Overdue Process

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 27 2005 6:27 AM

Overdue Process

The New York Times leads with word that the Pentagon may be planning a major revamp of the military tribunals set up to try foreign terror suspects in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to a 232-page "draft manual" that's been making the rounds among Defense Department lawyers, proposed changes include granting detainees greater access to prosecutorial evidence, increasing the number of officers who sit on the tribunal, and barring all testimony obtained through torture. Experts say these tweaks are aimed at modeling the terror tribunals on traditional military courts-martial.

The Los Angeles Times' top non-local story reports that the CIA closed out a spy ring in 2002 that it had assigned to monitor Iranian militants in South America. The agency was having some success intercepting information related to Tehran and Hezbollah, but top brass decided that the resources would be better spent on al-Qaida and Iraq. "We're going to be starting from near zero," one CIA official complained of future intelligence gathering on Iran. The Washington Post leads with an in-depth look at how large corporations have already scored big during the second Bush term. Companies like MBNA, Wal-Mart, and Exxon Mobile—all generous contributors to GOP candidates—have seen their investment pay off as Republicans have pushed through key legislation on bankruptcy, class-action lawsuit protection, and oil drilling in Alaska.

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While many Pentagon officials are optimistic about the possibility of retooled tribunals, there appear to be a couple major hurdles. For one, the Bush administration, led by Vice President Cheney, has been digging in its heels. (That may also explain the Times' one paltry on-the-record comment.) Officials also worry that the reforms fail to address last November's federal court ruling that the tribunals' structure is not up to snuff with American and international legal standards. 

In related news out of Gitmo, the WP fronts a solid investigative piece on a German national whom a military tribunal identified as an enemy combatant despite sparse evidence of terrorist ties. Recently declassified documents and court rulings reveal just how badly the tribunal bungled in its determination. The Post hails this as "the first known case in which a panel appeared to disregard the recommendations of U.S. intelligence agencies and information supplied by allies."

The LAT's David Zucchino files a vivid account of the lives of American soldiers on forward operating bases (or "fobs") spread throughout Iraq. Offering all the amenities of home (junk food, gyms, cable TV), these areas of "ersatz America" can be a jarring contrast to violent conditions elsewhere in the country. Zucchino seems to get the mood just right, too: "Like any war, the one in Iraq is defined by long periods of excruciating boredom punctuated by intervals of sheer terror."

A similarly excellent Page One dispatch in the NYT examines the problem of smuggling over the Iraq-Iran border. Shiite pilgrims flooding into Iraq for the Ashura holiday have made it all the more difficult to crack down on goods leaving the country.

The papers all stuff yesterday's massive demonstration in Taiwan, where hundreds of thousands turned out to protest China's recent anti-secession law that allows Beijing to employ "nonpeaceful means" to keep Taipei from declaring its independence. The discontent is nothing new, but the LAT points out that this is a particularly bad time for it to be on display for the world: China is currently waiting to find out if Europe will lift its 15-year arms sales embargo. 

The Post goes inside with an absorbing rundown on the recent revolution in Kyrgyzstan. What apparently began as an organized protest in the capital of Bishkek escalated quickly into a spontaneous (and, it would seem, virtually unopposed) government take-over. Acting leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev has already promised new presidential elections on June 26.

Everyone offers up another round of Terri Schiavo-related ruminations. Easter prompts the Post to check in on the Catholic Church's stance on feeding tubes. Schiavo's parents have long argued that their daughter's Catholic faith forbids her from declining sustenance, and recent comments from high-ranking cardinals seem to support this claim. Some Catholic thinkers are even heralding this as the Vatican's first definitive indication that members of the church cannot turn down life support. The NYT fronts a piece on the ethical conflicts that arise between families who insist on prolonged life support for a patient and doctors who recommend pulling the plug. And, truly leaving no angle (or analogy) uncovered, the LAT goes below the fold with Rep. Tom DeLay and family's decision nearly 20 years ago to withhold machine support from his severely brain-damaged father. 

Being an Army recruiter is among the most high-stress, anxiety-ridden jobs in the military, the NYT reports above the fold. Young people don't want to join up in the midst of a war; at the same time, meeting recruitment quotas is more important than ever. One recruiter even told the Times that his current occupation was "more strenuous than the time he was shot at while deployed in Africa."

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