PERISCOPE

During the 2004 presidential campaign, George W. Bush and John Kerry battled about whether Osama bin Laden had escaped from Tora Bora in the final days of the war in Afghanistan. Bush asserted that U.S. commanders on the ground did not know if bin Laden was at the mountain hideaway along the Afghan border. But in a forthcoming book, the CIA field commander for the agency's Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen, says he and other U.S. commanders did know that bin Laden was among the hundreds of fleeing Qaeda and Taliban members. Berntsen says he had definitive intelligence that bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora--intelligence operatives had tracked him--and could have been caught. "He was there," Berntsen tells NEWSWEEK. Asked to comment on Berntsen's remarks, National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones passed on 2004 statements from Gen. Tommy Franks. "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001," Franks wrote in a Oct. 19 New York Times op-ed. "Bin Laden was never within our grasp." Berntsen says Franks is "a great American. But he was not on the ground out there. I was."

In his book--"Jawbreaker" --the decorated career CIA officer criticizes Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department for not providing enough support to the CIA and the Pentagon's own Special Forces teams in the final hours of Tora Bora, says Berntsen's lawyer, Roy Krieger. (Berntsen would not divulge the book's specifics, saying he's awaiting CIA clearance.) That backs up other recent accounts, including that of military author Sean Naylor, who calls Tora Bora a "strategic disaster."

Berntsen's book gives a heroic portrayal of CIA activities in the war on terror. Ironically, he has sued the agency over what he calls unacceptable delays in approving his book--a standard process for ex-agency employees describing classified matters. "They're just holding the book," which is scheduled for October release, he says. "CIA officers, Special Forces and U.S. air power drove the Taliban out in 70 days. The CIA has taken roughly 80 days to clear my book." Jennifer Millerwise, a CIA spokeswoman, says Berntsen's "timeline is not accurate," adding that he submitted his book as an ex-employee only in mid-June. "We take seriously our goal of responding quickly."

Iraq: Language Barriers

What a difference a word makes. Last week Iraq's main political factions moved toward drafting a new constitution by agreeing that Islam "would be a source of legislation" in the fledgling new nation, but that laws derived from other religions--as well as secular legislation--would carry weight, too. (Note the use of "a" rather than "the.") The wording fudge has removed a major obstacle to completing the draft by the Aug. 15 deadline, but could have serious repercussions for Iraqi women. One draft of the constitution currently circulating guarantees the basic rights and equality of Iraqi women--but in accordance with Sharia, or Islamic law. Under such a code, women would lose out on issues like inheritance and divorce.

Expect more linguistic obstacles. The Kurds could dispute any draft that fails to name Kirkuk as a future capital of the Kurdistan region, and the issue of "joint" revenues from oil could cause disputes between state and provincial governments, depending how the money is divided up. In both cases, deliberately vague language could come to the rescue--leaving the Iraqis to sort out these problems after a referendum on the constitution is held in October.

Terror: Hunting for Helpers

A month after suicide bombers killed 52 people in London and two weeks after a second wave of bombings fizzled, British investigators last week were still trying to figure out who might have masterminded them. Among the evidence that has fueled suspicions that the bombers had both masterminds and facilitators: bulky "commercial" refrigerators that police found when they raided buildings used by the July 7 bombers in Leeds. The fridges--which apparently were used to keep a batch of homemade explosives stable and ready for use--were mentioned in a confidential forensic report Scotland Yard shared with friendly foreign cops last week. One official said the fridges were the kind used by fishmongers; investigators are now trying to trace anyone who might have helped the bombers buy, install or operate them.

To the annoyance of some British police, senior officials of the New York Police Department disclosed details of the forensic report at a briefing for private security chiefs. An NYPD official told NEWSWEEK that Scotland Yard had no problem with the New York presentation because it was all based on public information, though other British and U.S. officials maintained the information about the fridges had not been previously published. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said that relations between New York and London police continue to be cordial--as the hunt for a mastermind continues.

The Murdochs: Money Matters

Aside from game shows, most family feuds leave people hurt, not richer. But most families aren't the Murdochs. Elder son Lachlan, who recently quit his post as deputy chief operating officer of family-owned News Corp., is walking away with a severance package that could total more than $7 million, filings show.

Father Rupert may do better, with a bonus plan that could pay him $25 million this year, double his 2004 bonus. That's walking-around money to a billionaire, but the bump puts his pay package only on par with his No. 2, Peter Chernin. This seems to be standard practice in media moguldom: last year Viacom's Sumner Redstone was paid roughly $58 million, slightly more than his right-hand men, Les Moonves and Tom Freston. "Some people want to be the top paid because 'I'm the biggest guy, I'm the best guy and I own the most stuff'," says Steven Hall, president of Pearl Meyer, a compensation-consulting firm. "People have egos.'' Feeding them can get expensive.

