Daniel Klaidman

Stories by Daniel Klaidman

  • ENEMIES AMONG US

    John Ashcroft was in familiar form, part Sgt. Joe Friday, part Prophet of Doom. Standing by giant mug shots of seven terrorist suspects, the U.S. attorney general warned, "Be on the lookout... for each of these seven individuals. They all pose a clear and present danger to America. They all should be considered armed and dangerous." America, it seemed, faced a frightening summer. As exhibit A, Ashcroft cited a statement from an "Al Qaeda spokesman" that plans for an attack "to hit the United States hard" were "90 percent complete."...
  • SUSPECT MOTIVES

    John Ashcroft was in familiar form, part Sgt. Joe Friday, part Prophet of Doom. Standing by giant mug shots of seven terrorist suspects, the U.S. attorney general warned, "Be on the lookout... for each of these seven individuals. They all pose a clear and present danger to America. They all should be considered armed and dangerous." America, it seemed, faced a frightening summer. As exhibit A, Ashcroft cited a statement from an "Al Qaeda spokesman" that plans for an attack "to hit the United States hard" were "90 percent complete."But things are not always as they seem in the wilderness of mirrors known as the war on terror. The facts are a little less stark, the motives for airing them more mixed than Ashcroft's grim warnings would suggest. Once again it appears that politics and national security are bedfellows in post-9/11 America. That is not to say that Bush administration officials are crying wolf. It's just that they know less--and want more--than the attorney general...
  • THE ROAD TO THE BRIG

    In September 2002, just before the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a group of senior Bush administration officials convened for a secret videoconference to make a difficult decision: what to do with six Americans suspected of conspiring with Al Qaeda. The Yemeni-born men from Lackawanna, N.Y., were accused of training at a camp in Afghanistan, where some had met Osama bin Laden. The president's men were divided. For Dick Cheney and his ally, Donald Rumsfeld, the answer was simple: the accused men should be locked up indefinitely as "enemy combatants," and thrown into a military brig with no right to trial or even to see a lawyer. That's what authorities had done with two other Americans, Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla. "They are the enemy, and they're right here in the country," Cheney argued, according to a participant. But others were hesitant to take the extraordinary step of stripping the men of their rights, especially because there was no evidence that they had...
  • THE 9/11 COMMISSION: JUSTICE'S BLIND SPOT

    The FBI was on the case--or was it? According to the newly declassified Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) for Aug. 6, 2001, the FBI was conducting 70 "full field investigations" into Al Qaeda cells in the United States a month before the 9/11 attacks. That does not mean, however, that the FBI agents were capable of finding much suspicious activity or, if they did, that the information would ever make its way up the chain of command. It is well known by now, for instance, that at least one FBI agent in Phoenix reported in July 2001 that an unusually large number of Middle Easterners, some with Al Qaeda ties, had enrolled in flight schools. And that the next month, the FBI started looking for two Al Qaeda suspects who turned out to be 9/11 hijackers.But at the top, the FBI leadership was more concerned with squabbling with its supposed bosses in the Justice Department. Or so it may seem this week when top officials from the bureau and Justice testify before the 9/11 commission. After...
  • GOP: NAYSAYING KERRY'S NAY

    Last week was one of John Kerry's roughest in his still-young presidential campaign. On a daily basis the Bush-Cheney team savaged him as a weak-on-defense flip-flopper, while GOP operatives scoured his long Senate record for ammo. One line of attack: his October 2003 vote against spending $87 billion for the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan. At the time, Kerry, who'd voted for the Iraq war resolution in October 2002, was trying to catch up to Howard Dean, the soaring antiwar candidate. Now the Massachusetts Democrat has played right into the hands of his critics. At a rally in West Virginia last week Kerry told supporters, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it." The Bush campaign pounced. "You can't make this stuff up," says a high-ranking aide. "With that one statement he just confirmed everything we want to say about him, which is that he wants to be on every side of every issue."The Bush campaign had already been airing ads...
  • THE WASP'S NEST

