The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Postlead with President Bush, who in a change of positions, said any intel czar should have "full budgetary authority" over the intelligence agencies. Calls for such control have been gaining momentum since the 9/11 commission made the recommendation. As most of the papers point out up high, "full" is, em, a term of art. The president is suggesting the new chief control about 70 percent of the total; tactical military programs would be exempted. The Journal emphasizes that Bush also came out against another commission recommendation, that the new chief have the power to hire and fire heads of the intel agencies. USA Todaystuffs Bush's move and leads with a poll showing the president taking big leads in two swing states, Missouri (14 points) and Ohio (nine points). The poll was taken right after the GOP convention ended. In July, USAT had Missouri as a tie and Sen. Kerry up by six in Ohio. The Los Angeles Times' top non-local spot goes to the intel issue, but the paper leads with a state judge ruling that L.A.'s cardinal can't withhold personnel records involving two priests accused of sexual abuse.
The LAT catches late-breaking word of a large bomb exploding outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, killing at least four and wounding about 50.
Everybody stuffs the latest from Iraq, where roadside bombs killed two GIs, and at least five other people, perhaps guerrillas, were reportedly killed in a U.S. airstrike in Fallujah. (Early morning wire reports say the airstrikes killed eight, including two children.) Also, though it barely gets mentioned in the papers, eight security contractors were killed, presumably Iraqis, in and around Baghdad in two attacks. TP spotted the contractor-killings in the Post—in the last few paragraphs of a story on A18.
The NYT mentions the kidnapping of the deputy governor of the Anbar province, home to Fallujah. The Times explains that's par for the course: Many U.S.-backed leaders in the province have "been stripped of their powers, publicly humiliated or executed." A Marine helicopter also crashed near Fallujah; there were no serious injuries, and it was unclear if the chopper had been shot down.
The Post's Thomas Ricks looks at the increasing death rate for GIs in Iraq. While attention was focused on the fighting in Najaf, 44 soldiers and Marines were killed in the Anbar province. Despite the Post's headlining the "death rate" the piece itself doesn't actually give it. This site does.
While the papers have been largely silent on the question of Iraqi casualties, at least partly because the Pentagon itself doesn't keep a tally—the Associated Press reported yesterday about 10,000 residents of Baghdad have been killed since the invasion—that includes militants, civilians, and victims of crimes.
The Journal looks at the debate within the administration and the Pentagon about how and when to try to regain control of the rebel-controlled cities. The Journal says everybody "acknowledges any offensive needs to start soon to ensure it can conclude well before the Iraqi national elections scheduled for January." But that doesn't mean it's going to happen: "U.S. officials also privately acknowledge that the White House is concerned about the political impact" of heavy fighting in the run-up to the presidential election. For now, the administration has "settled on the slower approach." The Journal says the decision is "deeply unpopular among many military commanders."
The WSJ hides the above on A15. Yesterday's NYT hinted at the delay, and in the only other coverage TP sees, an editorial in today's Post slams it:
The planned political transition, on which the chances for progress in Iraq depend, may well collapse if January's elections are derailed or discredited—and elections cannot be held in the principal towns of western Iraq as they now stand. Even worse is the prospect of a terrorist organization conceded a haven in a country that the United States invaded to preempt just such a threat. The administration was wrong to allow that enemy base; it can ill afford to grant it three more months of grace.
The NYT goes above the fold with the about-to-fail efforts to extend the 10-year-old ban on most assault weapons. While polls show about two-thirds of Americans support the ban, some Democrats have been hesitant to push for renewing it, figuring they might get attacked as softies. President Bush has said he supports renewing the law but he hasn't lobbied Congress on it.
The LAT, NYT, and WP all front reporting picked up from 60 Minutes, which uncovered memos from Bush's former National Guard commander indicating the president shirked his duties and suggesting that he was only getting away with it because, as the commander put it in one note-to-self, "I think he's also talking to someone upstairs."
Everybody has sad photos of NASA's $264 million Genesis probe that dug a big hole for itself in Utah after its parachutes didn't open. The goal had been to pick up samples of solar wind; the samples are probably now contaminated.
Knight Ridder reports on an innovative new strategy the military is using in Afghanistan to lure guerrillas into battle: "The loudspeakers atop the Humvee crackled to life: 'The Taliban are women! They're bitches! If they were real men, they'd stop hiding under their burkas and they'd come out and fight.' "