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger raised enough eyebrows with his removal of sensitive antiterror documents from the National Archives last year that full-time surveillance cameras were installed. Because the archives staffers' suspicion has already been reported, it's curious that the Times runs the piece without plumbing the back stories, i.e., the political timing of the scandal, the question of whether Berger is the only high-ranking official who behaved this way at the archives, as well as the degree of punishment he might receive, if any.
Just weeks after Bush turned his nose up, for the fourth consecutive year, to a speaking offer from the NAACP, he was busy wooing the black vote in a speech to the National Urban League yesterday. Affecting what the Post's Mike Allen called the "cadence of a Baptist preacher," Bush asked the audience, which included Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, "Does the Democratic Party take African American voters for granted? ... I know plenty of politicians assume they have your vote. But do they earn it and do they deserve it?" The NYT off-leads, and the WP stuffs, but both papers go huge on Page One with the same exact pic of Jackson and Bush.
The NYT's Thomas Crampton treated himself to an online chat yesterday with First Twins Jenna and Barbara Bush, and reports that although the Q & A seemed to develop onscreen in near-real time, a spokeswoman for the girls later admitted to him that "some responses had been prepared in advance." Yeah, you might say that.