China: Still Sizzling

When Beijing allowed the yuan to appreciate by 2 percent against the dollar on July 21, those who argue that revaluation might slow China's overheating economy sighed with relief. But a month later, Chinese manufacturers are showing no signs of shifting down a gear. "Demand is extremely strong right now," says Zhou Zihui, a sales manager at the Zhizhong textile factory in Shandong province. "Even if prices rise by a few percentage points, companies will continue to buy from China because Chinese companies offer the best prices for the quality." And according to Morgan Stanley analyst Andy Xie, roughly 15 percent of profits at S&P 500 companies come from marking up cheap Chinese goods. "China's export sector," he wrote in a recent report, is "vital to the profitability of the corporate sector in the United States and elsewhere."

That's unlikely to change. Chinese companies are investing in cutting-edge technologies and competition is driving down prices. China's trade surplus was nearly $40 billion in the first half of this year and export growth is soaring: in the first half of 2005 exports grew 33 percent over the same period last year. It will take a lot more than a small revaluation to put a dent in those numbers.

Celeb T Shirts: Free This Trend!

If last summer's fad was the plain white T shirt, this year's is the instant-celebrity logo. Moments after watching Tom Cruise on "Oprah," West Hollywood artist Sheila Cameron designed one of the first FREE KATIE tees and sold more than 3,000 online. She followed up with I'M GLIB (a reference to the Matt Lauer-Tom Cruise spat) and TEAM PROZAC (for those who believe in drugs, not Scientology). Though the trend may have started with FREE WINONA and FREE MARTHA, it really took off when Eva Longoria wore I'LL HAVE YOUR BABY, BRAD in April. Now there's TEAM JOLIE, TEAM ANISTON (Aniston outsells Angelina 25-1 at shopkitson.com), FEED LINDSAY and--the newest ones--I WANNA BE YOUR NANNY and TEAM SIENNA. "It makes you feel like you're part of a club. You have to be 'on the in' to get it," says Stacey Pecor, owner of New York City boutique chain Olive and Bette's. Or maybe she's just being glib.

Music: Soldier On

Last December, Luke Stricklin, then 21, was a foot soldier in Iraq, far away from his new bride and his birthplace, Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He had every reason to sing the blues--but he wrote a country song instead. Using his friend's laptop and a $10 microphone, he recorded a song about life in Iraq and e-mailed it home. ("I really don't care why Bush went to Iraq/I know what I done there and I'm damn sure proud of that," he twanged.) His mom took the song to a local radio station, which played it on air. Soon it was picked up by another station... and then another, and then another.

Seven months later, he's back from Iraq--and a rising country star. He professionally recorded his Iraq song, "American by God's Amazing Grace," which is now playing in more than 40 markets. After it was released nationally last month, hits to his Web site jumped 1,000 percent. His album's not out until September, but he's presold the 5,000 copies his label has. It just ordered 50,000 more, giving Stricklin yet another thing to be damn sure proud of.

Technology: Broadening the Band

The word "intercontinental" usually evokes thoughts of planes, not music. But eJamming, a Boca Raton, Florida, start-up, plans to change that with new software that allows musicians to jam together, live, on the Internet. Musicians will be able to play in as many as eight locations. There will be a matchmaking service (trouble finding a double-bell euphonium player?) as well as a feature for bands that want to meet at a set time. Subscriptions are $19.95 a month, but the required hardware can be pricey.

Starving artists can Internet-jam, too. In his spare time, Justin Frankel of San Francisco wrote the code for Ninjam, a new free Internet download. It requires only a $40 sound card and a microphone. French bloggers, the first to discover it, spread the news and now thousands have downloaded it. Critics have dubbed the practice "fake-time music" and point out that there is a slight delay, but its fans don't mind. One is Jean-Baptiste Vallet, who recently used Ninjam to play bass, in Cannes, for an American in San Francisco who likes to sing in French. A guitarist joined them. Where was that guy located? "I forgot to ask," says Vallet.

Q&A: Tommy Lee One of the most famous bad boys of rock has hopped on the reality-show gravy train with "Tommy Lee Goes to College." Lee chatted with NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.

Wasn't this show an excuse to pick up college chicks?

You know what? The whole time I was there we partied a couple of times, but for the most part I studied and we were making a TV show.

Studying? Come on.

No, for real. I had to take exams. I had to kick some a--.

You actually do take some really hard classes. I couldn't do it.

I know. Chemistry was so f---ing difficult I just wanted to cry.

Do you think you're misunderstood?

That's the main reason I wrote my autobiography last year, so I didn't have to answer any more stupid questions.

Like?

There are a few. Oh, this is a good one: "How much money did you make off the sex tape?" I get that all the time. We never saw a penny off it.

Do you feel for Colin Farrell?

What's up with him?

His ex is allegedly trying to peddle a sex tape they made together.

Really? Oh, s--t. That's just plain old mean. Wow, yeah, I feel for him.

So what's going on between you and Pam? Getting remarried?

Um, maybe. We just had a really wonderful week in Hawaii with the kids.

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