Inert Alert

Inert Alert

Inert Alert

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 4 2004 3:05 AM

Inert Alert

The New York Times leads with unnamed White House and intelligence officials saying that fresh intel, distinct from the years-old surveillance reports, contributed to their raising the threat alert level. "Al-Qaida is moving toward the execution stage of attacks here in the homeland," said one official. Another pointed to an intelligence report that cited "August or September." The Los Angeles Times' lead has a related but narrower take. "We have streams of intelligence information that indicates that this [surveillance] information has been accessed and used recently," one anonymous intelligence official told the paper. "It wasn't that this information was some dusty file sitting on a shelf." The Washington Posthears similar arguments but plays them down on Page  A-11.  Instead it leads with the tightened security around the Capitol, which has become so restrictive that even D.C.'s chief of police is complaining. (The measures were ordered by the Capitol police.) Meanwhile, USA Today cites two "two federal law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation" who said they haven't seen evidence of an impending attack.

If you haven't noticed already, no officials seem to be going on record while talking about the additional intelligence that prompted the alert. And as the Times notes, they also won't detail what the intelligence is. Still, the NYT reiterates the officials' stance: "NEW QAEDA ACTIVITY IS SAID TO BE MAJOR FACTOR IN ALERT." The LAT is more circumscribed: "RIDGE POINTS TO AL QAEDA FILE USE." 

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Everybody mentions inside that four American troops were killed in the last two days and another two died in non-combat accidents. At least three Iraqi national guardsmen were killed by a bomb in Baquba. Also, a police captain was assassinated in Baghdad, and another's sister was kidnapped in Mosul.

The NYT fronts word that the Iraqi government is moving ahead with its amnesty offer but won't extend it to guerrillas who've killed GIs or Iraqis. U.S. and Iraqi officials have apparently watered down the amnesty idea to such an extent that it's only a paper pardon. As the Times puts it, the amnesty only applies to "people in the ill-defined category of those who assisted the resistance but were not considered to have committed any crime."

The NYT has a front-page report suggesting that Pakistan is turning a blind eye to Taliban training inside the country. The piece is largely sourced to one teenage Taliban prisoner, though Western diplomats basically back up his contentions. And everybody mentions inside that dozens of guerrillas in Afghanistan appear to have been killed during a thwarted strike on a government outpost near the Pakistani border.

A front-page Post piece, by ace reconstruction reporter Ariana Eunjung Cha, finds that the CPA didn't deliver on its promise that mostly Iraqi companies would benefit from the Iraqi money it was managing. Instead, 85 percent of it has gone to U.S. contractors.

An LAT piece notices that communicable diseases—namely typhoid and hepatitis E—are on the increase in Baghdad's Sadr City, where the water, as one resident put it, has a "foul smell and we see threads of (human waste) in it." The local hospital uses the same dirty water—if they're lucky. "Let's first get some," said one doctor, "and then we'll worry if it's hygienic."

The Journal goes high with word of the Kerry campaign's impending release of endorsements from 200 big businessmen. Many of them supported President Bush in 2000. "George is a really good guy personally," said one. "He had an opportunity to bring the country together—which was his MO in Texas. But for reasons only his psychiatrist would know, he's chosen to do just the opposite as president. He's turning out to be the worst president since Millard Fillmore—and that's probably an insult to Millard Fillmore."

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.