The Los Angeles Timesand New York Timeslead with the U.S. planning to add hundreds of American advisers to Iraqi commando police units. The commandos are largely rebadged Shiite militia, and some have been caught torturing Sunni prisoners and are suspected of operating death squads. Until now, they've been freestyling with minimal supervision. The Washington Postleads with investigators concluding that a now-shamed South Korean scientist's cloning claims are as bogus as can be: They found no evidence that anyof the stem-cell lines scientist Hwang Woo-suk said were clones really were. They also found doctored photos of the stem cells. Yesterday's LAT caught the investigators' conclusions. But the Post highlights a new wrinkle: South Korea's government may have tried to bribe other scientists into staying quiet. According to Korean media reports, the National Intelligence Service, Korea's spy agency, has acknowledged delivering the cash. USA Todayleads with a big trend piece: "States and towns across the nation" are purportedly racing to recruit soon-to-retire alter kockersto their towns. "All the Medicare benefits is money coming into the community from the outside. So is Social Security. So are all the pension plans," said one consultant for communities trying to attract retirees. "It's like manna from heaven."
In terms of the Iraqi commando forces, the NYT says U.S. officials acknowledge it's "unclear whom the units are taking orders from," the government or militia commanders. "The commandos and the public order brigades sort of grew like Topsy, very quickly, without much control, and without much training, but with lots of influence from the Ministry of the Interior and the Sciri-Badr organization," said one U.S. commander. "The exact roles and responsibilities of those units is not clear to us."
The Post also covers the commando development and quotes what seems to be the same U.S. officer extolling the merits of the added advisers for the police. "By hugging the enemy, wrapping our arms around them, we hope to control them," he said.
The NYT says the same U.S. commander quoted earlier about more American advisers for police forces also "confirmed details of a shift to fewer American troops covering more Iraqi ground." The latest mini-drawdown, which the Times doesn't spend much space on, seems limited to central Iraq. The NYT says, "Americans are hoping that Iraqi units"—that is, Iraqi army forces, which the U.S. trusts more than the police—"can pick up the slack."
The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with an international elections-monitoring group with representatives from the EU agreeing to send monitors back to Iraq to double-check Sunni claims of fraud. Iraqi officials also acknowledged that the country's largest oil refinery has been shuttered for a week because of insurgent attacks. Also, one GI was killed in eastern Baghdad.
According to a U.S. military spokesman cited by the NYT, insurgent attacks are now averaging about 75 per day, down from 90 a few months ago. There are fewer car bombings. What's now on the upswing: assassinations.
The Post's off-lead says that, despite all the criticism and consternation, the CIA's covert post-9/11 counterterrorism programs, including but not limited to rendition, "continue to operate largely as they were set up." The WP says the umbrella program was authorized by the president after 9/11, goes by the initials GST, and constitutes the largest "covert action program since the height of the Cold War." It involves "dozens of highly classified individual programs," including ghost prisons, rendition, and teams authorized to "kill designated individuals anywhere in the world." (That last bit might sound shocking, but it shouldn't be surprising: The CIA killed some al-Qaida suspects with missile strikes back in 2002.)
Rather than mothballing the covert programs, the WP says the government is digging in. The Post points to the agency's preparations for the possibility of a prisoner dying in CIA custody: "One proposal circulating among mid-level officers calls for rushing in a CIA pathologist to perform an autopsy and then quickly burning the body, according to two sources."
It's actually hard to tell if there's much of significance new in the WP's CIA piece. The most noteworthy thing might just be all the insiders who are leaking.
A few weeks ago, TP asked readers for any jargon in the column that trips them up. Well, in celebration of Hanukkah, Kwanza, (and, OK, belatedly, Christmas), here is the newly updated glossary. You might also notice the reader-suggested disclosure below that Slate is indeed owned by the Washington Post Co. Happy New Year.