Winds of Change.NET: Liberty. Discovery. Humanity. Victory.

Formal Affiliations
  • Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto
  • Euston Democratic Progressive Manifesto
  • Real Democracy for Iran!
  • Support Denamrk
  • Million Voices for Darfur
  • milblogs
Syndication
 Subscribe in a reader

The Times And Citizenship

| 148 Comments | 4 TrackBacks

I want to take a few minutes and expand on my thinking about why the NY Times and LA Times were so wrong to publish the story about the SWIFT monitoring program.

I don't think that the newspapers are treasonous, or doing this solely in an effort to thwart President Bush (i.e. I don't think that a Democratic president would be getting a free ride right now). That doesn't mean that the impacts of what they are doing doesn't damage the country, put lives at risk, or negatively impact President Bush's effectiveness.

I think, in simple terms, that they have forgotten that they are citizens, and that they have an obligation to the polity that goes beyond writing the good story. I don't think they are alone; I think that many people and institutions in the country today have forgotten they are citizens, whether they are poor residents of New Orleans defrauding FEMA or corporate chieftains who are maximizing their bonuses at the expense of a healthy economy.

But that's another blog post.

I wrote about journalism and citizenship back in February, and one of the examples I cited was James Fallows' story about a conference in 1987 held at Montclair State College as a part of a PBS series called "Ethics in America".

This conference was about the ethical issues involved in being in the military, and one of the discussions involved media superstars Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings. Here's Fallows:
Then Ogletree turned to the two most famous members of the evening's panel, better known than William Westmoreland himself. These were two star TV journalists: Peter Jennings of World News Tonight and ABC, and Mike Wallace of 6o Minutes and CBS. Ogletree brought them into the same hypothetical war. He asked Jennings to imagine that he worked for a network that had been in contact with the enemy North Kosanese government. After much pleading, the North Kosanese had agreed to let Jennings and his news crew into their country, to film behind the lines and even travel with military units. Would Jennings be willing to go? Of course, Jennings replied. Any reporter would-and in real wars reporters from his network often had. But while Jennings and his crew are traveling with a North Kosanese unit, to visit the site of an alleged atrocity by American and South Kosanese troops, they unexpectedly cross the trail of a small group of American and South Kosanese soldiers. With Jennings in their midst, the northern soldiers set up a perfect ambush, which will let them gun down the Americans and Southerners, every one. What does Jennings do? Ogletree asks. Would he tell his cameramen to "Roll tape!" as the North Kosanese opened fire? What would go through his mind as he watched the North Kosanese prepare to ambush the Americans? Jennings sat silent for about fifteen seconds after Ogletree asked this question. "Well, I guess I wouldn't," he finally said. "I am going to tell you now what I am feeling, rather than the hypothesis I drew for myself. If I were with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think that I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans." Even if it means losing the story? Ogletree asked.

Even though it would almost certainly mean losing my life, Jennings replied. "But I do not think that I could bring myself to participate in that act. That's purely personal, and other reporters might have a different reaction." Immediately Mike Wallace spoke up. "I think some other reporters would have a different reaction," he said, obviously referring to himself. "They would regard it simply as a story they were there to cover." "I am astonished, really," at Jennings's answer, Wallace said a moment later. He turned toward Jennings and began to lecture him: "You're a reporter. Granted you're an American"-at least for purposes of the fictional example; Jennings has actually retained Canadian citizenship. "I'm a little bit at a loss to understand why, because you're an American, you would not have covered that story." Ogletree pushed Wallace. Didn't Jennings have some higher duty, either patriotic or human, to do something other than just roll film as soldiers from his own country were being shot? "No," Wallace said flatly and immediately. "You don't have a higher duty. No. No. You're a reporter!" Jennings backtracked fast. Wallace was right, he said. "I chickened out." Jennings said that he had gotten so wrapped up in the hypothetical questions that he had lost sight of his journalistic duty to remain detached. As Jennings said he agreed with Wallace, everyone else in the room seemed to regard the two of them with horror. Retired Air Force general Brent Scowcroft, who had been Gerald Ford's national security advisor and would soon serve in the same job for George Bush, said it was simply wrong to stand and watch as your side was slaughtered. "What's it worth?" he asked Wallace bitterly. "It's worth thirty seconds on the evening news, as opposed to saving a platoon." Ogletree turned to Wallace. What about that? Shouldn't the reporter have said something? Wallace gave his most disarming grin, shrugged his shoulders and spread his palms wide in a "Don't ask me!" gesture, and said, "I don't know." He was mugging to the crowd in such a way that he got a big laugh-the first such moment of the discussion. Wallace paused to enjoy the crowd's reaction. Jennings, however, was all business, and was still concerned about the first answer he had given. "I wish I had made another decision," Jennings said, as if asking permission to live the last five minutes over again. "I would like to have made his decision"-that is, Wallace's decision to keep on filming. A few minutes later Ogletree turned to George M. Connell, a Marine colonel in full uniform, jaw muscles flexing in anger, with stress on each word, Connell looked at the TV stars and said, "I feel utter . . . contempt. " Two days after this hypothetical episode, Connell Jennings or Wallace might be back with the American forces--and could be wounded by stray fire, as combat journalists often had been before. The instant that happened he said, they wouldn't be "just journalists" any more. Then they would drag them back, rather than leaving them to bleed to death on the battlefield. "We'll do it!" Connell said. "And that is what makes me so contemptuous of them. Marines will die going to get ... a couple of journalists." The last few words dripped with disgust. Not even Ogletree knew what to say. There was dead silence for several seconds. Then a square-jawed man with neat gray hair and aviator glasses spoke up. It was Newt Gingrich, looking a generation younger and trimmer than when he became Speaker of the House in I995. One thing was clear from this exercise, he said: "The military has done a vastly better 'job of systematically thinking through the ethics of behavior in a violent environment than the journalists have." That was about the mildest way to put it. Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace are just two individuals, but their reactions spoke volumes about the values of their craft. Jennings was made to feel embarrassed about his natural, decent human impulse. Wallace was completely unembarrassed about feeling no connection to the soldiers in his country's army considering their deaths before his eyes as "simply a story." In other important occupations people sometimes need to do the horrible. Frederick Downs [an earlier speaker who had discussed the ethics of torture and battlefield interrogation], after all, was willing to torture a man and hear him scream. But had thought through all the consequences and alternatives, and he knew he would live with the horror for the rest of his days. When Mike Wallace said he would do something horrible, he didn't bother to argue a rationale. He did not try to explain the reasons a reporter might feel obliged to remain silent as the attack began--for instance, that in combat reporters must be beyond country, or that they have a duty to bear impartial witness to deaths on either side, or that Jennings had implicitly made a promise not to betray the North Kosanese when he agreed to accompany them on the hypothetical patrol. The soldiers might or might not have found such arguments convincing, but Wallace didn't even make them. He relied on charm and star power to win acceptance from the crowd. Mike Wallace on patrol with the North Kosanese, cameras rolling while his countrymen are gunned down, recognizing no "higher duty" to interfere in any way and offering no rationale beyond "I'm with the press"--this is a nice symbol for what Americans hate about their media establishment in our age.

That's a long quote, so let me pull out two key quotes from it that, to me sum up the nub of the issue. Mike Wallace:
"I am astonished, really," at Jennings's answer, Wallace said a moment later. He turned toward Jennings and began to lecture him: "You're a reporter. Granted you're an American"-at least for purposes of the fictional example; Jennings has actually retained Canadian citizenship. "I'm a little bit at a loss to understand why, because you're an American, you would not have covered that story." Ogletree pushed Wallace. Didn't Jennings have some higher duty, either patriotic or human, to do something other than just roll film as soldiers from his own country were being shot? "No," Wallace said flatly and immediately. "You don't have a higher duty. No. No. You're a reporter!"

[emphasis added]

Col. George M. Connell:
"I feel utter . . . contempt. " Two days after this hypothetical episode, Connell Jennings or Wallace might be back with the American forces--and could be wounded by stray fire, as combat journalists often had been before. The instant that happened he said, they wouldn't be "just journalists" any more. Then they would drag them back, rather than leaving them to bleed to death on the battlefield. "We'll do it!" Connell said. "And that is what makes me so contemptuous of them. Marines will die going to get ... a couple of journalists." The last few words dripped with disgust.
The problem is, simply, that journalists are part of a larger society. Journalism as Mike Wallace practices it could not be practiced in 'North Kosistan' (funny name, now that I think about it) or in Al-Zarquawi's fantasy of Iraq.

Earlier journalists, as I show in my Feb. post, got that. I do not believe that the editors of the NY Times and LA Times do.

Dean Baquet (who got a copy of my email canceling my subscription) has a letter justifying their decision in today's paper (no, I don't get the paper, it was in the roundup email that I still get from the Times, and yes, as Kevin Drum pointed out at lunch Sunday, I know I'm 'cheating' by reading the online edition)

Here're some highlights from Baquet, with some comments from me interspersed:
MANY READERS have been sharply critical of our decision to publish an article Friday on the U.S. Treasury Department's program to secretly monitor worldwide money transfers in an effort to track terrorist financing.
They have sent me sincere and powerful expressions of their disappointment in our newspaper, and they deserve an equally thoughtful and honest response.

The decision to publish this article was not one we took lightly. We considered very seriously the government's assertion that these disclosures could cause difficulties for counterterrorism programs. And we weighed that assertion against the fact that there is an intense and ongoing public debate about whether surveillance programs like these pose a serious threat to civil liberties.

I do think there's a legitimate set of debates to have about the limits of the surveillance state (see what England is doing these days). But by the standard Baquet holds up here, any and all surveillance programs are up for disclosure, no matter how legal or effective - simply because the controversy exists. I guess I'd like to know where Baquet draws the line.
We sometimes withhold information when we believe that reporting it would threaten a life. In this case, we believed, based on our talks with many people in the government and on our own reporting, that the information on the Treasury Department's program did not pose that threat. Nor did the government give us any strong evidence that the information would thwart true terrorism inquiries. In fact, a close read of the article shows that some in the government believe that the program is ineffective in fighting terrorism.
And now we know. If it's so operational that someone might die, then it's off bounds. Anything else is fair game - secrets to be kept, if the government can do so. And let's also go to the point that patterico makes: the program had had significant successes, but the Times reporters weren't good enough to have unearthed them.
In the end, we felt that the legitimate public interest in this program outweighed the potential cost to counterterrorism efforts.
Well, the public is interested in all kinds of things, including autopsy pictures. I'm slightly worried that Baquet feel that he and his lawyers are the arbiter of which of those interests is 'legitimate'.
Some readers have seen our decision to publish this story as an attack on the Bush administration and an attempt to undermine the war on terror.

We are not out to get the president. This newspaper has done much hard-hitting reporting on terrorism, from around the world, often at substantial risk to our reporters. We have exposed terrorist cells and led the way in exposing the work of terrorists. We devoted a reporter to covering Al Qaeda's role in world terrorism in the months before 9/11. I know, because I made the assignment.

But we also have an obligation to cover the government, with its tremendous power, and to offer information about its activities so citizens can make their own decisions. That's the role of the press in our democracy.

I don't actually disagree with this. But the perspective that you cover the government from - the way you decide what and when to report - does matter.

And the problem is that I keep seeing Mike Wallace sitting and rolling tape with the North Kosanese, and he's saying exactly the same things.

I think that what Bill Keller and Dean Baquet went too far in this case. I don't know if they are feeling pressure yet (after all, my subscription might have paid his coffee bill for a day or two) or genuinely wondering what the reaction is all about.

Patterico is all over this, and points out some of the slippery thinking and changing stories coming from the Times.

4 TrackBacks

Tracked: June 27, 2006 8:25 PM
Excerpt: The utter contempt expressed by the NYT's decision to publish stories revealing operational secrets of the GWOT is continuing to generate replies from the blogosphere (and, to be fair, some elements of the MSM). Armed Liberal, writing at WindsofChange,...
Tracked: June 28, 2006 1:38 AM
Journalistic Responsibility from Renaissance Blogger
Excerpt: Armed Liberal gives his take on the NYT SWIFT story issue. In the process of offering his thoughts he pulls out these two quotes from a conference session involving Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings (we must think alike Marc as I was pulled to both these...
Tracked: June 28, 2006 3:30 PM
Dawn Patrol from Mudville Gazette
Excerpt: Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our daily roundup of information on the War on Terror and other topics - from the MilBlogs, other blogs, and the mainstream media. If you're a blogger, you can join the conversation. If you link...
Tracked: June 28, 2006 6:48 PM
Treason by the New York Times from Right on the Left Beach
Excerpt: Glenn Reynolds asserts that Bill Keller, the news editor of the New York Times, is either not very bright or Keller thinks that you (I think Glenn means Keller's critics) are not very bright. Glenn's assertion responds to an open

148 Comments

In creating some mythical journalist religion, wherein their loyalty is to their "god" rather than their polity, journlists have confused freedom of press with freedom from responsibility.

I suggest that polling of attitudes toward the press show that the American people understand this distinction better than the journalist profession.

Hmmm...I have another hypothetical.