    Last September, at a debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, Howard Dean declared, "I'm the only white politician that ever talks about race in front of white audiences." The other candidates were dumbfounded by Dean's assertion and quickly denounced him, citing their own various commitments to civil rights. Dean's blurt was unsupported, although not uncharacteristic. Voters could only wonder: what made Dean, the governor of a small, virtually white state, think he was the only politician brave enough or sensitive enough to talk openly about race?Dean likes to say that he doesn't just pop off, that he often turns over a problem in his head for days, though he admits that sometimes the nuances get lost when he finally expresses himself. That may describe the mechanics of Dean's thinking, but it doesn't reveal much about his inner convictions. Dean has awkwardly described his courtship of his wife, Judy, to People magazine and acknowledged that he is a cheapskate and a bit...
  • EXCLUSIVE: HOW THE '20TH HIJACKER' GOT TURNED AWAY

    The young Saudi said he had arrived in Orlando to meet a friend. But when pressed for details by an alert immigration inspector, "his story fell apart," says one law-enforcement official. The inspector put the Saudi on a flight out of the country. That incident, in late August 2001, was fateful. The FBI has since concluded that the would-be visitor, who carries the common Saudi name of al-Qahtani, may well have been the elusive "20th hijacker" who was supposed to be aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in the fields of Pennsylvania on the morning of 9/11.The story of al-Qahtani is one of several new details of the 9/11 plot uncovered by the federal panel probing the terrorist attacks. Law-enforcement sources tell NEWSWEEK the story has some surprises. At the time the inspector turned al-Qahtani away, there was no sign he was connected to terrorism. But after 9/11, agents began looking into other Mideasterners who had tried to enter the United States in the preceding...
  • HUNTING AN 'UN-DEAN': THE GENERAL'S NEW STRIPES

    Gen. Wesley Clark has never quite learned how to behave like a politician. Before Christmas, he was asked at a town meeting in Derry, N.H., how he would respond if President Bush or Clark's own Democratic rivals questioned his patriotism or military record. Failing to see that he was being followed by a television camera, he answered, "I'll beat the s--t out of them." Clark's aides later joked that the candidate should have put out an apology, acknowledging that he had misspoken--that what he really meant to say was, "I'll beat the living s--t out of them."The political professionals who handle Clark are learning that sometimes the best thing to do with the candidate is to let him be himself. After all, Clark's mantra is "I'm a leader, not a politician." If he lacks a seasoned candidate's carefully honed skill to say nothing well and to avoid controversial answers, then so much the better. Not long ago, a Fox News anchor pointedly asked if Clark was putting down U.S. troops by...
  • Mideast: A 'Virtual' Peace, But A Real Controvers

    Shalom. Salaam. Peace in the Mideast? Well, at least between two longtime Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, Yossi Beilin and Yasir Abed Rabbo. After years of dreaming and months of working out the fine print, Beilin and Rabbo brought their "virtual" Geneva accord to Washington last week. But in some quarters they were received more as pariahs than as peacemakers. Some Israeli officials denounced them as traitors, and American Jewish groups lobbied Bush administration officials to keep their distance. And while Secretary of State Colin Powell hosted Beilin and Rabbo at the State Department on Friday, the meeting was the diplomatic equivalent of air kissing. Powell was gracious but studiously neutral about the plan, which envisions a permanent settlement by 2005. (Some administration officials criticize it for not calling on the Palestinians to end terror.)Later that afternoon on the train to New York, Beilin put a good face on the encounter. Powell "was very, very curious about...
  • Lost In Translation

    The clash of civilizations rages in some surprising places, and one of them is the large room in the FBI's Washington, D.C., Field Office that houses a unit known as CI-19. In one set of cubicles sit the foreign-born Muslims; across a partition is everyone else. They have the same vital job: to translate supersecret wiretaps of suspected terrorists and spies. But the 150 or so members of CI-19 (for Counterintelligence) segregate themselves by ethnicity and religion. Some of the U.S.-born translators have accused their Middle Eastern-born counterparts of making disparaging or unpatriotic remarks, or of making "mistranslations"--failing to translate comments that might reflect poorly on their fellow Muslims, such as references to sexual deviancy. The tensions erupt in arguments and angry finger-pointing from time to time. "It's a good thing the translators are not allowed to carry guns," says Sibel Edmonds, a Farsi translator who formerly worked in the unit.To fight the war on terror,...
  • The Battle Within

