What U.S. newspapers are saying

Sept. 28, 2001 at 10:16 AM
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New York Times

President Bush unveiled a package of sensible proposals yesterday that would expand federal oversight of airport security and boost public confidence in the safety of air travel. But as he engages Congress on the issue, Mr. Bush needs to take another step and press for creation of a federal transportation police force to assume direct responsibility for all airport security functions.

Mr. Bush's ideas include an expansion of the sky marshal program that places armed plainclothes officers on flights; $500 million in grants to develop more secure cockpits, with impregnable doors, cameras that allow the pilots to see what is happening in the main cabin, and location-identifying transponders that cannot be turned off; and money for the state governors to station National Guard troops at airports in the near future. Most important, a new agency would oversee all domestic airport security. It would hire and train the private guards who screen passengers and their luggage, and acquire and maintain screening devices.

But Mr. Bush was quite right to oppose a plea by airline pilots that they be allowed to carry guns. Armed marshals would be better prepared to handle any gunplay, and a reinforced cabin door should keep the pilots secure from harm. ...

Congress is likely to vote on aviation security legislation soon. Most members share a commitment to "federalizing" security, but there are important differences on what that entails.

Some share the White House's sense that it is necessary only to have Washington oversee and train the private screening companies. But many in Congress rightly favor creating a federal aviation security force. Airports are a front line in the struggle against terrorism, and it no longer makes sense to delegate their policing to the private sector, which emphasizes low costs as opposed to security.

A federal force would cost more than the White House proposal to continue delegating the job to private security guards. But who would balk at paying a $5 ticket surcharge to acquire more reliable security?

Some conservative Republicans are saying that the last thing the country needs is 28,000 new federal employees. Americans still struggling to comprehend how foreign terrorists could simultaneously hijack four airliners and turn them into missiles to bomb Washington and New York would surely differ. So should Mr. Bush.

Springfield, Mass., Union

Here's a message for the Rev. Jesse Jackson: If the president wants your help, he'll ask for it.

Jackson says he is weighing whether to lead a delegation to Pakistan to meet with Taliban representatives of the Afghan government. There is nothing to weigh.

The United States has demanded that Afghanistan turn over Osama bin Laden, who is the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States. Those demands are not negotiable. There will be no talks and no discussions. Period. President Bush has made that clear to the nation and the world -- but apparently it's not clear to Jackson.

It's a free country, so if Jackson insists on this trip he will be allowed to go. But he'll go without the blessings of the U.S. government and the majority of Americans.

Jackson is a man of great compassion but lately, it seems, he cannot pass a stage without attempting to climb its stairs. There's no place for him on this stage. Jackson is not a U.S. diplomat, nor is he a State Department official -- nor is he wanted. Under no circumstances should the government consider using him.

Jackson has undertaken several missions in the past to win the release of American hostages overseas. In 1999, he secured the release of three American soldiers captured by Serbs in Yugoslavia. This time, the U.S. government is saying thanks, but no thanks.

This time, he's meddling. It's sure to be viewed by some as an attempt by the U.S. to negotiate with the terrorist-harboring Taliban regime -- and that would threaten U.S. efforts.

Jackson says he was contacted by Taliban officials to talk about the status of bin Laden. The Taliban said Jackson initiated the offer. We'll take Jackson's word over the word of a government that executes men if their beards are too short. Yet a trip to neighboring Pakistan would serve no purpose, unless it's to serve Jackson's own self-interests.

Jackson has been a friend and a leader, not just for the poor and the black community, but also the nation. He has raised America's conscience and helped to rid the nation of many injustices throughout a magnificent career. The United States is a better place as a result of his good work. But this is not a job for Jackson.

He should remain on the sidelines, providing the same type of support offered by other Americans.

Boston Globe

The threat of military reprisals in Afghanistan has forced thousands of panicked Afghan people to flee major cities and terrorist strongholds and jam the borders with Iran and Pakistan. Aid workers say the refugee crisis will worsen in the coming weeks because of disrupted emergency food supplies, a continuing drought, and the advent of winter. Even as the United States plans a possible military attack on the country, it must also provide for the safety of innocent civilians. It is the right course not just morally, but politically.