Suppose Wallace or Keller or Jennings or whomever was kidnapped by the North Kosanese. The military puts out a call for volunteers: we need a team to go in and rescue these guys. It's a high-risk mission to a well-guarded prison. Is anyone willing to go?

My guess: they'd have twice as many volunteers than they have spots on the chopper.

Is it really a good idea for them to squander that goodwill?

I have another hypothetical question, too:
Imagine a scenario similar to the above, but such that it is at least plausible that an American priest attached to a military unit might by some twist of fate find himself hearing the confession of a North Kosistan who is about to take place in an ambush as described above.

What to do then?

Assume, arguendo, that instructing the soldier not to take part in it will not avert it, and instructing the soldier to try and prevent it will not only fail, but result in his death, just to close out the easy answers.

There has been a long simmering debate on whether the WOT should be fought militarily (offense) or as a police action (defense). Of course, the answer is both, but the use of indirect, non-violent methods isn't going to work if the press holds to a life-threatening standard. The press will disclose all the police work it can uncover, warning all the terrorists, because, let's face it, its interesting.

And sometime this week, I expect to wake up and find that the Supreme Court ruled that Hamdan must be tried in a civil court, cause this really isn't a war and conspiracy isn't really a war crime. Lynne Stewart deserves a mention here as another "American" who demands all the respect of her caste, but feels no loyalty to her country.

Lawyers and reporters, making war more probable.

I don't think you've done a very good job of refuting these key points:

"We sometimes withhold information when we believe that reporting it would threaten a life. In this case, we believed, based on our talks with many people in the government and on our own reporting, that the information on the Treasury Department's program did not pose that threat. Nor did the government give us any strong evidence that the information would thwart true terrorism inquiries. In fact, a close read of the article shows that some in the government believe that the program is ineffective in fighting terrorism.

In the end, we felt that the legitimate public interest in this program outweighed the potential cost to counterterrorism efforts."

To which you reply

"I'm slightly worried that Baquet feel that he and his lawyers are the arbiter of which of those interests is 'legitimate'."

...without making any effort to explain why you're apparently more worried about journalists than politicians deciding what is a "legitimate" interest.

(I would hold that both...indeed, everyone, has a right to opine on this issue. In some way, it is central to the debate.)

In order for your argument to hold up, you need to clearly state exactly why you think that disclosing this info will negatively impact on counterterrorism efforts. You haven't even tried to do that here. Please avoid answering this by pretending it should be so obvious to everyone already and to think otherwise means that you are an unserious Liberal.

Marcus, that's a truly excellent problem you've posed, and I don't have an easy answer. I'd be fairly inclined to support a priest who felt an obligation to God which was higher than that to his country, though. Eternal damnation is a more serious issue than 30 seconds of video for CBS.

I'm not sure what the status of future bad acts is when it comes to the sanctity of the confessional, though. The point is to receive absolution for past sins. The point of absolute sanctity is to encourage the recitation of those sins in order to make absoulution available. As I understand it, you can't get such absolution unless you repent, and obviously you aren't repentant if you are planning something for the future. So the rationale for sanctity seems to be removed.

But I'm not a canon lawyer.

Nor did the government give us any strong evidence that the information would thwart true terrorism inquiries.

WR: if you were facing a NYT editor/reporter who was about to expose your sensitive intelligence gathering program... in a paper which has a history of exposing programs and data with even higher importance... would you trust them with the knowledge that you had a set of real terrorists under surveillance?

I sure wouldn't. In fact, it would take a small squad of cops to restrain me from bashing that reporters brains out with a phone if he had the temerity to ask me for such info. And I suspect the intel guys who actually do this for a living feel the same way.

I think, at least in part, that what we're seeing more and more is that the media have simply taken the concept of "objectivity" as they perceive it to the logical extreme.

If you are truly objective and able to see both sides of the story, then of course, for example, there are no terrorists. There are simply militants with opposing objectives. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, after all. Then, once you stop comparing any particular actor's behavior against any sort of moral or cultural yardstick, the sky's the limit. I mean, who's to judge, right? Everything is grey. Printing classified information to the detrimint of one "side" is no longer a problem, it's just all part of the rough-and-tumble marketplace of ideas where the right to publish trumps need, wisdom and accountability.

Personally, I don't think the press (and a disheartening number of those on the left, from whose ranks the majority of journalists come) have forgotten "freedom of responsibility" at all -- they just have a markedly different idea of what that responsibility actually is than those who still believe that western culture -- as embodied by the United States in particular -- is superior to any of the other alternatives out there today.

What they have forgotten is that, like it or not, they are not neutral. Western journalists are members and citizens of this culture. They are not some sort of meta-citizen, above the fray and accountable to no one. One wonders if any of them have ever really thought through what might become of "freedom of the press" if those "militants" they're so hell-bent on reporting "objectively" ever actually obtained the power they seek.

I think not. Let's just hope that not too many innocent people get killed as a result of this most recent idiocy.

#7

I can imagine that if they had a set of "real terrorists" under surveillance, they would be very clear that disclosing the info could thwart the effectiveness of prosecuting them.

I can also imagine that there are other programs and/or operations currently underway that some journalists have knowledge of, but do not want to make public for fear of jeopardizing those efforts.

It doesn't seem like the government pushed hard to prevent the Times from publishing this info. Which of course calls into question their real motives...are they really interested in fighting terrorists, or just restraining the ability of the press to inquire into their secret business?

In which case, those who side with the Bush adminstration on this, like AL, could be acting as nothing more than unknowing political pawns.

Certainly, it seems these folks have a hell of a lot they'd like to keep out of the public's view, and the weaker the press becomes, the more secure they are in thinking that the lid will stay on.

Maybe that's what they mean by "National Security Interests"?

Walter's Ridge -

I think your comment (#5) is simply silly - I do believe it's obvious why disclosing this program damages our ability to trace terrorists - but I'll set something out regardless.

First, terrorism isn't free. It's a full-time job, and requires cash. Some terrorists are self-funding, through petty crime or drug sales, but the large-scale terrorism we're seeing recently requires sponsors who find the costs of the acts.

Those sponsores are fewer than the people willing to carry the cats out, and so we'll do a much better job of minimizing large-scale, large-impact terrorism by identifying and neutralizing the sponsors than we will by simply catching or killing the actors.

The best way to to this is to 'follow the money' and look for nodes where communications and cash seem to converge.

That was what the SWIFT monitoring program was for, and now that the terrs are aware of it, they will work harder to disguise or divert their flows of cash - making it harder to identify the nexuses of communications and cash or sponsors.

Your comment in #7 shows a lack of factual awareness equal to the lack of common sense in #5. John Negroponte called the editor of the New York Times, as did Tony Snow. You don't get a lot higher in the food chain than that.

A.L.

Unbeliever (#7) is dead right. If the media will run a story unless you give them more evidence, which the media may or may not pubish, its called extortion.

I agree with #1 and #8: freedom of the press is not freedom from responsibility. Freedom without responsibility (which implies restraint) is anarchy. Further, as pointed out elsewhere (Instapundit), freedom of the press was given to the people, not to a specific news organization. "Freedom of the press" means the people are free to operate a printing press and operate as free individuals--and not as a propaganda organ of the government--but not to do any damn thing they want to.

And, whether they admit it or not, as citizens who enjoy the freedoms we have, they have equivalent responsibilities. This program was legal and relevant Congressional entities were briefed; it's just an ego trip they're on.

Well AL, the story did serve a purpose.

If forced the Admin to brief the ranking democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on the program.

Something the administration had strongly implied it had done all along.

As a matter of fact, I'd like to see who among the democrats was briefed since the administration claimed it had briefed congressmen from both parties but obviously left out one we would expect to be included.

It at least teaches us to be very suspicious when the administration claims it has briefed congress on an issue.

WR, refutation isn't necessary, since the argument offered by the newsies to justify publication over the President's request to refrain from doing so is itself unsupported and therefore insufficient even without rebuttal. The President should be presumed to be acting properly when he makes such a request. It's a rebuttable presumption, but the newsies haven't done anything more than offer a bald rejection of the request. Certainly the President shouldn't be put in a position of having to offer sensitive information as justification for his request, as the newsies to whom the request is made have demonstrated that they are untrustworthy where sensitive information regarding national security is concerned.

John Negroponte called the editor of the New York Times, as did Tony Snow.

Outside the administration, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton asked Keller not to run the story, but Keller says Murtha did not urge against publication. So let's tabulate:

One Democratic chair of the 9/11 Commission: Against.

One Republican chair of the 9/11 Commission: Against

One self-grandizing minor legislator: For

And just curious AL.

Why no outrage at the Wall Street Journal who published the same information on the same day?

Here's a pretty big issue that you guys have been ignoring.

What the press is doing is confusing the right of a democracy to fight a war with the way in which it is fought.

Instead of running anti-war commentary, they've found it's much more effective to go after the mechanisms we use to fight the terrorist. That way they can hide behind the "right to know" that we have in an open society. In their eyes, the people's "right to know" trumps fighting a war, since people can't make choices unless they know the truth. In this absolutist thinking, the people have a right to know every detail of how we fight the war so that we can make judgements on whether the methods we are using are effective, or whether they infringe on our civil liberties.

You'll never get them to argue whether or not the war is right. Nope. This is a democracy and the people have made that choice. Instead, the "Big Brother" angle gives them the right (so they feel) to poke around in every method we use (on a large scale, of course)

To apply this to WWII, it would be like the press running stories about us faking out the Germans regarding the D-Day landing. The headlines would read something like "False information given out by Eisenhower's Office: Propaganda or Lying?" The Nazi spy story: "Nazis found: No Legal Protections Offered". The Japanese balloon bombings of the NW: "New Japanese attack shows deep American weaknesses"

We can take the war story all day long and turn it into the "how we fight the war" story -- especially with an angle on incompetence or the abuse of civil liberties. It's just like treason, only it ain't.

What did somebody say on TV yesterday? The NYT, if they picked up the phone and told Bin Laden this information, would be guilty of treason or espionage, but by publishing it for the entire world to read, they are guilty of nothing.

Please note that whatever your politics, this same game can be played by the press for any president in any war. In my opinion, it represents a danger to our ability to execute executive functions like fighting a war.

Something's broken. We need to fix it.

I just wonder if we're kidding ourselves a bit by thinking of this as a matter of parsing or weighing different consequences, as though "the press" has the slightest inkling of what the issues are, or how to go about implementing them. Prior to dealing with those questions "the press" has to undergo a transformation so that what it does is positively relevant to the state of society, especially a society at war. One reason Wallace's responses seem so typical is that he really has no idea how or why to cover a war. As Newt indicated, this is something they haven't thought through. But it's not the only thing they haven't thought through. I don't have any confidence that they've thought through anything about their role in covering a war, including how to acquire and distribute accurate public intelligence about the conflict.

Which makes Wallace's remarks especially foolish in context, because I'm sure he has some vague notion of a noble overarching purpose for "the press," but can't quite remember what it is. All of the issues regarding an unmerited elite status pertain, but answering those won't get us a better public intelligence service by itself.

What these people do to undermine the effort certainly makes me angry, but what makes me afraid is the mismatch between what's actually going on and the depiction of it. I feel like I'm in the dark a lot more than I need to be, not because there's some sort of concerted effort to keep me in the dark, but because banging on garbage cans is what passes for music.

Davebo, did you read the original post?

A.L.

Davebo, that ground has been covered. The WSJ published only after it was clear that the LATimes/NYTimes were going to break the story.
Sure, the WSJ could have delayed or refrained from publishing, but there was no reason to do so once it was clear that the LATimes and the NYTimes were going forward.

AL;

So sorry for being silly and lacking in common sense. You wound me gravely with your fact-filled and pointed rebuttal in response to my post.

Back to reality. I suggest you (and everyone else here) go and read Glenn Greenwald, who has a post up striking hard at your core assumptions.

While the argument is multi-pronged, here is the strongest criticism of the "Times as traitors" contention:

"(1) There is not a single sentence in the Times banking report that could even arguably "help the terrorists."

George Bush and his allies in the right-wing media (such as at National Review) have been running around for the last several years boasting about the administration's programs for tracking terrorists and innovating our surveillance methods. In doing so, they have repeatedly -- and in detail -- told the public, and therefore The Terrorists, all sorts of details about the counter-terrorism programs we have implemented, including -- from the President's mouth himself -- programs we have for monitoring international banking transactions.

Here is President Bush, campaigning for re-election in Hershey, Pennsylvania on April 19, 2004, boasting about our vigilant efforts to monitor the terrorists' banking transactions:

Before September the 11th, law enforcement could more easily obtain business and financial records of white-collar criminals than of suspected terrorists. See, part of the way to make sure that we catch terrorists is we chase money trails. And yet it was easier to chase a money trail with a white-collar criminal than it was a terrorist. The Patriot Act ended this double standard and it made it easier for investigators to catch suspected terrorists by following paper trails here in America.

