The Washington Postleads with House Republican leaders agreeing to allow a vote next week that could scuttle the much-slammed ports deal."We do not believe the U.S. should allow a government-owned company to operate American ports," said a spokesman for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. The Post adds that "House Republican aides and Senate Democrats" predict that the Senate will soon follow suit. President Bush has said he'll veto any bill that blocks the deal. Citing "senior Pentagon officials and military officers," the New York Times'lead says small teams of special ops soldiers have been placed at "more than a dozen" U.S. embassies and are keeping a lookout for suspected terrorists. The effort has riled up the CIA, which thinks the commandos are inching up on its domain. "The current militarization of many of the nation's intelligence functions and responsibilities will be viewed as a major mistake in the very near future," said one recently retired CIA man. You wouldn't know it from the NYT, but the WP, and particularly the LAT, have been covering what appears to be the same program for a few years.
The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox leads with, and the Los Angeles Times' top nonlocal story goes to, Russia at least publicly standing again with the U.S. and Europe in warning Iran about its nukes program. Earlier this week, Russia had floated a proposal that would have allowed Iran to still work on perfecting the process for enriching uranium. Only the NYT gave the apparent trial balloon significant coverage. It also happens to be just about alone in burying Russia's row-back. By the way, the clearest coverage—explaining exactly what Russia offered—comes not from a news article but from a Post editorial.
USA Todayleads with, and others front, former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow testifying in the trial of the company's once top two execs and as expected fingering his former boss in Enron's massive fraud. Fastow said Chief Executive Jeffery Skilling told him to cook the books. One-time chairman Ken Lay was also implicated, though not as directly. "I was going to scratch their back," said Fastow, "and they were going to scratch mine."
The Journal does the budget numbers and concludes that U.S. spending for the Iraq war is still heading north and currently running at $5.9 billion per month. The administration has requested $117.6 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq for this fiscal year, 18 percent more than last year. It's all done outside the normal budget and in "emergency" appropriations.
The Post goes inside with, and Knight Ridder highlights, the Republican-controlled Senate intel committee voting down a proposed investigation of the warrantless spying. The NYT buries that development and instead chooses to highlight a deal between the White House and some Republicans that sealed that vote, "G.O.P. SENATORS SAY ACCORD IS SET ON WIRETAPPING."
The administration agreed to legislation that would require a few more members of Congress to be briefed on the snooping and would require the government to abide by current law and actually get national-security warrants, as the NYT puts it, "whenever possible." In order to skip a warrant, the Times explains, the attorney general would have to certify every 45 days that foregoing it is vital for the nation's security. The Times gets plenty of politico quotes, pro and con. But shouldn't it also ask outside analysts whether such a "certification" would likely be, say, anything more than window dressing?