Afghanistan was a humanitarian disaster even before the World Trade Center bombings drew attention to the ravaged country. The United Nations estimates that 25 percent of children there die before age 5, and the average life expectancy is only 40 years. Decades of war, starvation, and repression have already sent millions of poor Afghan people to seek safe haven in neighboring countries.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, all six countries abutting Afghanistan -- Iran, Pakistan, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan -- have closed their borders to refugees. The ruling Taliban have threatened to execute anyone using a computer or communications equipment to contact the outside world, and almost all international aid workers have left the country. ...

The United States said this week it is sending 10,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan to feed the refugees, and the Pentagon indicated food and supply airdrops may accompany any military intervention. This is the bare minimum needed -- not just to save lives but to help neutralize the resentment against the United States simmering in parts of the Muslim world as America tries to form alliances with countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Sending humanitarian aid to the suffering citizens of Afghanistan is not the same as propping up the Taliban government.

Neighboring countries are understandably chary of floods of desperate, possibly armed refugees, and they need massive infusions of international aid to operate settlement camps. The refugees can be screened for weapons or other threats. But past experience in Bosnia and Rwanda suggest that refugee camps cannot be set up safely within embattled territories. The borders must be reopened.

Chicago Tribune

As he readies a plan to fight terrorism, Attorney General John Ashcroft is proposing changes in immigration policy and due process that may be more dangerous to American traditions of individual freedoms than to terrorists.

Ashcroft has extended the period during which immigrants suspected of terrorist activities can be held without charges from 24 to 48 hours, with the prospect of indefinite detention in a period of national emergency. Ashcroft has floated other proposals to allow indefinite detention without charges of immigrants suspected of being associated with terrorists -- not necessarily engaged in terrorist activities -- as far back as 10 years ago.

Combined with stringent anti-terrorist and immigration reform measures, adopted in 1995 and 1996 -- which short-circuit most judicial review of decisions by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and even allow the use of secret evidence -- the recent proposals could push immigrants into a legal no-man's land. Conceivably the government could detain even legal immigrants, without formal charges or using secret evidence, and hold them indefinitely without any right of appeal or judicial review.

Members of both houses of Congress and both major parties have objected to such sweeping limitations on due process amid doubts about their constitutionality.

Indeed, in July the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that immigrants can't be jailed indefinitely and those facing penalties such as deportation have a right to a court hearing. Though the rulings involved different situations, they point to the fact that immigrants have constitutional rights too.

To date, more than 350 people have been detained in the investigation of Sept. 11. Some are being held on immigration or other charges, some as material witnesses.

The indefinite detention of people who don't face criminal charges is a deep concern. Judicial review--even, given the current emergency, if it is conducted with the kind of secrecy accorded grand jury proceedings--has to be provided to those detained. ...

If Congress decides to grant broader investigative powers to the Justice Department, they must come with a provision that they expire within two years. If those powers are needed beyond that date, Congress will have ample opportunity to renew them. ...

These are dangerous times. Fearful Americans and their leaders are still recovering from the shock of Sept. 11 and searching for ways to prevent a similar disaster. Changes must be made, but not to the fundamental constitutional liberties that make the U.S. worth defending in the first place.

Dallas Morning News

In the hours that followed the attack by terrorists on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, members of Congress assured a heartsick and furious nation that the Bush administration would have the tools it needed to punish the perpetrators and prevent future atrocities.

Congress delivered on the first goal -- punishment -- within a few days when it authorized President Bush to dispatch U.S. troops to the Mediterranean to locate and apprehend Osama bin Laden. It sent an equally powerful message when it doubled the administration's request for a $20 billion appropriation and handed over $40 billion.

But now, apparently, the blank check has expired. When Attorney General John Ashcroft presented Congress with a list of legislative demands that, he claimed, would help law enforcement agencies crush the rest of the bin Laden terrorist cell network within the United States, representatives on both sides of the aisle started asking hard questions about whether Americans were being asked to swap their civil liberties for increased security.

That is the opinion of a diverse collection of special interests -- from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Rifle Association -- who are concerned that the administration is overreaching. ...

It is no wonder that there is concern in Congress that, as one Senate aide put it, the administration is trying to change the way Americans live when the goal of warfare should be to change the way your enemy lives.

Even with all that needs to be done, there is time for Congress to thoughtfully sort through these important issues. ...

Our law enforcement officers must have the tools they need to surgically remove a cancer that seems to have spread through America. But we must be extremely careful that we don't damage the heart of the patient.

