So here's a comment I got today: "I followed the reports early on that there was some impressive evidence that Mars was once covered with water. However I also seem to recall that a few months later there were some dissenting view points. So, riddle me this science girl...What is the deal? Was Mars a wet and wild world of acidic, sulfur laden dihygrogen monoxide? Are there suspected sites where drilling might reach liquid water? Or is Mars just a dusty bin of chilly rocks?" OK, so here's Science Girl's attempt to summarize many people's work on this topic!
I think the consensus now is that there is a lot of evidence of liquid water in Mars' past, but we're still a little fuzzy on the exact details - when, how much, how long it lasted, and where it was. Orbital photos have long showed things that look like branching river valleys and more recently, the MOC camera has captured many images of gullies in craters that might be caused by seeping subsurface water. There's definitely ice in the subsurface now, and presumably if you dug or drilled, you'd be able to get to it - the Phoenix mission will try to do just this - but it's likely to be mixed with rock or dust like the Arctic tundra, not like a subsurface glacier.
One of the biggest contributions to the story is Opportunity's view of the rocks at Meridiani Planum. There's pretty convincing evidence that these rocks are sediments that were laid down by flowing water on the surface. But, the environment that formed the rocks is probably more analogous to a braided stream or wash in the desert southwest than the oceanic shelf off the East Coast. We don't know exactly when these rocks were made, but we do know that at that time, there was a lot of sulfur and oxygen at the surface, making the Martian environment pretty harsh, acidic and oxidizing - very unpleasant for life as we unerstand it. We're just now trying to come to more understanding of the acidic/sulfuric environments vs more "clement" environments with CRISM, a mapping spectrometer on the MRO orbiter, which will be able to pick out areas with sulfates (acidic, sulfurous weathering) and areas with things like clays that we think formed under more neutral and less sulfurous conditions.
But having said all that, remember that Mars is an entire planet. Think about it - is the Earth covered with water? Well, yes and no, sometimes it was in some places and sometimes in others, sometimes the water is liquid and sometimes it is ice. The rocks exposed in the Grand Canyon were laid down by a vast ocean 500 million years ago, but southern Utah is now a windy, barren desert. Underneath the Pacific Ocean, the rocks are formed by erupting magma and have only trace amounts of water in them. The Earth is geologically complex and has 4.5 billion years of history complicating it, but we've been living here and studying the world around us for tens of thousands of years. Mars is also geologically complex and also has 4.5 billion years of history, but we've been studying it only remotely and for only three decades. It's a long process, figuring out Mars, and science is about getting more and more little pieces that we integrate into our understanding, rather than sending one spacecraft and expecting it to tell us the conclusive story. But, of course, each of our little pieces comes with a price tag and so we need to make sure we wring all the science we can out of it and tell everyone what pieces we are finding!