The New York Times, Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox, and Washington Postall lead with President Bush's hush-hush visit to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki—amid many cameras—and declared that "America will keep its commitment" and also that "the fate and future of Iraq is in your hands." The Los Angeles Times' leademphasizes Maliki's announcement of a big security sweep for Baghdad. Thepaper says soldiers will "flood the streets." Sounds impressive, except the WP cites Iraqi officials acknowledging that the deployment "does not involve an increase in troops in the city." Instead, there will be a nighttime curfew, a midday traffic ban, and, says the Post, efforts to "beautify" the city.
USA Todayleads with a congressional watchdog report concluding that FEMA paid about $1 billion in sketchy Gulf Coast relief claims. Among the lucky recipients, says USAT, "more than 1,000 people who used names and Social Security numbers of inmates in prisons."
The NYT notes that Bush told Maliki that he had come "to look you in the eye," a line he later repeated. The president declared he was pleased by what he saw. Maliki, meanwhile, "appeared uneasy at times during the visit." As one aide told the NYT, hanging with the president doesn't particularly play well with Maliki's base.
One thing TP didn't see in the papers: How much time did Maliki actually spend talking with Bush, that is, apart from the sundry photo-ops?
Everybody, of course, flags the beaucoup secrecy that accompanied the trip. The White House said only six administration officials knew of the plan. Until a few minutes before the meeting, Maliki thought he was going to have a videoconference meeting with the president. The WP notices that part of the security involved, well, let's call it a lie: The White House issued "a false press statement Monday night saying the president would be having a press availability in the Rose Garden on Tuesday."
About 16 bodies were found in Baghdad, many "handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head."
The Post goes across-the-top and everybody else fronts Karl Rove's non-indictment. Rove's lawyer said the special prosecutor sent a letter saying he "does not anticipate seeking charges" against Rove. The WP, citing a "source briefed on the case," concludes that with Rove's clearing, the "broader leak investigation is probably over." The NYT comes to the same conclusion, saying the decision not to indict Rove "effectively ends the active investigative phase" of the probe.
Of course, Rove did talk to reporters about former CIA operative Valerie Plame, something then-White House spokesman Scott McClellan originally assured the press didn't happen. The WP says the episode "left McClellan and a few other White House aides upset that they were initially misled by Rove, according to several administration sources." Don't expect the full story anytime soon. The prosecutor isn't required to file a public report. And his office declined to comment on the decision to not go after Rove.
The NYT alone fronts 10 Palestinians—two militants and eight civilians—killed, and about 40 wounded, by an Israeli missile strike on a van that was apparently carrying rockets. A well-known militant was killed, and the eight civilians died when a second missile hit seven minutes later as a crowd gathered. Israel said the van was carrying long-range Katyusha rockets. President Mahmoud Abbas called the Israeli actions "state terrorism."
Israel also said an internal investigation concluded that a Palestinian mine was to blame for an explosion last week on a Gaza beach that killed seven Palestinians. Human Rights Watch happened to have a military expert in the area who investigated and concluded that the evidence suggests otherwise.
The papers mention the latest installment of an annual "global attitudes" survey, this one showing opinions of the U.S. dropping again.
The NYT goes inside with "Pentagon and Senate" officials saying the military is backing away from including a secret annex to the new Army Field Manual, an annex that apparently included abusive interrogation techniques. As the Times notes, the story was first broken by the AP.
The WP fronts a few states trying to raise cash by leasing toll roads to private—sometimes foreign—companies. USAT flagged some of the leasing last week.
A former Gitmo detainee, since released to France (where he's now facing charges), has an op-ed in the NYT:
I remember once an interrogator warming me up during several sessions for a polygraph test I was going to take, that was, according to him, infallible. After I took the test, I was left alone in the interrogation room; an hour later, the interrogator returned. "Congratulations," he said grimly. "You have passed the test." And he gave me a box of candy.
In the outside world, I thought, the difference between telling the truth and lying, between committing a crime and not committing it, is the difference between being in jail and being free. In Guantánamo, it is a box of candy.