Vets' personal data snatched.

Vets' personal data snatched.

Vets' personal data snatched.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 23 2006 3:21 AM

Veterans' Affairs Exposed

The Washington Postand USA Todaylead with upward of 27 million veterans' personal data being stolen after a government analyst brought a file home from work and it was swiped. The New York Timesleads with the New York Stock Exchange's $10 billion bid to acquire the company that operates five European stock markets and futures exchanges. If they pull off the purchase, it would be, as one business prof put it, "the first true cross-Atlantic, international alliance or merger of securities exchanges." The Los Angeles Timesleads with a near-evergreen on the abundant corruption in Iraq. It is "in every ministry, in every governorate," said the head of Iraq's anti-corruption agency. The Defense Ministry alone has made $1 billion in "questionable" purchases. (And that case might be worse than the LAT suggests. According to other reports, the $1 billion wasn't spent on questionable stuff; it's simply missing.)

The data include the names, Social Security numbers, and birth dates of every vet discharged since 1975 and for some before that. The cops reportedly think it was just a random burglary and the robber doesn't know the value of what he has. "There is no indication at all that any use is being made of this data," said the secretary of the Veteran Affairs Department.(The government has set up a FAQ for concerned vets.)

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The Post fronts the weird fallout from the case of Democratic Congressman William Jefferson, who was busted with $90,000 in alleged bribe money in his freezer. Democrats and top Republicans are all ticked about FBI agents' weekend raid on Jefferson's main office. "Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night," said Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

As the Post explains too far down, the qualms about the raid actually have merit: The Constitution has (vague) language protecting legislators from intimidation by the executive branch. Historically, investigators have used subpoenas and not busted in on congressional offices. It's "an intimidating tactic that has never before been used against the legislative branch," said one law prof. (The Post's Dana Milbank's catchy dispatch misses all this, dismissing the constitutional question with a good yuk-yuk.)

The NYT goes above-the-fold with an icky-feeling piece speculating about the real state of Hillary and Bill's marriage and how said relationship might effect her presidential chances. TP doesn't have a particularly strong argument to defend why the piece makes him squirm—but it does.

The NYT and WP have late-breaking word that Fannie Mae has agreed to pay a roughly $400 million fine to settle investigators' charges that its execs cooked the books in the 1990s.

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Continuing a trend from last week, only the Post fronts another big day of violence in Afghanistan, where U.S. planes repeatedly struck a village where the Taliban had holed up. In addition to killing what the military says were between 20 and 60 insurgents, local government officials said 16 civilians were killed, mostly women and children. Apart from the strangely wide-ranging figure the military gave, it's worth noting that if indeed 60 insurgents were killed, it would be something of an ominous sign and the latest evidence the Taliban are now strong enough to mass in sizable groups.

The NYT calls the last week's fighting in Afghanistan the "most intense since the United States intervened in the country in late 2001." That seems accurate. So, any particular reason the Times' coverage of the violence has yet to hit Page One?

The LAT alone fronts the increasingly hairy situation in the Gaza Strip, where a gunbattle yesterday between Hamas and Fatah in front of the parliament building left one person dead. There have been fights on and off for months, but things have gotten a lot worse since Hamas deployed its own security-force-cum-militia last week.

Everybody notes that Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Olmert, will be visiting the White House today, where the administration is sending out hints left and right that Olmert won't get Bush's stamp of approval for a unilateral disengagement plan that would involve essentially annexing chunks of the West Bank.

The WP fronts a fascinating profile of "one of the jihad movement's prime theorists for the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world." Mustafa Setmariam Nasar never really cottoned to Osama Bin Laden. "I think our brother has caught the disease of screens, flashes, fans, and applause," he once wrote. But Nasar has served as served a kind of one-man think tank for the jihadist movement, publishing a now-widely circulated 1,600-page strategy memo detailing how a decentralized jihadist movement should operate. He was recently captured, but his work has lived on. Said one analyst, "It's brilliant—from their point of view."

The Post's Howard Kurtz reports that the Voice of America's last reporter in Iraq is leaving, and the VOA's Baghdad bureau is closing. But Kurtz buries the lead: The reporter isn't leaving because of the general violence. She's leaving because ever since she reported on a Shiite-run government torture center, she's been threatened, had her phone tapped, and had two apparent assassination attempts against her.