The Washington Postleads with House-Senate negotiators tentatively agreeing to extend almost all provisions of the Patriot Act. There had been calls to scale back some of the act, but it didn't happen. USA Todayleads with commanders of a U.S. special forces unit in Afghanistan telling the paper that the Taliban are, contrary to higher-ups' assertions, getting stronger. Eighty-seven GIs have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, double the total of last year. Meanwhile, there's a plan afoot to replace most U.S. combat troops with NATO peacekeepers, who aren't equipped for heavy combat or counterinsurgency operations. The New York Timesleads with a no-big-news follow-up to yesterday's revelation that Bob Woodward was the first reporter to hear about Valerie Plame's CIA identity. The NYT, WP, and Scooter Libby's lawyers all suggest that the development might help Scooter. But given how little is known, and that Woodward's involvement doesn't seem to pertain to the actual charges against Scooter, file it away as interesting speculation and spin. The Los Angeles Timesleads with word that, thanks to a zooming economy, California's budget is on pace to be out of the red next year.
Fourteen of the Patriot Act's 16 provisions will be made permanent. The two others, which include the power to rifle through library records, will be extended for another seven years. In one of the few concessions to civil-liberties types, the new bill requires that the Justice Department release stats on how often it's invoking some of the more controversial provisions of the law, such as the library records and sending subpoena-like "national security letters."
The WP: "CONGRESS ARRIVES AT A DEAL ON PATRIOT ACT." Perfectly accurate and uninformative. The WSJ does better: "RENEWAL OF PATRIOT ACT NEARS AS LAW IS LEFT MOSTLY INTACT."
Woodward won't spill the name of his source. But he's said it's not Libby, and Karl has denied it, too. Today's NYT crosses off a few more names:
A senior administration official said that neither President Bush himself, nor his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., nor his counselor, Dan Bartlett, was Mr. Woodward's source. So did spokesmen for former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, former C.I.A. Director George J. Tenet and his deputy John E. McLaughlin.
The Times adds, "Vice President Cheney did not join the parade of denials." His spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the standard line: an ongoing investigation.
The Post fronts Woodward apologizing to the Post for having stayed mum all this time. "I'm in the habit of keeping secrets," he said. "I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed."
The NYT is still the only paper to front the latest on the discovery of a torture dungeon inside one of the Iraqi Interior Ministry's main buildings. The Times says the guards were members of a Shiite militia, a group the head of the Interior Ministry is also affiliated with. But it's the story's 15th paragraph that has the makings of headlines: Citing an Interior Ministry official, the Times mentions there are "five official prisons in the Baghdad area and 8 to 10 unofficial jails run by special units. Those centers are generally used to hold people picked up without a legal basis, he said." (According to one former minister, those "special units" report directly to the head of the Interior Ministry.)
The LAT's John Daniszewski, who first reported on the torture chamber, continues his fine reporting—and the LAT continues to stuff it. Today Daniszewski, along with Knight Ridder, emphasizes the good will that U.S. forces have earned among Sunnis for exposing the abuse."This is like a dream—the American forces free Iraqi prisoners tortured by the government?" said one man who's brother has disappeared. "This is brand new."
As only the WSJ says up high, the military announced that another five Marines were killed in the offensive by the Syrian border and three other troops were killed elsewhere. Getting comfortable again with body counts, the military also announced that 16 insurgents were killed.