The Washington Post switches up its Justice Department scandal coverage today, stuffing the fired prosecutors and leading with news that the FBI used an illegal procedure to get thousands of phone records—then tried to retroactively legalize its actions, botching that, too. The Los Angeles Times lead says non-=combat efforts to get at the "underlying causes" in the War on Terror are being squeezed out by the emphasis on warfighting. The New York Times leads with two pieces: one on the diametrically opposite Iraq views held by Vietnam veterans Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Kan. and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and one on an unexpected jump in Sunni—rather than Shiite—attacks brought on by the "surge."
A Justice Department investigation turned up "uncontrolled" binge usage of "exigent circumstance" letters by the FBI. The letters "circumvented" the law by asking for call records from phone companies, now, and indicating that all the legal mumbo-jumbo would be set straight later. In many cases, it never was. Recently the FBI tried to "clean up" the problem by quickly scribbling requests for the information they had already requisitioned, screwing up the law again in the process. Investigations, hearings, and disciplinary action to follow.
The LAT leads with an investigative piece that says Iraq, Afghanistan, and special forces engagements are eating up the War on Terror budget while "soft power" programs languish, their directors resigning in frustration. The paper knows this because (it notes, proudly) it read budget documents and interviewed "dozens of current and former U.S. officials" to get the big picture. The article's main gripe, though, is about a "key strategic program" that nearly closed because of funding cuts—a program that the LAT beatifies in a near-identical article inside. Key indeed is the Regional Strategic Initiative; its plight "heartbreaking."
While most thought the "surge" would force a showdown with Shiite militias, Shiites are lying low. Sunni car bombers from the "Baghdad belt" villages ringing the city are picking up the slack. The NYT says U.S. troops have to clear these to restore order. Inside, the NYT says Sunni insurgents in Anbar exploded three truck bombs filled with chlorine gas in order to intimidate moderate tribes allied against them. The WP gets all the above information into a single, concise article on A20 with useful chlorine bomb factoids. The LAT focuses solely on the events in Anbar.
The other NYT lead compares the opposing Iraq views of Vietnam veterans Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Kan. The two men are like case studies in our long, national Rorschach test.
Below the fold, the NYT fronts new details on the firing of U.S. attorney David Iglesias. He didn't go for the jugular in several politically charged corruption cases. Conservatives responded with a righteous storm of election-year, swing-state ire that reached all the way to the White House. The New Mexico GOP on Iglesias' subsequent dismissal: "Hallelujah."
Inside, NYT analysis says U.S. attorneys have always been politicized, just not this politicized.
The LAT fronts speculation that the White House is already looking beyond Alberto Gonzales' resignation in an attempt to protect Rove and the Prez.
The WP also fronts—and the LAT goes inside with—yesterday's protest, billed provocatively as the 40th anniversary of a 1967 march on the Pentagon. The event drew anti-anti-war protesters, many clad "in black leather motorcycle jackets," alarmed by a rumor that the Vietnam memorial might be vandalized. The two sides exchanged some of the 20th century's most well-worn insults.
Barron YoungSmith is the former online editor of the New Republic.