    FBI agents don't like to go into mosques. The so-called right of sanctuary was drummed into young FBI agents during their training at Quantico: "You don't chase a thief into the cathedral." The message was reinforced over time by political correctness and the example of careers ruined by rule-breaking. Step on someone's civil liberties, FBI agents learned by rote and by painful history, and you can wind up using your retirement savings to pay for a lawyer at the inevitable congressional inquisition.But then came the September 11, 2001, attacks, and the strong suspicion that some of the hijackers had done their plotting in mosques. Suddenly the rules changed. Agents were told to be more "proactive," to follow the terrorist trail wherever it led, even into a religious sanctuary. The message from headquarters was: Don't be afraid to take risks. We're behind you. (That is, hedged FBI Director Robert Mueller, as long as the agent was operating in "good faith.") Down on the street, the ...
  • EXCLUSIVE: ASHCROFT'S CAMPAIGN TO SHORE UP THE PA

    Attorney General John Ashcroft this week will launch a cross-country barnstorming tour designed to shore up support for the USA Patriot Act--the controversial measure passed after 9/11 giving the Justice Department broad new powers to combat terrorism. Over the next three weeks, Ashcroft plans to swoop into 18 cities, give speeches, meet local officials and grant select press interviews touting department successes using the law. In a conference call and e-mails last week, sources tell NEWSWEEK, the country's 94 U.S. attorneys were instructed to help gin up support by convening "community meetings," writing op-ed articles in local newspapers and ensuring that uniformed cops are seated in bleachers behind the A.G. during his visits.Why? Ashcroft and his top aides are worried that a grassroots campaign to roll back the Patriot Act is gaining momentum. More than 140 local governments--including three states--have passed resolutions condemning the act as an infringement of civil...
  • Al Qaeda's Summer Plans

    Alsaha.com seems innocent enough. The Abu Dhabi-based Web site offers bulletin boards where Arabic speakers can advertise for wives and exchange messages about sports, politics and the true meaning of jihad. Since the 9-11 attacks, however, the CIA and FBI have closely monitored Alsaha.com as a kind of terrorist early- warning system. The reason: on Sept. 9, 2001, a message appeared on the Alsaha Web site proclaiming that, in the next two days, a "big surprise" was coming from the Saudi Arabian region of Asir, the remote, mountainous province that produced most of the 19 hijackers who struck on September 11. So last week, NEWSWEEK has learned, the U.S. intelligence community grew more than a little alarmed when it discovered another cryptic posting on Alsaha.com. "Oh brothers, further attacks are to come in the next 48 hours," it read. "All good Muslims in New York, Boston and other cities on the seacoast should leave." Was this a starting gun to sleeper cells to spring into action?...
  • Finally, The Fbi Uncovers A Tantalizing Clue

    After months of frustration, FBI investigators have stumbled on a new theory of the 2001 anthrax attacks that some sleuths hoped could crack the case. Earlier this year, acting on a tip, FBI divers recovered a plastic container from the depths of an ice-covered pond near Frederick, Md. Some suspect it could have been used as a crude piece of lab equipment. The bureau has long believed that the anthrax perp is a disgruntled bioweapons researcher. One of the "persons of interest" the bureau has focused on is Steven J. Hatfill, a doctor and bioterrorism researcher who formerly worked at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick. (Hatfill has steadfastly denied any involvement in the attacks and has criticized the FBI for singling him out.) Earlier this month The Washington Post reported the discovery of the new evidence, a clear plastic container resembling a "glove box," a device often used by researchers handling deadly pathogens to protect them from...
  • Anatomy Of The Threat

    The headline on the FBI document was stark and declarative: Al-Qaeda set to attack. The dossier, a classified summary of CIA intelligence on Al Qaeda as of the end of January, put together for distribution to FBI agents all over the world, had some frightening predictions. It warned of terrorist "spectaculars" timed to occur between the end of the hajj, the traditional Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in mid-February, and the beginning of the outbreak of war with Iraq. "We have information that as of early this year Al Qaeda is organizing a 'new' type of attack that Al Qaeda leadership is convinced will surprise the United States," read the document, which was obtained by NEWSWEEK.But the intelligence report did not say what kind of attack, aside from speculating that it might involve a "radiological dispersal device," a so-called dirty bomb, or perhaps chemical and biological weapons. Nor did it provide any useful guidance about the targets or the exact timing or the precise method of...
  • Waiting For A Date With The Supremes

