Morning Political Note: Jan. 24

All's quiet on the al Qaeda communication front, which is making some U.S. intelligence officials nervous and "causing some analysts to believe [Osama bin Laden] may be executing a ruse to convince Washington he is dead." No evidence has surfaced to suggest that he's truly been, uh, eliminated. ( )

Several papers report on growing reason for concern that Iran is trying to undermine the new Afghan government. ( ) and ( )

Despite all the rhetoric and back-and-forth about whether or not to target Iraq, White House policy toward the country remains pretty much as it was during the administration of 42. "After a year of top-level internal review, the administration has yet to lift a Clinton prohibition against lethal aid for Iraqi opposition groups. The opposition, principally the London-based Iraqi National Congress (INC), continues to be barred as a matter of policy from using U.S. funds to carry out activities inside Iraq. A State Department slot designated to coordinate with the Iraqi opposition has been vacant since last summer." ( )

Homeland Security

Be they Republicans or Democrats, the relationship between White Houses on the one hand, and governors and mayors on the other, is as immutable and tension-riddled as, say, mother-daughter or tenant-landlord. Washington always wants to send less money with more strings attached, and state and city officials always want more money with fewer strings. In the latest incarnation of the Story as Old as Time Itself, the mayors in Washington already are grousing about the terms of the administration's homeland security spending plans. ( )

The Army secretary announced Wednesday that if all goes according to schedule, National Guard troops should be pulled out of U.S. airports within the next 60 to 90 days. ( )

"Citing a 'potential serious health risk,' the Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog launched an investigation Wednesday into whether the EPA erred in allowing the Hart Senate Office Building to reopen. The focus of the inquiry is not the anthrax that contaminated the building last fall but the chlorine dioxide, the chemical used to kill the anthrax, said Robert J. Martin, the EPA's independent ombudsman." ( )

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