Washington Post

The fates and livelihoods of tens of thousands of Americans are inextricably tied to the fate of Reagan National Airport. As military authorities keep noting, security is a most serious concern at this capital area air terminal -- but so is the insecurity of a nation's capital threatened with the deep, lasting damage to its economy that National's loss would represent. Is there no prudent way for America's Airport to reopen? When will the jobless -- whose ranks are swelling by the day -- know one way or the other? How long will everyone -- including airport officials -- be kept hanging, with no clue about a decision? Who is making this call, anyway?

Lack of airport security -- across the entire United States -- was at issue before Sept. 11 and now must be addressed with a new commitment and sense of urgency. In the case of Reagan National, extraordinary measures may be in order. Completing these plans may require some time. But if the decision is to cave in to the events of Sept. 11 and let the capital region become one of the worst-served air markets in the country, the people who are suffering need to know it now, and they need to know why such a disastrous decision is necessary.

While the president and Congress are taking steps to rescue the airline industry, the shutdown at National is killing certain airlines. Perhaps these carriers were doomed anyway, but depriving them of this chance to survive is difficult to justify. Shifting flights to Dulles and BWI works on a temporary basis, while fewer people are flying. But both those terminals already are investing billions for expansion just to handle their own projected growth. At Dulles, even those investments are in jeopardy; new work is being suspended until the fate of National is decided. Permanently absorbing National's passenger load (20 percent of which uses Metro, not roads) would cripple air travel in the region for generations to come.

Secrecy is important in developing new measures to protect the airspace over this capital area. But not disclosing a word about whether the airport will ever again be open sends a message and speaks volumes nonetheless -- not only that the economy is being hurt but that coming to the nation's capital is not a good idea. A far better message would be that the nation's capital is determined to keep its travel centers open and well secured, and its economy strong.

Washington Times

In an obvious -- and welcome -- concession to the bipartisan spirit that has engulfed Washington since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the American homeland, Senate Democrats last week retreated from the intense opposition they had previously exerted against President Bush's national missile defense program.

Led by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, the liberal Democrat from Michigan, Democratic senators agreed to restore $1.3 billion in national missile defense funds that they had cut from Mr. Bush's $8.3 billion fiscal 2002 budget request on Sept. 7 in a party-line vote in the committee. Also last week, Senate Democrats agreed to drop from the defense authorization bill a provision that established strict conditions under which the Department of Defense could conduct extremely important anti-missile tests.

The crucial restoration of funding means that Mr. Bush will be able to regain the momentum in the development and deployment of a national missile defense system that his far-less-committed predecessor had squandered during the previous eight years. Dropping the restrictive testing provision will permit the missile defense program to move forward much more rapidly. Indeed, on the heels of a hugely successful anti-missile test in July, the Pentagon expressed its intent to pursue a more ambitious testing program. Unfortunately, the anti-testing provision, which was sponsored by Mr. Levin himself and approved in committee four days before the terrorist attacks, strictly regulated any anti-missile tests that would have violated the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Such tests could have taken place only if Congress gave its approval or if Russia and the United States reached an agreement that would have permitted the tests. ...

Contrary to what many opponents of national missile defense assert, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon actually confirmed the necessity of developing such a system. After all, whoever launched the massive attacks on America -- and all of the evidence points to Osama bin Laden -- certainly knows that he will be identified and will surely pay a fatal price. Indeed, nearly 20 suicidal terrorists have already willingly paid the ultimate price in order to slaughter thousands of helpless Americans and hundreds of foreign nationals. So, why would anyone assume that an aspiring bin Laden -- armed with a strategic ballistic missile and a nuclear, biological or chemical warhead -- would not unleash such an assault?

Even if Senate Democrats made their concessions in the spirit of bipartisanship, rather than because of a change in position, the fact remains that they still made a major contribution to the long-term defense of this nation.

Miami Herald

When will the U.S. military strike a retaliatory blow for the Sept. 11 terror attacks against American cities? Seventeen days have passed, and President Bush last week prepared the nation for an anti-terror campaign with a rousing speech about retribution.

Any concern about the nation's response, however, would be misplaced. The president, the U.S. military and our national-security apparatus appear to be on track for implementing an unconventional strategy for fighting an unconventional foe.