    Chances are, you wouldn't recognize Alberto Gonzales if he passed you on the street. George W. Bush's White House counsel is not a fixture on the Sunday-morning news shows. But if his face is unfamiliar, his fingerprints are unmistakable. The soft-spoken former Texas judge has been a powerful force behind many of the Bush administration's most aggressive--and controversial--tactics in the war on terror. Whether it's setting up military commissions or liberally reinterpreting the laws on state-sponsored assassination, he has helped Bush take a muscular approach. "In a time of crisis he's going to make sure the president has his full range of powers as commander in chief," says Timothy Flanigan, Gonzales's former deputy. "That may mean pushing the envelope on the law, without exceeding it."White House counsels can usually stay out of the Washington crossfire. They're not subject to Senate confirmation, and they don't have to wrestle the bureaucracy. Instead, the president's lawyer...
  • No Time To Stand Down

    It was a rare moment of relaxation for Lance Cpl. Antonio Sledd of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. On a break from a live-fire exercise in Kuwait last week, Sledd and some buddies were playing baseball on a makeshift diamond. That's when two Kuwaiti men, in civilian dress, ran toward third base and sprayed Sledd and another Marine with bullets. Sledd died. The other soldier was wounded. The assailants, whom Kuwaiti investigators have since linked to Al Qaeda, were gunned down as they turned their weapons toward home plate. Kuwaiti officials later told NEWSWEEK there was surprisingly little security in the area. "It was a soft, soft target," observed one official familiar with the incident.The attack was a grisly reminder that it's dangerous to stand down in the war on terror. The message was reinforced later that day when Al-Jazeera broadcast Al Qaeda's Ayman Al-Zawahiri threatening new attacks against America and the "lifelines of its economy." Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's...
  • Al Qaeda's Man In Iraq?

    In the weeks after the September 11 attacks, security officials around the world were on highest alert. So when a 37-year-old Iraqi national named Ahmad Hikmat Shakir stepped off a plane in Amman's Queen Alia airport on Oct. 21, Jordanian officials soon became suspicious. A quick review of his passport showed Shakir had recently traveled to Pakistan, Yemen and Malaysia--key stops on the terror trail. FBI agents were alerted. Within days they concluded that Shakir was no incidental traveler: he was, according to confidential U.S. intelligence reports, a suspected terrorist who had been in direct contact with some of the major operatives in the September 11 plot.But hopes that the FBI had nabbed a potential Qaeda source were soon dashed. Three months after he was detained, Shakir was inexplicably released by Jordanian authorities--and promptly vanished. NEWSWEEK has learned that some U.S. intelligence officials believe Shakir is now back home in Iraq. The Bush administration has made...
  • Exclusive: Why The White House Said Yes To A 9-11 Inquiry

    President Bush's decision to agree to an independent panel to investigate the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks could lead to the most far-reaching and explosive government inquiry in decades. It happened only after weeks of intense, behind-the-scenes wrangling that had put the White House on a collision course with a politically potent new force: a coalition of angry family members of 9-11 victims. For the past year White House aides had resisted proposals for an independent inquiry, arguing that it would divert resources from the war on terrorism and duplicate the work of an ongoing joint inquiry by the House and Senate intelligence committees. But last week, after a series of stunning disclosures about CIA and FBI intelligence failures, the White House abruptly shifted course. The change came, NEWSWEEK has learned, after three secret and at times contentious White House meetings between family members and top presidential aides, including one with chief of staff Andrew Card...
  • Picking Up Terror's Trail

    The terrorists didn't give up without a fight. When intelligence agents in Karachi, Pakistan, cornered a group of Qaeda operatives in an apartment building last Wednesday, the suspects opened fire, setting off a three-hour gun battle. Two of the gunmen were killed. The rest were hauled away in handcuffs. It wasn't until days later, however, that law-enforcement officials realized how big a catch they'd made: among those arrested was Ramzi bin al-Shibh--a "most wanted list" Qaeda fugitive who has boasted about his role as the coordinator of the 9-11 attacks. Authorities believe al-Shibh, who once roomed with lead hijacker Mohamed Atta in Hamburg, was originally supposed to have been the 20th hijacker, but the State Department rejected his repeated attempts to obtain a U.S. visa. If he talks, al-Shibh could--inadvertently or not--provide investigators with valuable information about how the strikes were planned and the whereabouts of other missing Qaeda leaders. "It's like everything...
  • The Hunt For The Anthrax Killer