And as former State Department official Victor Comraes detailed (and documented) on the Counterterrorism blog, it has long been pubic knowledge that the U.S. Government specifically monitors terrorists' banking transactions through SWIFT:

Yesterday’s New York Times Story on US monitoring of SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) transactions certainly hit the street with a splash. It awoke the general public to the practice. In that sense, it was truly new news.

But reports on US monitoring of SWIFT transactions have been out there for some time. The information was fairly well known by terrorism financing experts back in 2002. The UN Al Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Group , on which I served as the terrorism financing expert, learned of the practice during the course of our monitoring inquiries.

The information was incorporated in our report to the UN Security Council in December 2002. That report is still available on the UN Website. Paragraph 31 of the report states:

"The settlement of international transactions is usually handled through correspondent banking relationships or large-value message and payment systems, such as the SWIFT, Fedwire or CHIPS systems in the United States of America. Such international clearance centres are critical to processing international banking transactions and are rich with payment information. The United States has begun to apply new monitoring techniques to spot and verify suspicious transactions. The Group recommends the adoption of similar mechanisms by other countries."

Suggestions that SWIFT and other similar transactions should be monitored by investigative agencies dealing with terrorism, money laundering and other criminal activity have been out there for some time. An MIT paper discussed the pros and cons of such practices back in 1995. Canada’s Financial Intelligence Unit, FINTRAC,, for one, has acknowledged receiving information on Canadian origin SWIFT transactions since 2002. Of course, this info is provided by the banks themselves.

Claims that The New York Times (and other newspapers which published stories about this program) disclosed information about banking surveillance which could help terrorists are factually false. Nobody can identify a single sentence in any of these stories which disclosed meaningful information that terrorists would not have previously known or which they could use to evade detection. To the extent that it is (ludicrously) asserted that the more they are reminded of such surveillance, the more they will remember it, nobody has spoken more openly and publicly about the Government's anti-terrorism surveillance programs than a campaigning George Bush."

There's even more along these lines...so go read and enjoy. I expect your response will be to dig in and continue to try to argue your point by appealing to "citizenship" and "national security" and abovel all Trust in the Bush administration. Good luck with that.

I feel like I'm in the dark a lot more than I need to be, not because there's some sort of concerted effort to keep me in the dark, but because banging on garbage cans is what passes for music.

Hmmm... I guess I needed an visual metaphor there, instead of an audio metaphor, but you know what I mean. How about "a dirty tablecloth passes for a masterpiece"?

#5 Walter:

We know more about the politicians we elect, who in turn make decisions on our behalves, than we do of the editors and journalists at any media outlet. We have at a minimum been able to make an informed character judgment on them as they ran for office.

Secondly, read Snow's letter When you have two Democrat members of the 9/11 commission telling the NYTimes not to publish this, it would be safe to assume that they are privy to far more operational information on the program and its impact than a few reporters who had a story fed to them by rogue elements within CIA/State/DoD. If the journalists want to drop this bullshit anonymous sources crap and actually get their reporting on the record, then we as a public would be better able to judge their credibility of the story, and its impact. If as I suspect, the sources turn out to be the likes of Joe Wilson, and Larry Johnson, and the usual suspects who all have axes to grind and want to hurt the Bush administration more than they care about protecting secret and classified intelligence gathering programs, then the public has an even greater interest to know. I’d say, if you’re going to blow a story like this open, then you have to name names, otherwise you can’t be trusted.

I would add further, that given the incredible ignorance on the part of the modern press in regards to military culture and affairs, they are the last people I would want making a decision on what classified programs are in the "public interest"

You may put your faith in the NYTimes, I won't. Honestly, the media in general should be asking these questions in the decision to run a story instead of the lame half assed crap that Keller and Bauquet have passed off.

The tipping point for trust in the MSM has in my view just been reached.

Walter..

Quoting Greenwald, or even someone linked by Greenwald, can get a bit dicey here.

I agree that the entire thing is silliness. Not only is it hard to ascertain how the public knowing of the existance of this program could possibly hinder it, most have more or less known about it for a long time.

Whether the result of faux outrage, or simple ignorance of the facts, this "scandal" is just an attempt to drum up some rightous indignation among the base. It seems the dead cat bounce that lasted almost a whole week for Bush wasn't what they were hoping for so Karl pulled this one out of his sleeve.

And as always, you've got a certain segment of the society, regardless of the moniker they choose, who are more than happy to swallow it.

"...drum up some rightous indignation among the base..."

Interesting when you bring up structural problem in a democracy, you get a political argument.

One would think that the proper response would be something like "What if the shoe were on the other foot, would it be okay then?"

I imagine that course of reasoning is lost, however, when the issue is real. At that point, the best arguments you have are "it doesn't hurt" and "it's all politics anyway" -- nice sidestep there.

Well AL, the story did serve a purpose. If forced the Admin to brief the ranking democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on the program.

From the Washington Post

Although the chairmen and senior Democrats on the two intelligence committees apparently were also briefed when the program began, there have been changes in the intelligence panels' leadership since 2001. The full committees -- and the current chairmen and senior Democrats in some cases -- learned of the program in May

So, it would be more accurate to say that the story served its purpose in forcing the administration to rebrief new chairmen of a program that the previous Democratic chairmen found innocuous in 2001. Thank G*d for the New York Times.

Interesting when you bring up structural problem in a democracy, you get a political argument.

Which no doubt is the reason congress is busy working on a flag desecration and gay marriage constitutional amendment these days.

You believe I'm ignoring a structural problem and trying to twist it into a political issue.

I believe it's always been pure politics from day one.

Reasonable people can disagree of course, but recent history seems to lean in my direction.

Davebo, you must certainly recognize that the factual points embedded in Greenwald's post stand alone regardless of what anyone here might think of him. So I guess I don't see how it is "dicey" to link to his page. But thanks for the advice.

On that note, please excuse me as I step out of the path of this growing lynch mob. What a bunch.

The problem I have with Walter's Ridge's case is that it suggests there's a standard for reporting (or restraint) that hasn't been expressed. It does this by arguing that the contention that the present situation violates such a standard hasn't been proved. Moreover, if this stuff were actually widely known before it was reported, why does it consitute enough of a story that they were compelled to print it? Now, mind you, all of what has transpired makes sense if we just assume that "the press" doesn't know its own hole from the ground's. I don't think they have the slightest idea what does or doesn't constitute the breach of a standard of secrecy in the service of national defense, because they don't have any idea what even one of those terms actually means. Indeed, they haven't even thought about it in any sort of halfway-disciplined sense.

LOL.

It's all politics, Davebo, that's why we elect those guys we call politicians.

The question you should be asking (he prodded again) Davebo is whether you could change the situation around into a cause that you supported with a president you elected. Would you feel that the press was dismantling the war effort? Or would you just be feeling "energized" like the good little robot you are?

If you can change the situation around, then by definition we can discuss this without the political component -- at that point we are talking whether the structure works or not. If you cannot, then that's a problem for you, imo.

DM, it doesn't excuse or justify publication, but publication is very different than surreptitious disclosure directly to an enemy, if for no other reason than the government is aware that published information is no longer secret and will no longer rely on its secrecy, unlike information given directly to an enemy without general publication.

No one would suggest that First Amendment rights protect the right to pass secret information to an enemy, but a restraint on the publication of the same information should be subject to a more demanding standard if we are serious about preserving our ability to make our participation in government an informed participation.

If secrecy is truly justified, then prosecution of those who publish should be a viable option for the government. If the press refuses to honor reasonable requests for non-disclosure and no disclosure is punishable, then the government will react by making the category of secret information overly broad and will go to otherwise unjustifiable lengths to maintain secrecy. If it's warranted under existing federal statutes, prosecution is warranted here to serve as a check on an institutional press that somehow has misunderstood the freedom of the press as a special right given to the institutional press, rather than a fundamental right that all citizens enjoy to the same degree -- that is, within the limits contemplated by the First Amendment read together with the rest of the Constitution (which of course includes Article II).

#21:

obscure references to SWIFT by a handful of journals != The largest paper in the US fully exposing the operation for no reason other than an attempt to embarrass the administration with yet another trumped up "civil liberties" issue.

Greenwalds a fool, and his credentials in terrorism analysis are highly lacking. Given that the program continued to work even in 2002 and recently means that the terrorists were not fully aware of it or its implications. Heck maybe even the NYTimes didn't feel traitorous enough to explain all the details of the program and its operational use. But since yours is a single purpose point of view, it remains blind to any alternatives other than the ones that are fed to you.

Take off the blinders of hatred of Bush for a minute and you may just learn something and end up looking less of a fool than you do currently.

Daniel,

If you're asking whether I would feel differently if the press reminded the public of a situation that was common knowledge under a democrat or independant administration I can assure you the answer would be the same.

Seems like common sense to me.

However, no, we can't discuss it without the political component. Neither you nor myself the good little robot, seem capable of that.

Just as we couldn't discuss say, the Schiavo case without including the right to life component. Because it's essentially the only component of the subject.

I agree, FD.

What is lacking is a clear definition of reasonable restraint.

This is an area that Congress should take some action, if not for GW then for the next president. I'd be in favor of tighter regulations with a five-year wait until they take effect. However the issue is solved, it needs to be separated from the current administration and current war -- it's a lot bigger than that.

You know, WR, I may think your arguments are silly or weak (as I thought Greenwald's were - his assumption being, essentially, that one can't rape a nonvirgin) but I don't disparage you or Davebo as 'what a bunch'; you might be a more interesting sparring partner if you avoided the same thing.

A.L.

"..if the press reminded the public of a situation that was common knowledge.."

Ya Davebo. Got a news flash for you -- who makes that decision? Do we gather in a group of magic elves? Pick bums off the street? Use the 1-900 psychic hotline?

Because whoever that guy is, he's got some real power. Whatever he decides is common knowledge, he can publish all he wants. He's like the magic guy in our democracy.

I must have missed him in my high school civics class -- the guy who decides if the government really means it when they say "classified". What's his title, anyway?

Now I think we have way too much classification, no doubt. But as FD pointed out, this is just another symptom of the underlying structural problem. Ignoring the law isn't the way to fix it.

#29

The point, clearly, is that terrorists could have easily known about the program (and probably did), while the American public remained ignorant about the government going through its financial transactions with no oversight. The Times serves the public interest by publishing it; it doesn't harm counterterrorism efforts since the info was already out there.

And I would not characterize Bush's campaign speeches as being "obsure" references, Gabriel.

Now if you'd like to argue that terrorists get most or all of their info from the US media, you will have another dubious presumption to prove.

WR -

I know that the local police department patrols the streets, but I still break the speed limit on my motorcycle pretty regularly. In the Uk, they use fixed radar devices, known as "GATSO's" to give speeding tickets. You can buy a map of the location of the speed cameras - is the guy who sells the map helping Britons speed? Even though they know in abstract that speed laws are enforced?

A.L.

Ya Davebo. Got a news flash for you -- who makes that decision?

Editors and Publishers make that decision. Are you suggesting a better way?

I mean seriously, the press harmed the war effort by reporting on the Haditha probe. Well, actually the press instigated the Haditha probe, but regardless, would we be better of as a nation had the press decided not to publish the story?

Perhaps we could set up a new Office of Acceptable News Content within the administration to handle these questions.

AL

you might be a more interesting sparring partner if you avoided the same thing.

You read this entire comment thread and that is what you determined to be unproductive commentary?
Color this little robot unimpressed.

AL,

After foolishly chastizing the press for acting like a free press usually acts, you make yourself look even dumber by now trying to justify your attack under the pretention that you are a better citizen than they are and have a more perfect understanding of what should or should not be reported according to the standards of 'what makes for good citizenship'.

What you offer is nothing more than your opinion without any supporting facts. Fine.

But here's the rub. What really makes for good American citizenship is to defend the right of the press to publish essentially whatever they want.

Perhaps you were thinking of different sort of citizenship, something more along the lines of the submissive groupthing the Soviet communists called 'solidarity'?

As for me, I stand with the liberals defense of American values against the right wing conservative criticism of my country any day of the week. And I do so even when I think the press is wrong. But that is the difference between us, that is what makes me an 'American' citizen.

AL;

I'd like to hear your answer to your own question, even though I think it is a diversion from addressing the very real, very non-hypothetical situation of covert government snooping into the lives of American citizens.

"The point, clearly, is that terrorists could have easily known about the program (and probably did),"

How? Specifically. This has all the earmarks of a throwaway line apologists hope will become a truism.

Now AQ suspects all kinds of capabilities out of the US, some of which we realistically do not have. Why in god's name should we firm up any of their assumptions? You know the Germans had a pretty good idea we were going to invade France, does it hence follow that a US paper should run a story about it?

"while the American public remained ignorant about the government going through its financial transactions with no oversight."

But the US congress was fully briefed which is what our system of government demands. The NYT does not get to declassify material as it sees fit. Think about what you are arguing. Quite literally the NYT is saying its freedom to protect sources is more important to our nation than the governments ability to keep anything secret- even when there is no allegation of illegality. That, aside from being breathtakingly arrogant, is just idiotic.

The public has an interest in knowing what our president is up to, does it then follow that the NYT should publish his Iraq itinerary next visit he makes? This public interest argument is flat out B.S.

