The Washington Post leads with word that the Bush administration is looking into a military strike against Iran. According to an unnamed source, two options are being considered: a quick strike against nuclear facilities along with a threat to continue if Iran wages terrorist attacks in response; or a more expansive bombing of Iranian government facilities and other targets. According to the paper, the Pentagon and CIA have been examining possible targets; the British government has started planning to protect its embassy offices and citizens in the event of a U.S. attack; and Israel has a contingency plan in place for attacking Iran if the U.S. doesn't get around to it.
The New York Timesleads with an internal report by U.S. Embassy and military command in Baghdad revealing a graver situation in Iraq than depicted by top politicians and military officials. The Los Angeles Times leads with plans by cable and telephone companies to possibly start charging Internet companies to make their data run faster along clogged telecommunications networks. Though differential pricing schemes are common in business, such plans are contrary to the egalitarian nature of the Internet, where currently all content is treated equally. Many worry the buck would be passed down to the average Internet user, and new fees would apply to access different kinds of content.
Everyone agrees that the planning by the administration is a tactic to pressure Tehran to quit its alleged nuclear development program, but analysts have differing views on whether it's just bluster or much more than that. The Post's story follows the posting of Seymour Hersh's latest article on the New Yorker's Web site. That piece, which will appear in the April 17 issue of the magazine, reveals that the administration has not ruled out using tactical nuclear weapons. In addition, says Hersh, Bush has been chatting with certain senators—including "at least one Democrat"—about Iran options. Also according to the piece, U.S. troops have been told to go to Iran and secretly get information on possible targets. One "former defense official" is quoted in Hersh's article about the plans to strike Tehran: "I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, 'What are they smoking?' " The LAT and NYT also mention the Hersh report.
The internal staff report that the NYT leads with is a province-by-province breakdown of the security, economy, and politics of the region—and it's far from rosy. The report rates the stability situation in a full one-third of Iraq's provinces as "serious"; in another it is "critical." Sectarian friction is reported as common in regions that American officials have called nonviolent. The report—not classified material—has been shown to some people on Capitol Hill but has not been widely distributed.
Back to the LAT's lead for a minute: The story of the battle for "net neutrality"—whose proponents want to prohibit the broadband providers from charging Internet companies so their data gets special, speedier treatment—is not brand new. But on Friday Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., released a draft bill that protects network neutrality. (The reader has to wade more than a dozen paragraphs into the LAT story to reach that actual news—all the ink before that is mostly devoted to explaining this admittedly complicated issue.)
Everybody fronts the latest round in the leak story. The NYT reviews records from around June and July of 2003—the period during which Scooter Libby was authorized to tell Judith Miller about Baghdad's supposed quest for uranium from Africa—and connects some interesting dots. By the time the president gave the "apparent order" to reveal that previously classified information, the info was already being discredited by several other administration officials. The Post also mentions this point in their A1 story on the matter.
The LAT weighs in with a look at how strategic leaking advances an administration's agenda. Not all leaks are treated equally by the White House; the paper reports on specific incidents when the Bush administration's reaction to leaks has depended on whether the information leaked was beneficial to the president's plans.
Another Shiite mosque was bombed Saturday, killing six people and injuring 19. Other attacks killed 14 additional people around Iraq Saturday.
In Afghanistan Saturday, a car bomb exploded outside a NATO base, killing two and wounding seven. The Taliban took credit. The attack was the second in two days on foreign military bases in the country.
The LAT fronts a story on a petition drive under way in South Dakota, where volunteers hoping to reverse the country's most stringent abortion ban are being surprised by the support they're gaining in their efforts. Even many conservatives seem to think their legislators crossed a line by passing a law defending an "unalienable right to life." In just two weeks, a third of the signatures needed have been collected to get a November referendum on the ban.
The Rolling Stones played a concert in China Saturday for the first time ever. Government censors, however, banned the band from playing five songs, including "Brown Sugar" and "Let's Spend the Night Together." Tickets were so expensive that the audience was predominantly rich foreigners, a fact that was not lost on Mick Jagger. "I am pleased the Ministry of Culture is protecting the morals of expatriate bankers and their girlfriends," he said.