Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The 4th Estate Again Acting as 5th Column





Bill Keller, the executive editor at the New York Times, wrote a response to the letters he's received over the Times' decision to publish the Banking Records story.
Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that's the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.)
It's another slam at the "rightwing noise machine" made up of "hate radio" and "pajama-clad know-nothings".
Some comes from readers who have considered the story in question and wonder whether publishing such material is wise.
The moderates, casual newspaper readers, the willfully ignorant, and the woefully misinformed (i.e., NYTimes readers, and nothing but).
And some comes from readers who are grateful for the information and think it is valuable to have a public debate about the lengths to which our government has gone in combatting the threat of terror.
Id est, the Democratic Undergrounders, KosKiddies, Sheehanites, Far-Lefties, kool-aid drinkers, Hollywood Stupahdists, tin-foil hat-wearing Bush-haters, al Qaeda, etc.

I find the disclosure of this program extremely troubling, because unlike the NSA surveillance program that was initially reported on back in December, this one was flat-out self-indulgent and self-serving. What was the "noble" purpose? In the same article it admits that it appears the program is legal, that there is oversight, that Congress was briefed, and the program has been effective. So what is the purpose of reporting on this? All it does is help America's enemies.
Among the successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. The Swift data identified a previously unknown figure in Southeast Asia who had financial dealings with a person suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda; that link helped locate Hambali in Thailand in 2003, they said.

In the United States, the program has provided financial data in investigations into possible domestic terrorist cells as well as inquiries of Islamic charities with suspected of having links to extremists, the officials said.

The data also helped identify a Brooklyn man who was convicted on terrorism-related charges last year, the officials said. The man, Uzair Paracha, who worked at a New York import business, aided a Qaeda operative in Pakistan by agreeing to launder $200,000 through a Karachi bank, prosecutors said.


Rich Lowry has a great opinion piece today:
The Times published a long story the other day exposing a secret government program to track the international bank transfers of terrorist suspects. The story reported that the program is legal, effective and, as far as any Bush antiterror initiative can be in the current poisonous environment, uncontroversial. Nonetheless, Keller defended its publication as “a matter of public interest.” If the program had violated laws or allowed the government to riffle through the routine banking transactions of Americans (it doesn’t on either count), Keller might have had a case. But there is nothing about the program that countervails the clear public interest in limiting terrorist financing.

Every time the press exposes a secret antiterror program, the media’s apologists shrug it off as no big deal, since terrorists already know that they are being tracked and monitored. But clearly not all terrorists knew that the U.S. was tracking cross-border transactions, say, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan. Otherwise, the program wouldn’t have helped net a couple of major terrorist figures in Southeast Asia, or figured in terrorist prosecutions. Now they know.

On the one hand, the implicit contention of the Times is that the public almost never has an interest in secrecy, in having classified matters kept that way. On the other, it jealously guards the identity of its secret sources and wants its ability to do so in defiance of governmental investigations written into law. Here is the ultimate arrogation of public power — the Times demanding legal protection for its own secrets so it can better expose the government’s.

This attitude reflects what is, in the minds of the members of the press, an ongoing crisis of legitimacy of the U.S. government, going back to Watergate and the FBI and CIA scandals of the 1970s. It was these abuses that created the decaying, but still regnant Imperial Press, which now reflexively adopts an adversarial stance toward our government even when it is acting in an effective way, fully within its power and abusing no one. The closest the Times could come to a hint of scandal in the financial-tracking program was that “one person had been removed from the operation for conducting a search considered inappropriate.” This is hardly wiretapping Martin Luther King Jr.
Isn't it obvious that the "outing" of this program by the NY Times doesn't undermine the Bush Administration, but undermines America's ability to protect itself?

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14 Comments:

Blogger Gayle said...

You betcha, Wordsmith! And I am really ticked off at what they have done. If they get away with this, then any asshat traitor will be able to breach any security clearance without fear of reprisal. We might as well just go ahead and hand over the keys to this country and be done with it!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 9:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice job, and nice blog Wordsmith. You really are a smithy with the words, and all. I am especially impressed with your report on Cindy Sheehan's activities dated February of 2007. Dang that's a nice trick.