Against a traditional enemy -- a country that has a military, infrastructure and borders -- the task would be straightforward: Engage the enemy's army and fight until a victor is determined. The terrorists who crashed airplanes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center are stateless and borderless. Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror network -- which President Bush says is a principal target -- is organized in cells and scattered around the world. ...

This campaign is unpredictable. Once U.S. forces begin to engage terrorist targets, anything can happen. Moreover, U.S. firepower, if fully unleashed, can rearrange the Afghan map, politically and geographically. The administration is wise to proceed with careful planning and deliberate speed.

Milwaukee Journal

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed out this week that only the United Nations is in a position to supply "global legitimacy" to the long-term struggle against terrorism. Thus far, however, President Bush has been unwilling to use the U.N. against Osama bin Laden and his protectors in Afghanistan the way his father used it against Saddam Hussein's Iraq a decade ago.

But if Bush has decided, at least for now, not to seek an explicit U.N. Security Council authorization for the campaign against terrorism, there is no reason why he and other world leaders should not help the U.N.'s specialized agencies deal with the human fallout from the conflict.

The United States already has provided financial aid to Afghan refugees. But the confrontation between the U.S. and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has produced a huge new flow of refugees pressing against the border with neighboring Pakistan, which is almost as poor as Afghanistan. Pakistan is in no position to feed, clothe and shelter more Afghan refugees - some 2.5 million are already in the country - even if it were disposed to do so. Thus, it has sealed the Pakistan-Afghan border.

But the relentless press of the migration is bound to break the seal, especially if the U.S. takes visible military action - particularly bombing - in Afghanistan. A top U.N. official in Pakistan has warned that the organization is bracing "for what we are afraid could become one of the largest humanitarian operations the U.N. has ever had to take charge of." ...

This week, the House finally acted to pay this country's long-standing debts to the U.N. by approving a $582 million payment. It did so because the administration realizes that international cooperation is necessary to battle terrorism. The same kind of cooperation also is necessary to help those who don't want to be caught in the cross-fire of that battle.

New York Post

Despite their professed support for the U.S.-led war against terrorism, Saudi Arabia's rulers still won't let America use their bases to mount air strikes against Afghanistan.

The Saudis have been thumbing their noses at Washington for years. But Saudi Arabia still owes the United States - big. And it's time to call in some markers.

The United States saved the Saudis from Saddam Hussein in 1991; the Gulf War was as much about protecting Saudi Arabia as it was about freeing Kuwait.

Not that the Saudis have ever expressed real gratitude for that effort.

As a senior Saudi official told The Wall Street Journal at the time: "You think I want to send my teenaged son to die for Kuwait? We have our white slaves from America to do that."

Once upon a time, America needed to court Saudi Arabia to keep its valuable oil fields out of Soviet hands. No more. ...

The Saudis are playing a dangerous game by trying to keep all sides happy.

In the long run, they need us more than we need them. In the short run, however, America needs full and unimpeded access to Saudi air bases.

As President Bush said last week: "Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

Now the president needs to impress upon the oil sheikhs of Riyadh the consequences of ignoring his words.

Omaha World Herald

Japanese leaders appeared to be sinking into self-doubt and hesitation in the first few days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a reaction long typical of Japan's foreign policy. In recent days, however, the government has begun to move past equivocation toward resolute support.

That development is welcome. In this hour of crisis, Japan needs to demonstrate its reliability and steadfastness as a friend and ally.

In the past, it has sometimes failed that test. During the Persian Gulf War, Japan's main contribution to the allied war effort was a $13 billion check made out to the United States, a modest response that eventually became a source of embarrassment for the Japanese.

It is true that Japan's constitution presents a stumbling block to military action. That part of the constitution, written under U.S. direction after World War II, forbids the country's military, formally known as the Self Defense Force, from taking offensive action or venturing far from Japanese waters. East Asian countries, remembering Japan's actions during World War II, have long signaled that they would like Japan to retain that restriction on its military.

Now the Japanese government has said it will send up to five naval ships to accompany U.S. forces in the Indian Ocean. Although the Japanese vessels are not intended to take offensive action, officials indicated they will provide intelligence and surveillance support. They also will transport personnel, deliver supplies, provide medical assistance and aid refugees.

Japan has appropriately moved beyond the indecisiveness it has displayed too often in its foreign policy. As the world's third-largest economic force and a nation already terrorized by the poison-gas-wielding Aum Shinrikyo cult, Japan has a great stake in beating back the forces of terrorism.