"...Editors and Publishers make that decision. Are you suggesting a better way?..."

The Haditha probe was a good job on the part of the reporters, because it assured the world that we are honest partners. None of that information was classifed, btw.

I would appreciate a better example. And no, I do not feel that the ultimate right to decide what to publish lies with editors and publishers. In this new information age, every man is his own publisher. What you basically are saying is that there is no such thing as keeping a national secret if it disagrees with your personal ethics or morals. To me this is prima facie unworkable.

We have many freedoms, one of which is freedom of speech. These freedoms rest on our structure of government, which I feel is under attack. Without an effective executive branch, these freedoms don't mean much. We were able to fight WWII and I didn't hear a lot of complaints. So how about let's get some balance back into the system. Please?

-- who makes that decision?

In the first instance, the publishers and editors.

In the second instance, by the consumers and advertisers and competing sources of speech who are free to criticize critique and punish that decision.

In the third instance, a jury of one's peers. If anyone at the NYTimes did anything that would have been illegal if I, a non-newspaper, did it, they should be jailed for their convictions.

What you basically are saying is that there is no such thing as keeping a national secret if it disagrees with your personal ethics or morals.

No, I'm saying that if you want to keep a national secret, then you probably shouldn't be including allusions to said secret in your public speeches.

Leaks of classified information to the press are nothing new.

In fact, it is quite common.

Point of information: The disclosed program had very little to do with the 'government going through [the public's] financial transaction with no oversight.' I'll let others address the 'no oversight' canard, but I will say that far from being a commonplace, running a SWIFT transfer is something that very few individuals will ever do during their entire lifetimes. It's a system that exists for moving amounts of tens of thousands of dollars and up internationally, among financial institutions. There's an analogous system - ABA/Fedwire - for domestic transfers, so you can be sure that SWIFT transactions are in fact border crossing. Learning these basics might enhance credibility.

I've done dozens of SWIFT transfers myself, but I happen to be a venture capitalist managing international funds. Considering the considerable regulatory, audit and tax requirements around those transfers, I've never had any reason to expect privacy in doing so. And given that someone in my position would be well-placed to attempt to slip hot money to bogus 'start up' companies, the revealed level of oversight seems perfectly appropriate from the POV of one whose activities certainly fell within its purview.

This has been, alas, yet another chance for the MSM to exhibit that whatever sense of loyalty and responsibility they may have does not extend to their fellow citizens, and for the left to once again demonstrate its lack of seriousness as seen here. When and if this all ends in fire because we've exhausted other possibilities, they will bear a large chunk of the responsibility that they will then also shirk.

PD,

Under the law the only person with criminal liability in this case is the person who leaked the information, not those who subsequently published it.

And not even Gonzales could spin this one into an argument a court would be willing to accept.

I mean seriously, the press harmed the war effort by reporting on the Haditha probe. Well, actually the press instigated the Haditha probe, but regardless, would we be better of as a nation had the press decided not to publish the story?

Given that there is video footage which pretty much undercuts the allegations made, yes I rather think we would have been better off if the sensational condemnation of the marines had not been published in the irresponsible and tendentious manner it was.

"...No, I'm saying that if you want to keep a national secret, then you probably shouldn't be including allusions to said secret in your public speeches..."

So we're back to Davebo and his magic person who gets to decide whether something is public knowledge.

Thanks Davebo. That was a huge waste of time. Kinda thought you and I were having a conversation, but you seem stuck on step 2.

I understand the leak problem (yawn) and as I already pointed out, this is an indication of the problem -- the government is crazily classifying everything. Once again, ignoring the law is not the answer.

Do you understand? I get the schoolyard reasoning. Let's move to the next level, Davebo. Heck -- I'm a civil libertarian. I hate any thought of constraining the press. But absolutes are almost never true. There are times when constraining the press is in the greater good. Our governmental system is not a comic book -- there are trade-offs for every right we have. In fact, to truly describe a right, you must be willing to describe the limits and boudaries of that right. "Freedom of the press" is a great slogan, but it needs to mean something. It's not carte blanche.

#37 You are flat out wrong.

You are wrong about the terrorists awareness of the program, and you are wrong about the program and what it covers. You are wrong about the oversight as well, unless you think Congress just rubber-stamps everything that the administration brings to it.

What public interest does the Times publishing this provide? Give me even one specific.

Sect. Snow put it best:
You have defended your decision to compromise this program by asserting that "terror financiers know" our methods for tracking their funds and have already moved to other methods to send money. The fact that your editors believe themselves to be qualified to assess how terrorists are moving money betrays a breathtaking arrogance and a deep misunderstanding of this program and how it works. While terrorists are relying more heavily than before on cumbersome methods to move money, such as cash couriers, we have continued to see them using the formal financial system, which has made this particular program incredibly valuable.
Your defense of the NYTimes in this matter is about as persuasive as their excuse for publishing it.

It's a system that exists for moving amounts of tens of thousands of dollars and up internationally, among financial institutions.

Actually in the technical sense no funds are transferred at all through swift. However it does provide for secure messaging about such fund transfers between financial institutions.

Thanks Davebo. That was a huge waste of time. Kinda thought you and I were having a conversation, but you seem stuck on step 2.

Actually our conversation ended when, apparantly with no other rejoinder at your disposal, you decided to act like a 12 year old and call people asinine names.

But hey, selective indignation is apparantly what this is all about so run with it.

"Under the law the only person with criminal liability in this case is the person who leaked the information, not those who subsequently published it."

This is true. However if a court or the congress subpoenas the reporters and demands their sources they have no legal justification for not revealing them and should and will spend time in prison for contempt. That is how this story should end.

#52

Add petty sarcasm to that as well.

FYI: sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

Robin,

I don't want to spoil this thread with off topic conversation, least of all with you as I've been down that road in the past.

Suffice to say the Marine Corps apparantly doesn't share your opinion regarding what the video proves or disproves.

The probably just hate America.

"...selective indignation is apparantly what this is all about so run with it..."

Who's indignant? I'm laughing and happy.

Do you have somewhere to go, Davebo, except for meandering around with my style? If you do, let's get on with it. Your position is that any editor and publisher has a right to decide whether or not "classified" really means it, or if it's just a joke. I find this belief unworkable in our government. The problems are: 1) everybody is now and editor and publisher, 2) there is no standard for "they already knew that" -- it's just hearsay, and 3) there is no recourse by the government if people's lives are lost.

I'm with the earlier poster. People are going to die because we're taking apart our ability to fight this war and the first people to complain about government ineptitude will be those folks who made it all happen to start with.

Gabriel,

So calling someone a little robot isn't sarcasm, but pointing out that someone does it is?

As to pettiness, well each can judge that on their own.

Mark, I agree wholeheartedly with your #53. That's the way it should work.

But I'd like a thousand bucks on the notion that such a contempt trial will never take place and that the AG will not seek to prosecute the leaker or leakers. As has been the case pretty consistantly over the past few years.

So is anyone going to answer what the overriding public interest was in exposing this program?

I tend to agree- in a sense Bush has done a pretty admirable job keeping his eye on the ball and not getting bogged down in the stuff that drives the pundits crazy (this one drives me crazy as well). I think he has a bit of a spilled milk attitude towards this kind of thing.

On the other hand I could easily see Congressional investigations turning into a real circus. On the one hand i really think this leaker should be found and the reporters punished if they hide him. On the other hand this close to the election a congressional hearing would be little more than a publicity stunt that would provide little authoritative precident on this kind of thing, which is the only thing im really interested in.

Mark,

Though I don't think in this case you are incorrect, but in other cases the decision not to prosecute had much less to do with "keeping your eye on the ball" and much more to do with not wanting to keep the story in the news. I'm thinking primarily about the NSA wiretap leak.

So is anyone going to answer what the overriding public interest was in exposing this program?

If I were to guess, its to keep the story going on the NSA wiretaps.

"If I were to guess, its to keep the story going on the NSA wiretaps."

Thats weak. You reveal an unquestionably legal program to put pressure on another program that has died on the vine of total public apathy? If we are listening in on OBLs Podcasts is it ok to reveal that too in the interest of advancing the NSA probe? Again, this all comes back the the question of who the hell the NYT think they are deciding these issues.

If you're asking whether I would feel differently if the press reminded the public of a situation that was common knowledge under a democrat or independant administration I can assure you the answer would be the same.

Something doesn't compute. Granted, if this information was "common knowledge" then revealing it doesn't constitute much of a security breach, but it also doesn't constitute much of a story. So why was it printed and touted as a big story, if: 1. It's not a secret; and 2. it's not illegal?

Just doesn't add up.

You reveal an unquestionably legal program to put pressure on another program that has died on the vine of total public apathy?

Do you really think the public is apathetic on the issue, or has it just fallen out of the press? I've seen conflicted polling on the matter with one showing 51% approve of the program and another showing 56% disaprove of it.

The fact that the justice departments internal investigation of the program was blocked by the NSA on fairly ludicrous grounds hasn't helped to be sure.

#63

I already gave a plausible answer for this in #37.

No one is saying the info was "common knowledge", only that publishing it does no harm to counterterrorism because, presumably, clever and well-funded terrorists would be aware of it already. Or maybe I'm being too generous, since:

"... reports on US monitoring of SWIFT transactions have been out there for some time. The information was fairly well known by terrorism financing experts back in 2002. The UN Al Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Group , on which I served as the terrorism financing expert, learned of the practice during the course of our monitoring inquiries.

The information was incorporated in our report to the UN Security Council in December 2002. That report is still available on the UN Website."

Perhaps incompetent or ignorant terrorists may not have been aware of this, but if anything making this info public might even help to deter them even more from trying to fund terrorist acts.

So, to recap: 1) It wasn't a secret, and 2) publishing it in a US newspaper makes Americans aware of a program that may be used against them for non-terrorist-related reasons. In fact, someone involved in monitoring SWIFT transactions was already dismissed for doing just that.

And because the Times made it public, we can all sit back and freely debate the merits and pitfalls of such a system, as our Democratic system allows and requires.

Freedom of the press isn't the freedom of the institutional press to publish whatever it wants. It is the freedom of any citizen to publish information within the limits of that freedom contemplated by the First Amendment read within the Constitution as a whole. It's very broad, but it's not absolute. The institutional press has acquired or developed information gathering capabilities far beyond those of ordinary citizens, but that greater capacity doesn't confer greater rights. If secret-leaking-government-official X shows up at the front door of Joe Average Citizen one day and discloses to JAC the existence of a secret program for tracking international funds transfers by enemies of our country, JAC has the same rights to post that info on his web page or otherwise publish it as the NYTimes does. Of course, the NYTimes has greater political leverage. For some reason, the NYTimes is confusing that its relatively greater (when compared to JAC) political leverage confers a correspondingly greater constitutional right that is accompanied by a much smaller measure of citizenship responsibility.

Lets not change the subject. Apples and Oranges here people.

The NY and LA Times have made it clear that they are the holders of the 5th Column Title in the United States.

"Do you really think the public is apathetic on the issue, or has it just fallen out of the press?"

Is there a difference? Shaw was making an argument for a market solution.

As far as polls go, im always leary if I can't see the questions and methodology. You may be thinking of USAtoday poll on the cell-phone database which companies willingly turned over. The companies may have committed a crime by divulging the info- but i havent seen many arguments that the government committed one by asking.

Obviously the bigger issue is the actual NSA eavesdropping where real allegations of illegality exist. To my recollection a good sized majority supported this even if it intruded on their personel privacy, which is doubtful for the average American if they dont happen to be talking to a wanted terrorist overseas. From the look of things the Times just doesnt see eye-to-eye with either the American people or the administration and just isnt taking no for an answer on the NSA issue. The fact that they carry it a step further and just start revealing secret programs willy-nilly to hopefully keep the feet to the flames is astonishing. The shear arrogance.

Walter's Ridge:

Then why are Democrats on the relevant committees expressing shock that they hadn't heard of the program (at least until the NYTimes began rattling the bars)? What are you implying about them?

I don't think the harm done involves warning the terrorists, according to our the Dept. of Treasury (...according to NYT!) this is no news to them. The harm done involves the bad press abroad, putting pressure on members of SWIFT to pull out.

If that happens, people will die.

I think the story is newsworthy in the broader context of Bush's power grab and the WoT, but I'd rather have seen something vague omitting SWIFT and the mechanics of the operation.

Question for A.L.:

Do you believe the WoT demands a WWII or Civil War-level of growth and reallignment in our government's power?

" 1) It wasn't a secret, and 2) publishing it in a US newspaper makes Americans aware of a program that may be used against them for non-terrorist-related reasons. "

I'm sorry, WR, but this just sets off my BS detector.

Certainly it has been possible for many years to understand and publish the ability of the government to use subpeonas in the interational banking system. The fact that we are using broad subpeonas to find terrorism activity is another thing entirely. I believe the government officials view this as being something that should stay quiet. Secondly, by twisting around and saying that we should debate the methods we use to fight the war you are ignoring the major question of whether the publication itself is in the public interest -- by your reasoning every method that can be construed to infringe on civil liberties is fair game. And your standards have no limits and no checks and balances: any publisher who believes their story is politically important can go ahead and do as they desire.