    The dogs, purebred bloodhounds with noses a thousand times more sensitive than a human's, were barking and howling and straining at their leashes. Early last week FBI agents on the trail of last year's anthrax attacker turned to a 16th-century technology to help solve a 21st-century crime. Agents presented the canines with "scent packs" lifted from anthrax-tainted letters mailed to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy (long since decontaminated), hoping some faint, telltale trace of the perpetrator's smell still remained months after the fact.The agents quietly brought the dogs to various locations frequented by a dozen people they considered possible suspects--hoping the hounds would match the scent on the letters. In place after place, the dogs had no reaction. But when the handlers approached the Frederick, Md., apartment building of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, an eccentric 48-year-old scientist who had worked in one of the Army's top bioweapons-research laboratories, the dogs...
  • The Short Straw

    Happy birthday, Colin Powell. The storied secretary of State turned 65 last Friday, lending gravitas to the "senior" part of his "senior statesman" role. "And his birthday present is a trip to the Middle East," says an old colleague of Powell's, with a rueful chuckle. Mission: Impossible is a better description of what Powell faces this week. The former four-star general has devoted his career to exercising caution, and especially keeping America out of no-win situations. So negotiating peace between two hardened adversaries like Ariel Sharon and Yasir Arafat must come close to being the nightmare assignment--especially now that George W. Bush, in an abrupt policy shift, has declared that "America is committed to ending this conflict." The first of Powell's 13 "rules" for success goes: "It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning." But the Mideast never looks better in the morning.Especially now. The administration is stepping in at what may be the stickiest...
  • 'He Knows It, He Feels It'

    George W. Bush had his first unpleasant brush with Yasir Arafat in 1998. The then Texas governor toured Israel at the invitation of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a pro-Israel U.S. group, and by all accounts it was an eye-opening trip. A teary Bush read Scripture on the Mountain of Beatitudes, where Christ gave his Sermon on the Mount. He also hit it off with Ariel Sharon; the burly general, then foreign minister, took Bush and a group of other American governors around the country, talking about the history of the land and giving them the security perspective of a warrior. When Bush learned that if Israel were forced to revert to its pre-1967 boundaries, parts of it would be just eight miles wide, he quipped, "In Texas there are some driveways longer than that." The group watched Israeli jets being scrambled at an Air Force base--impressing Bush, who flew jets in the National Guard. "He knows it, he feels it, he understands it," says a Jewish friend and fellow Texas Republican,...
  • Exclusive: Federal Grand Jury Set To Indict Sheikh

    When the news of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's brutal murder was revealed last month, Bush administration officials promised justice--on American soil. Federal prosecutors began feverishly working to make a case against the chief suspect in the case, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. And U.S. diplomats and law-enforcement officials worked behind the scenes to persuade Pakistan to hand Sheikh over to the United States. Now, the Justice Department is about to take a first important step toward prosecution. In the next few days, NEWSWEEK has learned, a federal grand jury in New Jersey is expected to return a multi-count indictment against Sheikh for his alleged role in the kidnapping and execution of Pearl.Sheikh will likely be charged with offenses short of murder--such as kidnapping or conspiracy--while prosecutors continue to assemble additional evidence, the sources say. The indictment is designed to "stake a claim" to the case, says a knowledgeable U.S. official--and put...
  • A Murder Most Foul

    "My father is a Jew, my mother is a Jew, and I am a Jew." In the last moments of Danny Pearl's life, his kidnappers forced him again and again to denounce his family, his country and his religion, and to warn the world that he would not be the last to suffer if the United States did not change its ways. A video camera trained on his unshaven, sleepless face, Pearl mumbled the terrorists' script. "Americans can't walk around free as long as our government's policies continue," he said. "America will bear the consequences of our government's unconditional support for Israel." Photographs of weeping Arab women, the supposed victims of American and Israeli aggression against Palestinians, periodically flashed on a screen as he spoke.Sources familiar with the contents of the vicious home movie, obtained by the FBI on Friday, say Pearl's throat is then suddenly slit with a knife. A hand is shown holding his severed head. The tape cuts to his captors repeatedly stabbing his lifeless body....
  • Walker's Brush With Bin Laden

