Justice Department to investigate CIA interrogations; nine killed in New York plane crash.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 9 2009 6:08 AM

Question Time for the CIA?

The Los Angeles Times leads with the news that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is likely to appoint a criminal prosecutor to look into abuses committed during CIA interrogations of terrorism suspects. The prosecutor will evaluate whether the CIA employed tactics not authorized by Bush administration memos, not the legality of the controversial, so-called torture memos themselves. The New York Times leads with yesterday's plane crash over the Hudson River, in which a small plane collided with a tourist helicopter, killing nine people. Three of the bodies have been recovered so far. The Washington Post leads with the news that Metro's crash-avoidance system had malfunctioned three months before this summer's deadly collision, when a train operator had to apply the emergency brake so as not to overshoot a station platform on Capitol Hill. Metro officials failed to report this incident and the ensuing investigation to federal officials investigating the June Red Line crash.

Officials are almost certain that Holder will choose a special prosecutor from a shortlist recently assembled at the Department of Justice at his request. But the LAT exclusive does not make clear whether this will be a hard-hitting investigation or an ineffectual gesture at duty by the DoJ. The investigation will be narrow in scope, and one former Justice Department official thinks it's doomed to fail, arguing, "[I]t would go on forever and cause enormous collateral damage on the way to getting that unsuccessful result." It will be difficult to obtain good evidence, and the case would lack precedent. Water-boarding is an obvious practice that would come under fire, as would other previously undisclosed incidents, including the time a CIA official brought a gun into an interrogation room to intimidate a prisoner.

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Yesterday's plane crash in New York City came as a shock to the many onlookers outside enjoying the clear summer day. Witnesses said the two aircraft appeared to be flying dangerously close to each other before the plane flew up and into the helicopter with a thunderous crash. The plane carried three people from Pennsylvania, and the helicopter held five visiting Italians and the pilot. The WP points out that that stretch of airspace is often crowded, and all the coverage notes that small aircraft fly there with few regulations.

Both the NYT and the WP front stories on government talks with businesses during the recession. The NYT off-lead questions the ethics of conversations between former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Goldman Sachs last fall. As the former head of Goldman, Paulson had taken his position as treasury secretary with the promise to secure ethics waivers any time he had substantial dealings with the company. During the week in September 2008 when the government bailed out AIG, Paulson spoke with Goldman Sachs' chief executive two dozen times (more often than with any other Wall Street executive), several of which occurred before Paulson obtained an ethics waiver. Now the timing of the conversations and the fact that monies from the AIG bailout paid off Goldman Sachs are raising eyebrows on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, the WP fronts word that Obama's compensation czar is meeting with seven companies that received bailout money to discuss how much their top executives will be paid this year. Kenneth R. Feinberg has the tricky job of setting the pay for the top 25 employees of companies like AIG, Bank of America, and Citigroup and approving the pay for the top 100 employees of these and other companies. The talks have been very secretive, but this seems certain to be a story that will call for more scrutiny in the coming weeks.

All the papers stuff stories on Sonia Sotomayor's swearing-in as Supreme Court justice yesterday. The NYT and WP observe that Chief Justice John Roberts read the oath off a piece of paper to avoiding botching the words as he did during the president's inauguration earlier this year. In the Style section, the NYT notes that Sotomayor fans have embraced the "wise Latina" phrase.

Although it hardly seems possible for the Iranian government's reputation to deteriorate further this summer, yesterday's second round of trials for arrested election protesters shows there's still opportunity for the country's image to sink lower. All the papers highlight, and the LAT fronts, the forced-sounding confessions from the televised trials, including that of a young French lecturer kept in solitary confinement for sending an e-mail to a colleague about the unrest she witnessed in Esfahan after the election. The NYT reports that an Iranian judiciary official finally admitted that protesters had been tortured.

The LAT's front-page centerpiece reports that two dozen teenage girls and young women have disappeared in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Unlike the deaths of more than 350 impoverished women there between 1993 and 2008, this time, no one has discovered any bodies. Investigators have few leads, but some suspect that the middle- and working-class young women may have been forced into prostitution.

In the op-ed pages, the NYT's Nicholas Kristof offers practical camping tips for the computer-bound crowd because just as "you recharge your BlackBerry from time to time, you also should recharge your soul." The WP enlists high-profile contributions from Henry Kissinger, who analyzes the foreign policy fallout from Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea last week, and Dan Rather, who calls for President Obama to "convene a nonpartisan, blue-ribbon commission to assess the state of the news as an institution and an industry."

As if Kristof's column weren't reminder enough, the NYT Style section also makes you wonder when technology begins to interfere with real life. Now some party hosts have taken it upon themselves to specify when guests aren't welcome to chronicle the gathering on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the like. Some who've embraced the idea find "that there's something magical about a life less posted."

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