It just doesn't wash. In fact, it sounds very self-serving. For anything that's published about the GWOT, it should be fairly trivial to say that we already knew it and it might be used in some way in the future to infringe on our rights. That's the nature of the fight against insurgents. You have to do better than that.

Follow-up question to WR:

If the NYTimes says the program is "secret," then how can you defend the NYTimes for publishing something on the grounds that it wasn't secret?

WR, the conclusion that the article didn't reveal secret information doesn't follow from the fact of previous disclosure of monitoring SWIFT transactions. Would you mind elaborating on your assertion that no secret info was disclosed, preferably proving some specific support?

Whether your assertion is correct bears on whether a crime has been committed, of course, but it doesn't necessarily change whether a citizenship obligation (a moral one) should have required non-publication. Publicizing previously public but little known information* in a manner that forseeably harms the effectiveness of a legitimate national security program for no apparent reason other than an unwillingness to give the President the benefit of a presumption of good faith might not earn a prison term, but it should earn contempt.

*It's not just disclosure to terrorists that we should evaluate -- if publicizing the information made it politically difficult for allied governments to cooperate in the operation of the program, it is the general publication that causes the harm, not just revelation of the program's existence to our enemies.

SAO, you beat me to the "Post" button.

Ok, let me make a few points here:

[padding added by editor to move the long hyperlink off the home page]

- Here is the opening paragraph of the NYT story

"Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror
WASHINGTON, June 22 — Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials."

As has been pointed out above, either the Times agreed with their own ink it was secret or they are guilty of some pretty nasty sensationalism.

- This story has already had real world consequences quite outside whatever AQ has learned:

"Belgian Justice Ministry to probe Swift data searches
The Belgian Justice Ministry has been asked to investigate the legality of US government snooping of financial transactions passed over Brussels-based interbank messaging network Swift."
link

So, unless someone wishes to challenge either of these sources and assertions- the Times considered the story secret and published it anyway, and the result is friction for this program.

In my opinion the motion to throw out the case against the Times on the grounds of irrelevance is denied. The only question left is whether they had reasonably legitimate whistle blowing criteria. We know the program was secret, we know theyve harmed it, the only question left is why?

Mark,

You (and SAO I believe) have hit on the most logical detrimental aspect of the Times story. Mainly that SWIFT may decide that it can't legally cooperate with the US anymore.

The possibility is certianly there, and we'll have to see what comes of it. It does appear that such cooperation is illegal under Belgian law. Since SWIFT is literally owned by all of it's member financial institutions around the world I'm not sure to what extent Belgian law will apply to it.

Here is the statement from SWIFT's Chairman, Deputy Chairman and CEO on the subject at hand.

Let's face it ...

Anyone who follows technical developments (AQ is too smart not to) has known for decades that the NSA can potentially intercept any communication that goes through the air or over a wire. So much for leaks of [illegal] wiretaps.

When the government announced it would be tracking AQs finances, and busted non-profit organizations for financing terrorism, the cat was out of the bag. Does anyone truly believe that AQ is too stupid to figure that banks use clearinghouses for transfers of funds? Is it a huge intellectual leap to figure out those clearinghouses are the logical place to track funds.

Get real! This was no leak at all. Damage concerns are pure show business. Ask any reasonably well-educated 16 year-old and find out how secret these methods are.

No whining, face the facts.

#77

Rhetorical question, why would they continue to run the program if it wasn't providing good intelligence or results?

(i.e. I don't think that a Democratic president would be getting a free ride right now)

Horse hockey. This is not even a theoretical. We know what the NYT said during a Democratic administration - they praised Echelon and argued for it.

Ace was right, they are holding us hostage. Well, hell, I am for Hillary if it make it okay to kill terrorists again.

Could somebody fix the page-wrecking hyperlink here?

The fact the gov't was using SWIFT has been out there publically for some time. No one has been unethical or treasonous despite wingnut rantings.

Too bad the right has so few research skills and such a hair trigger mouth.

Unlike the patently illegal warrantless wiretap program, this banking stuff might be legal. But I regret the NY Times publication only insofar as it moves some of the debate about secrecy and the rule of law onto terrain which is more favorable for the Bush Administration.

Taken in concert with the other programs of the Bush Administration, we see it shares many, but not all, of their flaws.

1. We can get it for you wholesale.
Given that the desire of the mewling, sniveling creatures formerly known as American conservatives for a Big Brother regime that in its omnipotence can stop Al Qaeda from imposing Sharia on our shores, it becomes necessary also to grant these incompetent clowns omniscience. And, because of their perfect knowledge, they are allowed to access to everything. They vacuum up all the financial transactions. They vacuum up all the telephone records. They vacuum up all the guns and ammo purchases of American citizens. Oh, wait, they don't do that!—the selfsame patriots who would pee into a drug test machine every morning if someone told them otherwise Al Qaeda would win have to draw the line somewhere. The Administration declares that hundreds of detainees are unlawful combatants, wholesale, without the benefit of any sort of tribunal.

2. We don't need no stinkin' badges.
Let's not forget, from Padilla to Gitmo to FISA runs an unbroken line that centuries of Anglo-American law now yield to the theory of the Unitary Executive (a rather clumsy rendering of Führerprinzip into English). Acts that required warrants or retroactive justification before disinterested magistrates are now the unreviewable exercise of power. Even the modest requirement of FISA, involving a secret court, mean nothing to these men. The Geneva Conventions? Quaint. The International Convention Against Torture? Unconstitutional. All is done, of course, in secret. Occasionally a few members of Congress (reliable Republicans, Holy Joe Lieberman) are "briefed", but generally the Administration can rely upon the Republicans to celebrate the concentration of power in their own hands and the Democrats to be too scared to discover that Americans may be no better than Germans and Russians at willingness to fork over all of their rights in some futile chase for the Windmill saboteurs.

3. 00-Boy.
I've written before that the key incident to understanding the W Presidency is the completely fictitious story that a British Airways pilot recognized Air Force One one its super-duper-secret Thanksgiving mission to Baghdad.
According to a pool report from aboard Air Force One, reporters were told a British Airways pilot spotted the president's plane and radioed, "Did I just see Air Force One?"

Then, according to the report, after some silence, the official said the president's pilot, Col. Mark Tillman, responded "Gulfstream 5," a much smaller aircraft than Air Force One.

After a long silence, the British Airways pilot, seeming to get that he was in on a secret, said, "Oh."
You could understand a lot about Pres. Clinton if you just realized that he still had a teenaged penis. You can understand a lot about Pres. Bush if you realize he's still playing The Hardy Boys and James Bond, with the secrets, and the bluffs, and the cool-o Licence To Kill double-oh card. Why, James Bond made a career out of ignoring the rules. Did anyone ever talk to Goldfinger about Geneva Conventions? What I don't understand is why so many nominal adults get caught up in this game and think it's an OK way to play with Real Life. (Joe Klein's last essay on George Bush's "full jaunty" is an example.) Is it some pheronome we liberals just can't smell?

Andrew, you've gotta start drinking decaf.

There are interesting points to debate about this in your post(s), but the rhetoric you've spray-painted them with is pretty offputting.

I'm not Hugh Hewitt, and I'm not out there with a noose arguing that we ought to string up the journalists and editors at the Times (either one). So save the frothing-at-the-mouth references for his blog, please?

Let me go back to my original question - how does a journalist, specifically an American journalist deal with conflicts between professional and civic obligations?

I'll jump back in to my earlier comments later on - I think they will become a post.

A.L.

Let me see if I have this straight: the NYT writes a big story about a secret anti-terrorist program that was not illegal but others defend the Times and say that's ok because it really wasn't secret. So why is it newsworthy? Because it was generally a secret.

Another justification is AQ is too sophisticated to get caught by it. Yet the WH asserted the program has nabbed terrorists. So it actually was effective.

The bottom line is that freedom of the press is not unrestricted any more than freedom of speech does not have constraints. It is disappointing to read the inane attempts to excuse the disclosure of this program, destroying its effectiveness even if minimal in their opinion.

In other wars, the press understood they were Americans first and journalists second without compromising their integrity. That ethic appears lost in the current generation.

Ironically, the NYT and others refused to reprint the Mohammed cartoons because they felt the "insult" to Muslims by publication outweighed the news and educational value to Americans. So the papers are able to exercise discretion about whether to publish a story. I'd like to see the Times prepared to protect the lives of Americans as much as the dignity of Muslims.

#78:

I didn't say the SWIFT actions weren't producing results, I said the "secret" nature of it is a preposterous claim.

Let's face it, if it had produced real results Rove and Bush would have sung a duet.

OBL is a Billionaire. Do you really believe that he is not aware how money is transferred through bank clearinghouses? SWIFT is just another clearinghouse.

C'mon, this information has been out there for decades. Let's not pretend OBL couldn't figure out how the tracking would be done.

The only reason to make a big deal of it now, is that it puts The Decider in a bad light ... again.

I'd call Dubya an incompetent liar, but he's had too much practice for that to be true.

but A.L., I don't even drink coffee.

(I am, on the other hand, in day 9 of the flu, much of it feverish, and brain damage may have begun.)

To answer the original question, however: I think newspapers have a special obligation to apprise the American public of patently unlawful behavior by their own government. The idea that the government is constrained by the laws, not that the laws are the instrument through which the government control the population, is, to my mind, the heart of American exceptionalism. Even the British had not advanced so far down the road of law at the time of the American Revolution. To see the die-hard defenders of all the Bush programs pile on the journalists is somewhat like watching sports fans trash a referee they suspect is correct but who has angered them by a call against a team that they support largely though accident of birth! Under this metric, the NYT had a special obligation to write about the telephone wiretaps and about our semi-official abuse of prisoners. The SWIFT program is not as strong a case, but it is worth mentioning that the program was apparently narrowed at the behest of the financial institutions.

I would never support the NY Times reporting that a subpoena had been issued for the phone, bank, or credit card records of Mohanmed Smith, suspected affiliate of Al Qaeda, except when this information became public record in the normal course of justice. I do not think the Times would report that, whether it were legal or no.

However, José Padilla is your fellow citizen, and you failed to stand up for his rights—until transferred to civilian court he was held under theories that perished in our legal tradition as far back as the year 1215. I am not really interested in hearing about my obligations to my fellow citizens George Bush and Dick Cheney, who have the full weight of the government apparatus they so unfortunately control. I am interested in retaining, even in the time of terrorism, the relationship between individual rights and the government that, to my mind, defines the United States of America. Your conservative commenters can not, quite seriously, give them away fast enough. And for what? Do you really think there is a guarantee that if we replace the rule of law with enlightened despotism—make no mistake, George Bush has even when he was still Governor of Texas made it clear that his pure heart outweighs written law—Osama bin Laden will be thwarted?

The structure of the Bush Administration is utterly corrupt, and for this, I don't think that the New York Times is to be blamed even in cases where their judgment is questionable. God only knows whatever other secret programs antithetical to privacy and limited government are still hidden from use. As citizens of a democracy, we are not allowed to use ignorance of them as an excuse.

#84:

So let me get this straight.

If torture of Guantanamo prisoners were disclosed, would this secrets revelation be aiding the enemy? Would it's exposure be justified as a violation of our nations stated principles?

Waterboarding is the act of tying someone to a board, blindfolding them, stretching a cloth over their face then pouring water through the cloth. Since the board is tilted so their lungs are higher than their nose and mouth. Since their lungs are higher drowning is unlikely but the sensation of drowning is so real that broken bones often result from the thrashing of the victim.

Is our "Christian" leader on the moral high-ground when approving such methods in our name? Is the press "aiding the enemy" by exposing this atrocity?

Would you like to have your wife try this procedure on you?

"I didn't say the SWIFT actions weren't producing results, I said the "secret" nature of it is a preposterous claim."

I know this question is confusing you guys, but you arent getting away from it. Why did the New York Times writers claim the program was secret if it wasnt? Are they inept or sensationalists?

The NYT statement that the SWIFT program was secret has been born out by the subsequent whining of The Decider. If you remember the head of the Treasury Dept. wrote a pointed letter stating that high-level requests from the Shrub's administration not to publish were made. It seems obvious that the Incompetent In Chief considered it a secret and informed the NYT of that. Why is this hard to understand?

The point is that it has never taken a financial genius to figure out the methods that must be used.

Anybody able to follow that little tantrum?

I still have no idea why the NYT would classify the program as secret if it wasnt. I assume we are to suppose the writers are as smart as we are expected to be... ie not necessarilly 'financial geniuses'.

Walter's Ridge,

I am astounded that you could make the statement that the government did not try hard to get them not to print this story. It has already been stated that the president, vice president, secretary of the treasury, committee members who had been briefed from both parties all talked to the NY Times and asked them not to print this story because it was a valuable tool in the war. Just what would make you believe that the government did try hard if this did not. There are not many more levels of government to ask them not to print this to go and still they said they did not feel it would jeopardize security to print this story. I have nothing but sheer contempt for the reporters and editors involved in this mess and in the other leaked messes. I am in total agreement with the colonel who spoke to Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace and told them he had nothing but contempt for them for what they had to say.

