Intelligence Quotient

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 5 2004 6:45 AM

Intelligence Quotient

The New York Times leads with President Bush's latest push to get Republicans in Congress to pass the intelligence-reform bill. In what the Times calls "his most impassioned public plea to date," the president used his weekly radio address yesterday to underscore the need to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission via the bill. High on Bush's list of priorities was the creation of a national intelligence director. The Washington Post leads with, and everybody else notes, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's Oval Office visit on Saturday. Afterward, Musharraf and Bush talked up their commitment to fighting terrorism and establishing a peaceful Palestinian state. The Los Angeles Times leads with an update on the investigation of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's black-market nuclear trade. The demands of global coordination have caused friction among the nations hoping to nab him.

While most of Bush's fellow GOPers have fallen in line over the matter of the intelligence bill, a group of conservative Republicans remains intractable. Led by Virginia Sen. John W. Warner, they want to make sure the Pentagon holds on to its near monopoly over U.S. intelligence funding and authority. (The Defense Department rakes in around 80 percent of the $40 billion intel budget.) Dissent within the ranks has prompted Bush to send Andrew Card and Dick Cheney out with an olive branch for intel-bill opponents. The NYT calls the situation "a legislative battle that pits the White House against lawmakers in the president's own party." A new vote in the House should be coming up soon.

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Among the key concerns at the meeting for the Pakistani and U.S. leaders were trade and relations with India and Afghanistan. The LAT offers up the sunny headline BUSH LAUDS THE EFFORTS OF PAKISTANI ALLY but proceeds to a laundry list of hypocrisies and lurking unanswered questions. In its roundup and interview, the Post puts a finer point on the issue: MUSHARRAF: BIN LADEN'S LOCATION IS UNKNOWN. Despite all this, the papers concede that Musharraf is "a crucial Muslim ally" and "pivotal … in the war on terrorism."

Fresh evidence of Qadeer Khan's massive and illicit nuclear ring has not accelerated their inquiry, senior investigators say. One big worry is that uncooperative governments might block the probe. Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and several former Soviet republics have already put up resistance. And at this point the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, which is leading the charge, has little power to crack down: "the agency … lacks the power of law enforcement authorities to compel testimony or subpoena evidence." 

The NYT goes above the fold with an in-depth look at the sloppy jurisprudence of two appeals courts that handle cases out of Texas. * Stacked with former prosecutors, the courts hear lots of capital cases and yet reverse only 3 percent of death sentences (a study shows the national average is a whopping 68 percent). Already this year the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned three denied appeals cases involving Texas death-row inmates, with another expected any day. Texas famously leads the country in executions (336 since 1976), and the Times links this figure with the "tough-on-crimes-platform" and "antidefense bent" of the appeals courts' judges.

The Post fronts (and the NYT reefers) the latest insurgent violence in Iraq, where dozens of Iraqis died yesterday in several well-planned attacks. In Baghdad a suicide bomber drove a minibus packed with explosives into a police station. Meanwhile, in Mosul, a similar attack targeted buses of Kurdish militiamen. Gunfire, grenades, and roadside bombs went off throughout the day, killing two American soldiers.

Both reports note that the violence seems aimed at bringing ethnic tensions among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds to a boil. In another excellent dispatch from the Iraqi capital, the WP's Anthony Shadid tracks down a local man collecting the bodies of slain Sunni fighters in a pickup truck. Iraqis nearby "bemoaned both the government's inability to stop the bloodshed and the indiscriminant killing by the insurgents."

Former NFL player Pat Tillman's death has been shrouded in myth-making rhetoric and military incompetence, the WP reports above the fold. Steve Coll marshals the minutest details to explain how "Tillman died unnecessarily after botched communications, a mistaken decision … and negligent shooting." The article is the first in a two-part series.

International negotiators will begin a round of climate talks in Buenos Aires on Monday, the Post reveals up front. Global warming has long been a point of contention for the Bush administration. The president has largely eschewed government regulation of corporate pollution in favor of incentive programs and technological advancement. This, in turn, has made Kyoto Protocol countries a bit testy. SOAs acknowledge that greenhouse gases are causing climate change but insist that the current priority is the economy. Still, the U.S. will join in on tomorrow's meeting.

The Times fronts a profile of newly chosen Homeland Security Chief Bernard Kerik. A former NYC police commissioner, Kerik is said to thrive on tough management and strict loyalty, but don't expect life at HS to come easy to him. As the NYT points out, "the department … was created by a shotgun marriage of 22 government agencies in the wake of 9/11 and has nearly four times as many employees as the NYPD." The Post ran a similar piece yesterday. (Read two assessments of Kerik in Slate.)

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