By all means, though I couldn't agree with you more. We need to make government small enough to drown in a bathtub. That way the only practical concerns the remaining government apparatus can focus on is which news professionals get to go to jail, and what stories private companies may be allowed to print. Government censorship of private companies and enterprises. Isn't that really what conservatism is all about?

Unless those private enterprises are owned by Reverend Moon, and then whatever they want to print is probably fine...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 3:30:00 AM  
Blogger Old Soldier said...

Great post Wordsmith. I advocate suspension of the NYT credentials (for White House coverage) and a full Justice Department investigation (special investigator, grand jury and all). The First Amendment does not grant immunity from responsibility and consequences of actions. Title 18, United States Code Section 798, Disclosure of Classified Information has precedence here, and should be fully invoked.

Anonymous, I fully understand the position of anonymity. I wouldn't want my name associated with living in an alternate reality, either. Keep frequenting these more conservative blogs and you might hit upon something to spark a yearning for our actual reality.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 5:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gayle said...

Right you are, Old Soldier. The "anonymous" button may as well read "coward."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 6:28:00 AM  
Blogger Mike's America said...

I was thhhhiiiisssss close to sending out the bloodhounds to find you Wordsmith... Glad to know the NYTimes Wahabbi lobby hasn't gotten to you.

The graphic is great. We have to find a newspaper headline generator somewhere.

I had a visit from moonbat Jen today who claimed that all this info had already been put out in the public domain.

Yet, Keller claims that it was important to put this out for "public interest."

Of course the real motive was to repackage this as another front page headline slam against Bush.

This time it is backfiring.

You know what would really be in the "public interest?" Find out who leaked this and PUBLISH THAT! Don't you think some enterprising newspaper reporters should be working on THAT story?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Curt said...

Thats today's argument, the information was already out there.

JustOneMinute does a good job at skewering their arguments tho:

http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2006/06/determined_and_.html

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 6:32:00 PM  
Blogger skye said...

I love how the New York Slimes editors climb on their soapboxes to proclaim that freedom of speech is absolute, and that there should be no government secrets... at the same time they argue that the New York Slimes should not have to name its source.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 7:32:00 PM  
Blogger skye said...

Did I tell you: This post rocks!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 8:30:00 PM  
Blogger Mike's America said...

Privacy International today filed complaints in 33 countries regarding what they called an "illegal" SWIFT program:

http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd[347]=x-347-538985

So now intelligence sharing has just gotten that much more difficult!

Thanks NY Times.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 9:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anna said...

Another great post, Word! (as usual!)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger The Angry American said...

Hey wordsmith. Glad to see your blog has so many new posts for me to catch up on. It's funny how the media will say the President should be investigated for his "spying" on American citizens,but somehow it's not treason when they tell the people being legaly investigated that it's being done.

Thursday, June 29, 2006 2:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only really, why stop at removing press credentials? In a free society it's the government that gets to decide what news is fit to print. Otherwise, how will we save the Sears Tower from mechanics who haven't even converted to Islam yet?

I'm totally comfortable with the government prescreening my news for me, and handing out punishments, even jail time, to enforce strict compliance. That's what the founders intended after all. It's also appropriate for the government to advocate on behalf of Christian evangelicals to enforce prayer in public institutions, with failure to comply leading to similar harsh penalties. Then if people are sick of the government singling them out for arbitary penalties, and they try to take up arms to form a resistance, the government once more saves the day and goes door to door collecting all the guns...oh, wait a minnit...

Friday, June 30, 2006 7:59:00 AM  
Blogger Pamela Reece said...

Sparky, right on, again. If any Americans die from at terrorist attack they blood will be on their hands, too. Disgraceful!

Friday, June 30, 2006 1:42:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

The graphic is great. We have to find a newspaper headline generator somewhere.

Mike, I'll e-mail you the site I used.

Thanks for the visit everyone (including polishifter). I've been too busy to make my rounds, even on my own blog.

I guess I better get to work on something, before Mike comes by again looking for wahabbi blognappers.

Friday, June 30, 2006 7:33:00 PM  

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