On another matter, it is a big difference between a priest and a reporter. They are not equivalent in their responsibility to keep the secrets or to share the secrets. The commenters above really are pushing it to try to equalize them. Reporters are unlicensed gossip writers and that is all they are. The gossip might be news or the gossip might be gossip but it is all the same to them. To try to portray them as being super-national because they are the great god reporters is ludicrous and Mike Wallace should be ashamed of himself for even trying to pass that POS idea off on the audience.

Let me lay it out in short, easy to read sentences.

Prior to publication, the NYT was requested by the (Idiot's) Administration not to publish the article.

Cheney said, "The New York Times has now twice -- two separate occasions -- disclosed programs; both times they had been asked not to publish those stories by senior administration officials," see: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Bush-Terrorist-Financing.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Were I on the NYT staff, I would assume the administration considered this matter secret.

In addition, I would have to consider this administration considers everything secret.

I would also have to consider many prior administration statements that financial transactions were being tracked.

That simple fact would lead one to believe that the tracking must be being done through clearinghouses.

That being the case this information must come as a surprise to no one, except, possibly you Mark.

I still have no idea why the NYT would classify the program as secret if it wasnt.

Rank and file Democrats on the Intelligence Committees didn't know about the program, the New York Times didn't know about the program, and the Beligian government didn't know about it . . .

but bloggers did. Score one for the blogosphere.

Seriously though, the strategy of following money transfers was certainly laid out in the 9/11 Commission report,* but what I think we have here is a failure to distinguish strategy from specific tactics. What wire transfers are being watched, what countries and international groups are cooperating, etc.

  • As I recall, the Commission strongly discouraged trying to "dry up" terroist money because the cost of terrorism is relatively low and the information from watching wire transfers much more valuable.

Evidently when the Bush critics run out of rational arguments, their response is to just double down in the outrageous rhetoric.

Actually those who assert that there is no way to prosecute the NYT for intentionally revealing classified information seem to have missed the fact that there is no support for that claim. The First Amendment does not so state and the Supreme Court has never held that the press is immune to such a prosecution.

Ken and the Electric Floridian and anyone else under the impression that this program was not secret.

America could theoretically obtain records regarding transactions that had one end in America. I'm sure everyone could surmise that. But what about a charity group in Saudi Arabia sending funds to another in the Sudan, say? America has no legal authority to snoop in THEIR records.

But memos concerning those transactions went through SWIFT as well and SWIFT agreed to hand them over to America as long as WE KEPT QUIET ABOUT IT.

It's not that terrorists are stupid and figured we could trace transactions but they used the banking system anyway, it's that the terrorists didn't think America could trace the transactions that had nothing to do with America.

(Just like the terrorists didn't know that their phone calls could be 'tapped' just by going through certain switches whether they were speaking with someone inside America or not.)

This is the biggest problem with revealing the details of this program.

So what's a terrorist to do? It's simple. Business as usual. Now that the program has been compromised SWIFT is in no position to hand anything over to America except what America has jurisdiction over--transactions with one end in America.

So the New York Times has lost us the ability to trace these other transactions.

Nice job.

And for what? I see no beneift whatsoever to the American people. None.

#88

Sensationalist.

When the details of the SWIFT program are already available on the UN's own website, then it doesn't seem accurate for them to describe it as "secret".

Wouldn't you agree?

Or are you saying you're wiling to trust the Times' judgment on this point (but no others)?

#72

I already answered that question in #65, but if you missed it here it is again:

"So, to recap: 1) It wasn't a secret, and 2) publishing it in a US newspaper makes Americans aware of a program that may be used against them for non-terrorist-related reasons. In fact, someone involved in monitoring SWIFT transactions was already dismissed for doing just that."

I also hope this helps Syl in #95 understand what the potential benefit is of disclosing this program.

"In fact, someone involved in monitoring SWIFT transactions was already dismissed for doing just that"

Which means safeguards are in place. duh. Which also means there goes any benefit for public discussion.

Legal
Congress informed
Safeguards in place
Effective

I repeat, there's NO benefit to the American public in revealing the details of this program.

And, Walter's Ridge, what you fail to understand is that what the New York Times revealed are YOUR OWN secrets. If you are an American, that is.

Furthermore, I assume you consider the policies behind the financial tracking system worthy of public discussion. To that I say, go ahead. Discuss it at the ballot box.

No secrets were revealed, Syl, so where's the harm?

And FYI, the ballot box is only one of many forms of political expression available to citizens living in a free and Democratic society.

However, as an American, you probably already know this. Assuming you are an American, that is, and understand what it means to be one.

Eclectic Floridian wrote:
I didn't say the SWIFT actions weren't producing results, I said the "secret" nature of it is a preposterous claim.
And yet the program was successful and nabbed terrorists despite its secret nature being prepostrous. I would think if the program were so open that everyone, including the terrorists knew about it, that they wouldn't be ensnared by it, and would find means to circumnavigate it.

Also, as someone else asked, why would the Times characterize it as a secret program, if it were not in fact secret, why would some dems say they weren't apprised of it if in fact everyone knew that this was going on?

If everyone knew about the swift program, then there would be no need for the Times to write a story about such a secret program, because the seret would already be common knowledge to everyone.

Sounds like you're grasping at straws.

Walter's Ridge wrote:
No secrets were revealed, Syl, so where's the harm?
Funny, I dont remember the blogosphere talking about the swift program until after the times revealed the secret money trackign program.I think most people assumed that we were going to track Al Qaeda's financing, but I doubt most people knew how we were doing it, let alone what swift actually is. But thanks to the Times now everyone knows, including those who may not have realized we could monitor their money transfers through swift.

Walter, if as you say no secret was revealed then why would the Times characterize it as a secret program? Was the Times lying?

Finally, Walter,
if in fact the program wasn't secret, then the Times should have no problem turning over their sources, eh? Because what was leaked was not in fact a secret. Therefore there should be no need to protect the anonymouos sources who gave up the info. In fact, why were they anonymous in the first place? Since they gave up no details that no one else didn't know, then why shouldn't the Times simply say who told them about the program?

"Let me go back to my original question - how does a journalist, specifically an American journalist deal with conflicts between professional and civic obligations?" - A.L.

I have an answer that explains the observed behavior of the NYT, LAT, and WSJ, Wallace's response to the hypothetical (making one major assumption), and that even explains the wild tangents observed on this thread.

The journalist should identify the major threat to his or her polis and report objectively, but always in the interest of protecting the polis.

A number of newsrooms have decided that the biggest threat to our civil society is the United States government. To these journalists' way of thinking, the Government (not even necessarily this Administration, but this one has certainly gotten on a lot of nerves) having the ability to monitor international financial transactions is more harmful than Islamofascists being able to safely move money around the globe.

If you accept that every War the US would be involved in would become a reprise of the Vietnam War, where both sides were equally repugnant (not my view, but I'm talking hypotheticals here) then Wallace's seemingly bloodless response makes sense. For that journalistic perspective, neither side in a war could be their side, therefore which side is slaughtering which is immaterial. The moral responsibility is to report in such a way to do what's best for his own civil society, which is to make the war stop. So by all means report the quagmire, rush the unsubstantiated massacre to the presses, make Lyndie England the poster child for the Armed Forces.

I think the two positions (major position, that the United States Government is the biggest threat to civil society, minor position, that every war the US fights will reiterate Vietnam) pretty absurd on their faces, but there are a number of commenters on this thread who (I think) are probably 100% on-board with the logic. I think that's what WR, Davebo, ken, and AJL have been getting at all along, but just haven't gotten it across through the rage.

For people who hold these views, the NYT, LAT, and WSJ stories are paradigmatic of what a moral Citizen Journalist should do, regardless of whether the SWIFT tracking program was legal and properly monitored or not. For potential leakers who hold these views, weakening the Bush Administration is the highest good they can do for their country.

I don't think I can express how stupid and ultimately narcissistic I find these ideas, but they're out there, and they're putting us all at increased risk from people who really, honestly, and most importantly demonstrably want our whole culture destroyed.

Wish I had suggestions for how to go about changing some minds on this, but I'm at a loss.

Thanks Walter, you have proven exactly why you and your ilk cannot and never should be trusted with National Security.

#101

How can it be called "secret" if details were already published on the UN website?

Bringing something to the public's attention is not the same as revealing a guarded state secret, obviously, so I'm not sure what you're driving at with this point.

The Times needs to sell papers, don't forget. Sensationalist, yes; treasonous, most certainly not.

#104

Exasperation is the only rational response I have to comments like that; speaking personally, that is, not as one representative of my "ilk".

And finally, to all here, please answer me this:

If the program is/was "secret", as you contend, before the Times revealed it, then how do you think they learned of it?

Who leaked the info to them that they apparrently believed was "secret" (but was not)?

And why does your anger direct itself to the Times and not the (presumably) Bush administration leakers?

There are so many stinking loose threads to this story that it can only lead one to conclude it is a pure political play by the Republicans to take another shot at the free press.

Perhaps they should reveal their source/s on this, although that could end up undermining their ability to obtain information in the future.

"If the program is/was "secret", as you contend, before the Times revealed it, then how do you think they learned of it?"

Umm, this is really just an underwhelming line of reasoning.

Recall, WR, that recently the former head of the department in the CIA responsible for tracking down and punishing leakers was fired for leaking.

Turns out she was a long-time contributor to Democratic candidates. But I suppose in both cases she was just doing what was right for America.

walter wrote:
Bringing something to the public's attention is not the same as revealing a guarded state secret, obviously, so I'm not sure what you're driving at with this point.

Except that's exactly what they did. the times admitted as such by caling it a "secret" program. it's hard to get around that Walter when the Times itself characterizes it as such. So they brought something to the public attention that was a guarded state secret. And they needed to have anonymous sources tell them the information. They woudn't need to be anonymous if it wasn't in fact a secret program.

Note to walter. The Times called it a secret program. You're now arguing with the Times's characterization. If its a secret program that required anonymous sources to dredge up, then, gosh darn it, the program is a secret program. What the hell have you been arguing for the last 20 or so posts?

Answer that question first. Why did the Times characterize the program as "a secret program" if it wasn't? If it was, then where does the times get off divulging it? And why are you defending its divulsion?

Walter's Ridge

Why do you keep stating the same thing over and over and over? 'Secret' becomes not 'secret' when the people you don't want to know something know it.

When, for example, the CIA does a damage assessment after a piece of classified information gets loose, the first thing they look at is how far and wide the datum was disseminated. Believe me an obscure UN report has nothing on the New York Times.

And what you fail to acknowledge (see #95 and then rethink what you said in #5) is the specific consequences of this program being revealed prominently to the world, our allies and enemies, in the New York Times.

It's NOT about what the terrorists and their charity organizations will do, it's about what SWIFT will no longer be able to do.

So arguments to the effect that terrorists know this anyway fall flat because it's entirely beside the point.

So I can show you harm. Real harm. And pit that against what? A vague notion that we should discuss policies put in place by an administration Americans voted into office a second time to do just that?

Your argument is extremely vacuous.

As for journalists there is no perceived conflict. They are citizens of the world, not of America.

I thought everyone knew that.

::snort::

Mark Poling shows us what Amerika will look like:
Recall, WR, that recently the former head of the department in the CIA responsible for tracking down and punishing leakers was fired for leaking. Turns out she was a long-time contributor to Democratic candidates. But I suppose in both cases she was just doing what was right for America.
The National Security State über alles. Someone contributed to the Political Party of the Enemies of the State, that's sure evidence for you.

Let's skip all the citizenship crap. You guys picked the red-white-and-blue Elephant as your symbol, based on some resonance with the Full Jaunty of Commander Codpiece I don't pretend to understand. (Rush Limbaugh's new legal problems might be the clue I've been looking for.) OK, that's your choice. But don't pretend it has anything to do with old-fashioned American patriotism as it tied in with our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, or any of our other freedoms, OK?

Folks who believe that no harm was done by this disclosure, since the Admin had been trumpeting its "follow the money" strategy for years and "everyone" knew it may find this latest Times story to be puzzling:

In London, meanwhile, a human rights group said Tuesday that it had filed complaints in 32 countries alleging that the banking consortium, known as Swift, violated European and Asian privacy laws by giving the United States access to its data.

Simon Davies, director of the group, Privacy International, said the scale of the American monitoring, involving millions of records, "places this disclosure in the realm of a fishing exercise rather than a legally authorized investigation."

The Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, has asked the Justice Ministry to investigate whether Swift violated Belgian law by allowing the United States government access to its data.

The American Civil Liberties Union has condemned the program, and a Chicago lawyer, Steven E. Schwarz, filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Swift on Friday alleging that it had violated United States financial privacy statutes.

Is it just an odd coincidence that these groups moved after the Times publication? Are we to believe that they were planning these investigations and lawsuits for months or years, but picked this as a good week to announce them?