A more confident Japan can play a positive role in international relations. Its newfound assertiveness in joining the war on terrorism is a positive sign for the future.

Providence, R.I., Journal

For the second time in two months, Britain has found it necessary to re-impose direct rule in Ulster, and then quickly reinstate local governance. The purpose is to keep hope alive that the coalition government in Belfast, teetering on the edge of a cliff, will not fall and be shattered.

London is taking advantage of a legal loophole to provide six additional weeks for resolving the political stalemate in Ulster. But it's doubtful that the tactic will work.

The main problem is that the Irish Republican Army will not decommission its arms, as anticipated by the 1998 Good Friday peace accord. It's willing to meet with the international commission that oversees the disarmament process. It's even willing to hold out the prospect that its talks with the commission will have "satisfactory" results. But what it will not do is actually disarm. Others have been waiting -- and waiting -- for the talk to turn into action. No deal.

The IRA's obstinacy on the arms issue is no trivial matter. ...

Cease-fire or not, the IRA insists on keeping its secret and amply stocked arms caches. Well, the Protestant parties -- the larger Ulster Unionists, and the smaller but more intransigent Democratic Unionists -- are sick of waiting. They don't very much trust the IRA and Sinn Fein to begin with; the devious stalling tactics on arms merely confirm their suspicions.

This makes it particularly unfortunate that the province's leading moderate Catholic politician, John Hume, 64, who has long been in ill health, recently announced that he intends to retire. Mr. Hume, head of Ulster's Social Democratic and Labor Party since 1979, was co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with David Trimble, leader of the dominant Ulster Unionists, for their role in shaping the Good Friday accord. Mr. Hume has symbolized the hope that Ulster's Protestants and Catholics could share a future of relative peace, harmony and justice despite so many centuries of mutual distrust and hostility. His message is by no means about to disappear (his protégé, Mark Durkan, is favored to become head of the party). Nevertheless, this courageous and farsighted man's voice will be missed.

Salt Lake Tribune

Give it to us straight, Mr. President.

The American people realize that the massive investigation into the terrorist hijackings of Sept. 11 is only 2 weeks old and that it took years, for example, to build the case against the terrorists who brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. But it is important for the American people and the world to know the evidence that links the events of Sept. 11 to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization.

If the case is purely circumstantial, fine. Even many criminal cases are circumstantial, but circumstantial and insubstantial are not the same, and the people know that.

They also understand that the president must keep secret the methods that the United States uses to obtain some information so that friendly agents or technical capabilities are not given away to the enemy.

But understanding that, they also know that the outlines of the case should be revealed. The United States should justify any retaliatory strike before it occurs. A reasonable explanation must be given. That entails revealing the basis for retaliation.

If, by contrast, no reasonable explanation can be given, then no strike should occur.

The American people could accept that. They are hurt, frightened and angry, but they would not wish to compound one terrible injustice by committing another. They are patient enough to wait while their government builds a solid case before acting. In fact, they would demand that.

So, Mr. President, let the American people know where things stand.

San Francisco Chronicle

The Sept. 11 attacks on the United States call for tougher counter- terrorism measures, but let us be clear: there is no such thing as perfect security in a free country.

Our rush to tighten security -- while imperative -- must be balanced against the need to preserve the freedoms that make this country such a special place to live.

The Bush administration's 44-page anti-terrorism proposal fails to strike that delicate balance. In far too many cases, it would give the government a dangerously unchecked authority to monitor, detain and penalize people it deems suspicious. It does not, in many instances, attempt to distinguish between "terrorism" and other crimes.

In effect, the Bush administration uses its war against terrorism to justify what would become a general erosion of civil liberties in this country.

The bill must be crafted more carefully so that it zeroes in on real obstacles to pursuing terrorist organizations. Members of Congress need to ask tough questions and be willing to amend the Bush plan.

Americans are willing to make sacrifices to fight terrorism. We all know the continuing threat is real, as is the pain from the attacks on our fellow countrymen in New York and Washington. The current national resolve is a wonder to behold.

This country needs to be bold enough, however, to limit law enforcement to the tools it can show it really needs to counter terrorism. We need to protect our basic freedoms as we pursue new ways to safeguard our buildings and even our lives.

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