Un-Warranted

Un-Warranted

Un-Warranted

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 17 2006 3:22 AM

Un-Warranted

The New York Timesleads with FBI types complaining that while the National Security Agency's warrantless snooping resulted in a "flood" of tips, "virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans." The Washington Postleads with, and Los Angeles Timesfronts, Russia and China saying it'd sure be grand if Iran dropped its nuclear program; the countries did not formally sign on to the U.S. and European efforts to refer the matter to the Security Council for possible sanctions, but it seems they won't object either. The LAT leads with the largest sewage spill in the Santa Monica Bay in at least a decade. USA Todayleads with public pension benefits getting ever plumper. The average benefits for retired state and local workers grew 37 percent from 2000 to 2004. (Presumably that's not adjusted for inflation.)

The NYT says "some" FBI officials found the warrantless snooping to be approaching useless and legally iffy. The FBI's top dog, Robert Mueller, reportedly questioned the program's legality (and eventually deferred to his bosses). The Times—bonus points!—spills on why its sources are spilling: The G-men are trying to shank the spooks. "This wasn't our program," said one anonymous FBI official. "It's not our mess, and we're not going to clean it up."

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The NYT story goes on to cite FBI officials saying the plots the administration has suggested it cracked as a result of the snooping were primarily discovered by other methods. The FBI guys, says the NYT, insisted the snooping "led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources." Fair enough. But "few" isn't none: Were some al-Qaida members actually nabbed because of the program? Or is it, perhaps, just sloppy, CYA  writing by the Times?

The NYT also goes inside with the ACLU and a lefty law outfit saying they're going to sue the government on behalf of 10 journalists and others who suspect they've been targeted by the warrantless snooping. Among the 10: Christopher Hitchens. "We don't have any direct evidence," said an ACLU lawyer. "But the plaintiffs have a well-founded belief that they may have been monitored." A "well-founded belief"? Huh? If the plaintiffs have, say, "indirect evidence," how about sharing it?

China and Russia seemed to indicate that they at least won't stop the Iran nuclear issue from being referred to the Security Council. But despite the big play in the Post and LAT, that's likely to amount to squat: Allowing the Security Council to ponder all this is this one thing; actually supporting sanctions is another. And as the WP itself notes, few think "Moscow or Beijing would be willing to impose any sanctions on a major trading partner."

The Wall Street Journal has a smart piece that's something of the FAQ for the Iran situation. The key point: Iran seems to be betting nobody can stop them, since the U.S. is preoccupied and other countries are probably unwilling or unable to impose heavy sanctions on the world's fourth-largest oil producer.

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The LAT fronts California's execution early this morning of Clarence Ray Allen, an infirm 76-year-old convicted of orchestrating three murders to protect himself from prosecution in another case. Allen became the oldest prisoner ever executed in California. For the record, the LAT devoted two front-page stories and a five-column lead headline to the execution of gang-founder-cum-cause-célèbre Tookie Williams. Allen gets one column and no lead.

Nobody fronts the two bombings in southern Afghanistan that killed about two dozen people, 20 of whom died when a suicide bomber on a motorbike hit a wrestling match near the border with Pakistan. It was the worst attack since the Taliban were toppled.

The Journal goes with election officials in Iraq saying 99 percent of the ballots in the recent election are valid. Official results will—finally—be out in a few days, which should (hopefully) clear the way for a government to form.

Two GIs were killed in Iraq when their helicopter was apparently shot down. While most of the papers said the helicopter "crashed," the Post cites witnesses and a U.S. officer at the scene saying it was downed by a missile. That was the third time this month a U.S. chopper has gone down in Iraq.

The Post's off-lead tells the story of a GI in Iraq killed in 2004 by what might have been friendly fire from Polish troops, though his family was told otherwise for nearly a year. The WP has documents showing an inquiry into the shooting was stopped short  because of, as one officer put it in a report, "the International sensitivity of this investigation." The Post also notes "those documents were not issued until after Bush was re-elected—with the help of a slim margin in [the soldier's] home state of Ohio." The soldier's mother asserts the election had something to do with stonewalling. Does the Post? Really?