And if all this pressure forces SWIFT to end their cooperation, will that help or hurt our effort against terror?

See Andrew, I was making a point about WR's continuation with:

"And why does your anger direct itself to the Times and not the (presumably) Bush administration leakers?"

If we start from the premise that all leaking is bad (which I am very good with) then I don't give a damn which registration table they visit at voting time. Plenty of big rocks waiting to be made into little ones by people who signed oaths of secrecy.

On the other hand, this "our leakers = good, your leakers = bad" stuff is pretty assinine. That was the point about "administration leakers" I was trying to make; WR was assuming something that was pretty weak on the face of it. Plus, of course, I was aluding to my earlier long-winded comment about perceived loyalties and threats, but maybe you are too. Sorry for not being more explicit in my points.

And as for police states, you frankly won't know one until it bites you on the ass. And I'm obviously pretty sure the biting will be done by someone from outside either the Republican or Democratic parties. So I'm wishing everyone would take the on-the-news-every-night threats a leeetle more seriously.

"Finally, Walter,
if in fact the program wasn't secret, then the Times should have no problem turning over their sources, eh? Because what was leaked was not in fact a secret."

Game, set, match. Both the Times and the Administration classified it as secret, the only ones disputing the point are lunatic moonbats. The fact that we were at war with Germany wasnt a secret. The fact that we were invading Normandy on June 6th, 1944 was a secret. Are you really unable to grasp the difference?

Look at it this way:

Criminals are always seeking ways to (a) commit crime and (b) evade detection. Working against them is law enforcement and government.

The greater knowledge and awareness the criminal can gain on the techniques used by those working against them, the more effective they are at reaching their goals.

Crime types that have emerged in our generation such as identity crime and car jacking have proliferated to the point of inevitability because criminals have worked out that the same rules and techniques being applied to them in the investigation of these crimes, are the same as those that apply in other traditional (and more inevitable) crime types.

Terrorists want their specialty (organised mass murder) to become more common. They need it to become "inevitable" like other crime types because it will serve their political purpose.

Fighting terrorism therefore requires the rules to be rewritten. Fighting terrorism as we have other crime types will eventually result in terrorism becoming more common. No one can afford this.

Every "expose" such as this allows terrorists to move in the direction they seek.

Nothing baffles me more than the fact that while governments and law enforcements have been forced to rethink how the approach the prevention and investigation of terrorism, other facets of society such as the media and legal fraternity are still viewing terrorism through traditional "crime" prisms.

Doing so will only result in terrorism becoming an inevitability, just as gang rape, car jacking, identity crime and isolated spree killings have.

#110 You know, the more vitriol and ad hominem slurs you throw, the less real argument you seem to have. Are you bankrupt of any real ideas on this issue? I've seen you argue better than this before.

To answer AL's question.

I don't believe it is the job of the reporter to determine when to publish classified information. That's why we call it classified to begin with. Having said that, as many posters have pointed out (including me) the government classifies way too much material. This means that valuable public discussions cannot take place without the long-held practice of leaking and printing.

So now we are faced with the reporter determining whether something is "really" classified or not. Secret agent identities? That's a no brainer -- obviously a bad idea. Military operations? Also bad.

To me, I believe the reporter must AT LEAST determine if lives could be lost by disclosure. If so, I think they have a higher moral obligation not to disclose. I believe this should be a legal obligation as well. I believe the conundrum is when, with programs like this, the potential to save lives is there as is the potential to infringe civil liberties.

In these cases, I side with the government, as much as I do not like it. Whatever your qualms about whether or not at some future point civil liberties might be infringed, you must first give the admin the benefit of the doubt in wartime and secondly not rest your case on self-serving speculation. Indeed, any information about the government has political value, and reporting it is in the public interest. The question is whether or not you are serving your own interest first or the "true" greater interest, which might require prior constraint.

We have an open society where we debate everything. That's good. We certainly could debate broad subpeonas as a general concept -- that's well-known. The NYT is making a political statement which to me sounds a lot like "we don't support your war, and we're going to take it apart piece by piece in the public arena until the methods you use to find terrorists are well known to everybody" Quite frankly, I consider such behavior openly hostile. I'm not sure freedom of the press has much to do with it at all.

It seems to me that repeatedly quibbling about 'how secret' this was is a pretty weak argument. I'm taking the longer view, and it looks like a continuation of the media's war against the war to me. What I'm not sure of, is the aggregate motivation for this. Is it programming from years of movies that portray any covert government action as evil? Or is it taking the mission of watchdogging the government to extremes without any countervailing common sense?

BTW, the score is not just 2 for 2 (NSA and SWIFT). This NYT piece in 2005, C.I.A. Expanding Terror Battle Under Guise of Charter Flights has our heroes at it detailing companies aiding the guvmint.

The stories about secret rendition flights (spoken in the same tone as 'black helicopters' and 'special road signs') don't seem to get the same traction here in the USA as they do overseas, but are in the same vein, IMO. See here and here .

A sample of the tone (from the Newsweek article):

The Bush administration, as we know , wants to put alleged evildoers beyond the reach of the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and, in some cases, common decency.

Emphasis mine. Who did that song "everybody knows" - same dementia, but catchy tune?

Finally, here's a curio item from 1954 that shows how far to the left the debate between the NYT and CIA has drifted. Or maybe not, after a closer read.

Photos Prove: CIA Undermined New York Times Reporting

There are two major problems with the long view as I see it.

First, democracies are naturally divisive. We always disagree about everything. That's great, except when we unwittingly help our enemies in doing it. I guess a "real" libertarian would argue that free and open discourse always helps us more in the long run, but I'm not so sure that's always true.

Secondly, insurgencies are different from classic wars. Vietnam, Somalia, Beriut, Afghanistan, Iraq -- these are all new kinds of wars that don't fit our classic definitions. The USMC used to have a "small war" handbook for these types of things. These wars are fought in our living room, over blogs, over coffee shops in Iraq, and the evening news. The goal isn't to kill somebody, it's to make somebody stop feeling so much like fighting. Make them feel like going home.

This means that in the year 2010, when Mark Warner is president and we're fighting insurgents in Somalia, that all of the political roles here will be reversed. The pubs will be against "nation-building" while the dems will be for taking moral action to save lives.

Whatever the rule is, it has to work in cases where you don't support the adminstration or the war. Being a citizen isn't an opt-in deal: you're either a citizen or not. You don't get to chose which laws you want to abide by.

The NYT defenders have to dodge an answer to the "secret/not secret" dilemma because no reasonable one exists. There are two prongs to their problem. 1) Whether it was secret and 2)Even if not secret, was the story newsworthy and 3) Even if newsworthy, should they publish the story.

First, the fact WR and his ilk have to dredge up everyone obscure reference to the program in the blogosphere shows the difficulty maintaining their argument when many sophisticated organizations are now awakened to challenge the program.

And, AJL, unlike the libs like you who apparently view national security issues only through a partisan lens, Republicans would denounce the Times story of disclosing SWIFT because it puts Americans in needless danger. Even in this contentious partisan period of time, this issue has nothing to do with partisan politics but rather dangers faced by all Americans regardless of political stripes.

Overwhelmingly Americans are prepared to bend for security concerns if infringing on privacy along the edges. In this instance, it is a legal, constitutional surveillance with bipartisan support.

Regarding point 2, the story is only newsworthy if the program was secret. To say otherwise is simply foolish.

Lastly, there is no evidence that the NYT weighed the benefits and cost to the public it claims to serve. We elect political leaders whom we can fire to make those judgement and I don't appreciate the self-appointed NYT superseding those judgements, without a thorough analysis of the benefits and risks to the American public.

Daniel,

A couple of quick things before I head out for work:

1. What we call classic wars (i.e., 1870, WWI, WWII) may be the abberration. Wars of empire and subjugation have often resulted from or caused insurgencies (for example, the Thirty Years war in early 1600's being of the nastiest kind). The quick sharp nation state wars may have been a blip on the historical radar and we are now resuming the normal flow of history. They may have resulted from a complicated balance of nearly equal powers that didn't understand the new industrial technologies. In this view, WWII is an aftershock of WWII.

What complicates things more now, however, is the growing global economy and the tightness of the energy market. Shocks in Nigeria will impact worldwide, etc.

2. Sure. Some partisans will posture on the reverse slope, but the media/CIA feud may run deeper than that. That it may be a feud that undercuts partisanship and liberal/conservative splits is what I find most interesting.

But to me, the main thing is whether you view Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, Chechnya, Philipines, Timor, and on and on as local reactions to local conditions or as part of a larger struggle.

I highly recommend Thomas Barnett's GAP Theory as an alternative way to correlate these events. Note that Islamofascism is not the prime generator in this theory, but a reactant. You can either view the interview or read the transcript.

He is gaining some adherents in high places, also see this interview on his 2nd book

Daniel Markham mentions the benefit of the doubt. The refusal of Bush administration opponents to grant even a modicum of that benefit to their bete noir is an overwhelming failure of citizenship by millions of my fellows. That characterization of their good faith is well earned.

A.L.

There is more than one way to remind the Press/Media that they are American citizens with obligations to the wider polity.

I just posted one way suggested by Tom Holsinger here on Winds with the title:

MAKE THE NEW YORK TIMES PAY FOR THE NEXT 9/11

"Lawfare" can be made to work for the American people as well as for Lefties.

Lots of smoke and bluster but no fire.

"It seems to me that repeatedly quibbling about 'how secret' this was is a pretty weak argument."

True, it would be if that were the argument. But it really boils down to something much simpler: the info is either "secret" or "not secret". Arguing shades of gray only serves the pro-censorship cause, in this case. See Syl's comment in #108 for example.

Info about the program was available on that "obscure" website of the UN. The president has been talking about it on his campaign stops, as have other administration officials.

As a consequence, there's no reasonable way to dismiss the idea that this info wasn't already well known to terrorist organizations. Whether the Times thought it was or not is irrelevant, and it's circular logic to claim that their contention that it is secret makes it so.

Case closed.

Like I said above, perhaps the Times will reveal their sources to prove a point. It's only been a couple of days, so their failure to do so at this point cannot be construed as evidence for anything.

Journalists are citizens first, although they've seem to have forgotten this. Their loyalty should be to their country. The abu gurab story was all over the front pages for weeks which endangered our troops on the ground, even though the military was investigating it. hadita, the same thing. They call terrorists militia and insurgents and did not publish the mohammad cartoons because they were worried about their own lives. They constantly print lies and half truths about our military & they always presume our men and women guilty.

The entire Valerie Plame story was orchestrated in order to bring down the republicans and they knew there was no real story there since the woman posed in Vanity Fair and sat at a desk at the CIA. Joe Wison was a liar and his wife sent him on his little trip, but the NYT buried the truth changed the story and made it about carl rove.

UN oil for food???? Downplayed, Buried and then forgotten.

The outrage from the public is not just about this one article and leak, it’s disgust at the NYT.. For their lack of loyalty to this country, Their obivious bias, their arrogance and obvious power hungry struggle to dictate policy and bring down a sitting president in a time of war.

When was the last time anyone read of a victory in Iraq in which our troops are portrayed as courageous?

There are many victories happening in Iraq, but you’ll never read about them in the NYT.

The media’s conduct over the past 5 year has convinced me that they are a bunch of selfish elitists who only care about winning a Pulitzer and getting the story first no matter who it hurts. And hey if it hurts America and this president all the better.

The only people who yearn for Iraq to be another Vietnam are those in the media hoping to be the next Bernstein winner of a pulitzer, left over hippies who are delusional enough to think they made a difference 30 years ago while on a bender, very ignorant people who feel guilty for living in the wealthest, strongest country on the planet and those who follow them

"But it really boils down to something much simpler: the info is either "secret" or "not secret". "

Great! Absolutely agree.

"Info about the program was available on that "obscure" website of the UN. The president has been talking about it on his campaign stops, as have other administration officials."

Ah. Here we run into trouble. Area 51 is without a doubt classified top secret. Yet I can find a dozen websites about Area 51. I can find presidential speeches about aircraft whos technology is secret. None of that affects the status of Area 51 as secret.

Secrecy has a specific, legal definition. You dont get to decide what fits that definition, and neither does the NYT. Here is a primer you may want to have a look at. Note that there is no reference to Blogs, UN or otherwise.

I think Laura Rozen has a good take on this. I particularly agree with this line: "As it's been construed, this war on terror will go on for our lifetimes. That's too long to ask the press or its readers or government managers to act like every day is D-Day."

While I do think some Times-bashers are acting in good faith, I do not think it is helpful to talk as if this is "a time of war." If the WoT is a war comparable to WWII, then that means we will be at war, with the President claiming war powers, forever and ever. At the very least there should be some serious discussion about that.

And finally, it's beyond me how people think the New York Times is trying to bring down the Bush administration. This is the paper of Judith Miller. This is the paper that, in deference to Bush, sat on the NSA wiretapping story for over a year. (If they were trying to bring down Bush, they'd have printed it before the 2004 election.) Their editorial page is anti-Bush, but that means not much more for their news coverage than the WSJ's editorial page (everyone knows that the WSJ's news reporting doesn't share the political slant of its editorialists).