    As an American among the Taliban, John Walker Lindh was an oddity, to say the least. But the young convert to radical Islam repeatedly proved his loyalty to the cause, undergoing spiritual education in Pakistan, then moving up to weapons and explosives training in two separate Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. NEWSWEEK has learned that he was eventually trusted enough to live in the secretive Farouk camp in the mountains near Kandahar, where bin Laden often moved among the troops--and where at least one of the September 11 hijackers had trained. There Walker was once invited to a small meeting with bin Laden himself.Then, in the months before September 11, sources tell NEWSWEEK, Walker was presented with a choice: according to statements Walker gave FBI interrogators after his capture, Al Qaeda leaders told him he could either begin an intensive round of terrorist instruction--"martyrdom training," a Justice Department official called it--or take to the battlefield and fight as a Qaeda...
  • Periscope

    President George W. Bush described American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh as a "poor fellow" when he was captured two weeks ago. But administration views about Walker hardened significantly after officials began reviewing reports of Pentagon debriefings of Walker in the field. Officials told NEWSWEEK the reports were startling. Walker acknowledged a lot more than fighting for the Taliban: according to administration sources, he also admitted to being a member of Al Qaeda and training at its camps, where he participated in terrorist exercises--including learning to use explosives and poisons--and met with visiting Qaeda officials, including Osama bin Laden. Walker also admitted having been instructed in how to act in airports so as not to attract police attention. "He was no innocent bystander," said one official. "This wasn't like learning to be a soldier in Patton's Army. He was training to commit terrorist acts."The disclosures have intensified the debate inside the...
  • A Matter Of Missed Signals

    FBI agents in Minneapolis don't snag many cases involving international terrorists. The field office's counterterrorism unit, "Squad 5" in bureau lingo, has spent much of its time tracking down radical animal-rights activists and other domestic fringe groups. So when the squad got an urgent call last August from a flight instructor at the Pan Am Flight Academy in Eagan, Minn., they jumped at the case. There was a new student at the flight school, an irritable French Moroccan who seemed adamant about learning to fly a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, and right away. Zacarias Moussaoui had arrived a few days earlier and paid the $6,200 tuition in cash. His interest in big planes seemed especially odd, since it was obvious Moussaoui couldn't even handle a single-engine Cessna.The Squad 5 agents dropped everything to pursue the Moussaoui case. When they discovered his visa had expired, they locked him up. They scoured his background, questioned his friends and roommate, and sent out requests to...
  • Access Denied

    Top Justice Department and FBI officials turned down a request by Minneapolis FBI agents early last month for a special counterintelligence surveillance warrant on a suspected Islamic terrorist who officials now believe may have been part of the Sept. 11 plot to attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon, NEWSWEEK has learned.The handling of the case of Zacarias Moussaoui--who is now being held in detention in New York--has raised new questions about how U.S. law enforcement officials handled critical intelligence that, in retrospect, might have alerted them in advance to the deadliest terrorist plot in U.S. history.Sources familiar with the case tell NEWSWEEK that FBI agents in Minneapolis seized Moussaoui's computer in mid-August after officials at an Eagan, Minn., flight school tipped them off that the 33-year-old French citizen was acting suspiciously. Moussaoui had sought training only in making turns--not take-offs and landings--and specifically asked about flying over New...
  • Uneasy Hawk

    Outwardly, Shimon Peres is his usual picture of elegance and control. The previous day Israeli helicopter gunships had struck ferociously at the West Bank town of Nablus, killing several Hamas figures but also two Palestinian children. Now Foreign Minister Peres, just back from an official visit to Peru, gamely defends Israel's latest hit. No, Israel does not have an assassination policy, he says, but suicide bombers must be stopped before they begin their missions. The words are practiced but ring halfheartedly. For five months now, Peres, who once made peace with the Palestinians, has been an awkward partner in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hawkish government. Now he's fidgeting, unraveling and reknotting his blue silk tie. Pressed on what advance knowledge he had of the operation, Peres allows: "The sheer fact is that I was abroad. I was abroad and incommunicado."At the age of 78, why does Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, want this job? The question looms larger as...