You guys are wasting your time. Liberal elites like the editors or the NYT and most journalists view national patriotism as old fashioned, jingoistic nonsense. Real progressives view themselves as global citizens not limiting their concerns to just one country. Couple this with belief of most liberal elites that America is the most ‘dangerous’ power in the world, well you start to understand why they do what they do. Platitudes about restraining crazed Christo-Fascists from trampling helpless citizen’s rights are just a smokescreen for their actions. After all you can’t expect red state bozos to look beyond their self-centeredness and ignorance to understand why it is critical to thwart this administration. If some Americans die as a result of this brave struggle, well that is a small price to pay for the greater good.

As a consequence, there's no reasonable way to dismiss the idea that this info wasn't already well known to terrorist organizations.

Except that there is--as previously mentioned, terrorists were being caught using this program. Presumably they didn't know of its existance, or else they would have modified their behavior. (Or do you have some wacky theory where they wanted to be traced?)

If you want to make the claim that existence of the SWIFT program was well known, you have to present evidence that some terrorists read the obscure UN report and modified their behavior accordingly. I suspect that evidence will be a little hard to come by, whereas evidence that the SWIFT program was not widely known is readily available--see TM's comment #111 as an example.

Whether the Times thought it was or not is irrelevant, and it's circular logic to claim that their contention that it is secret makes it so.

Actually intent and knowledge about its secrecy has a lot to do with how far a criminal prosecution could go. But no one is arguing the NYT's putting the word "secret" is what made the program secret--the argument is that the NYT's use of the word is accurate. Your claims to the contrary fly in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Case closed.

Indeed, and the case is not decided in your favor.

My contempt for journalists no longer has bounds. Should I ever be in the position to intervene and prevent the death or injury of any of these clowns, I shall do nothing, and then take the Hillary approach and claim "...I do not recall...". I no longer regard journalists as humans. Any of them. To the two or three journalists who possess decency, they should do what we long for the Muslims to do...expose and shame the bad apples. But, just as the Muslims do, the journalists will protect the "tribe".

sat on the NSA wiretapping for a year? PLEASE!!

the NSA has always wiretapped overseas calls. That was another non-story written to incite gullible victims of bush derangment syndrom

Well, I'm still waiting for all the pro-secrecy, pro-War Powers people to explain the obligation of their shared citizenship with Jose Padilla.

You know, it isn't that hard to get people to line up behind the brass band. Only a few curmudgeons (I'd like to think of myself as one of them) differ.

So on you all go, linking the treasonous journos to the treasonous Democrats, how to punish the NY Times, ignoring how even if the SWIFT program was legal here maybe it wasn't legal in other countries where we implemented it…

To me the question is really still a simple one, but not about journalists. Do we retain the quintessentially American concept that the government is constrained by the Constitution, Laws, and Treaties, or is that 9/10 thinking, and we must now have a government that in our defense is subject only to the will of the Unitary Executive? (John Yoo's theory of the Unitary Executive really is the Führerprinzip translated into English, you know: the Leader as exempt from and basically the source of the Law.)

Now that we've had our little WTC Reichstag Fire, the consensus on the blog (although less so in the country at large) is that FISA, Geneva, banking laws, habeas corpus, all of these are impedimenta. Why a group of say 500 terrorists requires a response dwarfing that of the Civil War and WWII truly escapes me. But the facts remain. When Bush has a choice between implementing a policy like wiretaps lawfully (FISA warrants) and unlawfully (no warrants), he goes out of his way to choose the latter as a sign that his authority is subject to no restrictions.

I am, to put it mildly, grateful to the NY Times for sounding the tocsin and I have high hopes that it will lead to a restoration of the position of the Executive versus the Laws that had distinguished the United States since its founding.

AJL, the short answer is that the Constitution is not a suicide pact. The long answer involves copy/pasting the many solid arguments that have been made on WoC in the past, which you summarily ignore.

"Do we retain the quintessentially American concept that the government is constrained by the Constitution, Laws, and Treaties, or is that 9/10 thinking, and we must now have a government that in our defense is subject only to the will of the Unitary Executive?"

I love the smell of straw in the morning....

Andrew (#128) Don't have time to do a search right now, but I commented on Padilla years ago, saying that US citizens and residents detained in the US needed to be handled through the US court system, while those detained overseas were a different issue. Nothing's changed in my views since then.

A.L.

Here is what the NYT was asking for shortly after 9/11:

============

Organizing the hijacking of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took significant sums of money. The cost of these plots suggests that putting Osama bin Laden and other international terrorists out of business will require more than diplomatic coalitions and military action. Washington and its allies must also disable the financial networks used by terrorists.

The Bush administration is preparing new laws to help track terrorists through their money-laundering activity and is readying an executive order freezing the assets of known terrorists. Much more is needed, including stricter regulations, the recruitment of specialized investigators and greater cooperation with foreign banking authorities. There must also must be closer coordination among America’s law enforcement, national security and financial regulatory agencies.

=========================

NYT changes mind

Andrew, you're wrong on your history.

The detention of enemy aliens, especially enemy soldiers, during wartime is a long-established practice. Enemy aliens and soldiers are not detained because they have committed crimes; they are detained because they are dangerous. During World War II, the United States detained hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers in prison camps on American territory and elsewhere. Because being an enemy soldier is not a crime, these soldiers did not receive trials before their internment.

New York Times editorial

Among those detained, then given a summary hearing and execution were several enemy combatants, at least one of which claimed to be a citizen of the U.S. The Supreme Court unanimously in Ex parte Quirin ruled that their detention and execution outside the civil justice system were constitutional regardless of citizenship. In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Scalia basically said he would overturn Quirin. So the Bush administration decided not to push Padilla.

To suggest that the Bush administration is doing anything aberrational is absurd and unhistorical. The Bush administration is using the tools used in past wars and there is a lot of blow-back that this isn't like past wars.

But so far there's nothing like Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, Wilson's incarceration of people who spoke out against the war or Roosevelt's mass detention of Japanese/German Americans.

A.L., I only remembered Rob Lyman as standing up behind Padilla, but I certainly could have forgotten you. Please cancel those remarks I made to you based on Padilla.

Now, why don't you see the connection between Padilla and all the rest? Padilla's arrest was kept completely secret for weeks, and was revealed not by the newspapers but by John Ashcroft for transparent political gain. If, by some chance, the Administration had decided not to do so, and kept hidden its plan to disappear US citizens at its own whim, what would be your attitude towards the newspapers that hypothetically revealed it?

Reading the above comments--both sound and not quite so--has been lots of fun. My highlight reel:

One of the defenses of publishing the stories is that this program was disclosed in public docs back in 2002, so the current, breathless stories didn't actually reveal anything new to the terrorists. But this defense has an obvious flaw, as noted by commenter "Demosophist":

"if this stuff were actually widely known before it was reported, why does it consitute enough of a story that they were compelled to print it?

To put it another way: If the cash-tracking program was actually made public back in 2002, what in the hell made the NY/LA Times believe it was worth a front-page story now?

Would some lib/Dem be good enough to answer that? And then we'll see if the public agrees.

Another defense of the publication goes like this: "Although an individual who quietly told bin Laden about the SWIFT program might arguably be guilty of treason, publication in a major newspaper doesn't do significant harm because the government knows the information is no longer secret, and thus will no longer rely on the formerly secret program to be effective."

Of course by this 'logic' no harm could ever be done by publishing a story describing the workings of any secret program designed to gather information on terrorist activities. Is this the line Dem/Libs really want to adopt?

Another attempt at defense is to describe the program as "the government going through the financial transactions of Americans with no oversight."

But in reality the program gathered data almost exclusively on the transactions of institutions, not individuals. Indeed, virtually all transactions handled by the SWIFT clearinghouse are by institutions. But barely one article in a hundred mentions this vital fact. Why is that? Oh, that's right: It would let Americans know that the program is no threat to individual privacy AT ALL! Which of course would destroy the anti-Bush fervor in credulous readers.

Can't have that, eh?

Commenter Davebo tried this defense:
"Leaks of classified information to the press are nothing new. In fact, it is quite common."

Most parents of teens will recognize this line as "But Mom, everybody's doing it!" Delivered with a plaintive whine.

Here's leftie commenter "Walter's Ridge", summarizing the defenses:

No one is saying the info was "common knowledge", only that publishing it does no harm to counterterrorism because, presumably, clever and well-funded terrorists would be aware of it already.

But this is absolutely wrong: lefties are saying that publishing the info didn't damage U.S. anti-terrorism efforts because info about the program had been on some UN website as long ago as 2002. The program was "widely known."

Of course no one really expects logical consistency from the Left.

...reports on US monitoring of SWIFT transactions have been out there for some time. The information was fairly well known by terrorism financing experts back in 2002. The UN Al Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Group, on which I served as the terrorism financing expert, learned of the practice during the course of our monitoring inquiries.

The information was incorporated in our report to the UN Security Council in December 2002. That report is still available on the UN Website.

Perhaps incompetent or ignorant terrorists may not have been aware of this, but if anything, making this info public might even help to deter them even more from trying to fund terrorist acts.

To claim that publishing the front-page stories about the SWIFT program "might even deter them from trying to fund terrorism" is absolutely ludicrous: Publishing just prompts them to move their efforts from traceable acts to untraceable ones such as cash couriers. For WR to make this claim shows he's far into BDS psychosis.

So, to recap: 1) It wasn't a secret, and 2) publishing it in a US newspaper makes Americans aware of a program that may be used against them for non-terrorist-related reasons.

There's that "DANGER! This Karl-Rovian spying program could be used against ordinary U.S. citizens like YOU!" again. Tell ya what, WR: I'll gladly accept this program if it adds even a scintilla of evidence that helps us locate/capture/kill terrorists.

In fact, someone involved in monitoring SWIFT transactions was already dismissed for doing just that.

Okay, so why didn't you provide a link for this revelation? Do you not know how to do that, or do you just want to make a few thousand readers take their time to do a search? Or could it be that the details of the story don't support what you wrote?

And because the Times made it public, we can all sit back and freely debate the merits and pitfalls of such a system, as our Democratic system allows and requires.

But wait a sec, Walter: You just told us the info was already known to the general public (or as you couched it, "widely known") way back in 2002. If you were being accurate, the two Times stories didn't actually do anything except fan fears among credulous leftists (redundancy alert) that the eeevil Rovian GOP-bots are comin' after 'em. Wait, I see now: That was your purpose.

Commenter PD Shaw said it more succinctly: "If the NYTimes says the program is "secret," then how can you defend the Times publication of the story on the grounds that the program wasn't secret?"

Commenter Jaybo noticed another inconsistency:
"the NYT declined to reprint the Mohammed cartoons because they felt the "insult" to Muslims by publishing outweighed" the right of their readers to know firsthand what all the fuss was actually about."

So in choosing not to publish the cartoons, the Times' editors believe the public's right to know is overridden by the possibility that Muslims might be insulted. But when it comes to whether to publish a scaremongering, anti-Bush story about a program that was revealed (apparently without enough fanfare) 4 years ago that could arguably kill the program's usefulness against terrorist funding--and thus might eventually result in the murder of Americans by terrists that might otherwise have been prevented--the Times believes the public's right to know outweighs possible loss of life. Wow.

Commenter Syl had another take:
bq. Now that the program has been compromised SWIFT is in no position to hand anything over to America except what America has jurisdiction over--transactions with one end in America.

So the New York Times has lost us the ability to trace these other transactions. And for what? I see no beneift whatsoever to the American people. None.

Well, Syl, there actually is a benefit from publishing the story. It's just that it only benefits Americans who are members of the Dem party, since demonizing Bush's party makes it more likely the Dems will win more elections than they otherwise would have.

Commenter jr565 picked up yet another Leftist inconsistency:
bq. if the program wasn't secret, then the Times should have no problem revealing their [secret-leaking] sources, eh?

Great point. In fact, if those sources know the financial tracking program is unclassified, you'd think they'd step forward to claim the great credit for warning Americans of the grave danger from the power-hungry, jingoistic, fear-mongering Republicans, eh? But of course, the source(s) know the truth: they apparently believe were breaking some law by leaking to the Times. So much for the "it wasn't a secret" defense.

Walter weighs in again:
bq. Info about the program was available on that "obscure" website of the UN. The president has been talking about it on his campaign stops, as have other administration officials. Thus there's no reasonable way to dismiss the idea that this info wasn't already well known to terrorist organizations. Whether the Times thought it was [secret] or not is irrelevant.

Okay, so Walter's firmly in the "program wasn't secret" camp. In that case, can we agree that the LA Times writing that it was secret is pure sensationalism. After all, Walter has assured us that this is contrary to the facts.
Now I'm waiting for Walter to counter with the only rational avenue left: "Well I and all Dem/Libs knew it wasn't secret, but the Times reporters believed the Bush admin officials who told them it was secret. Because the reporters believed the officials, that's what they reported. So the reporters were too trusting, and it's all the fault of the Bush admin people for lying to the reporters!"

Walter then tops himself:
bq. perhaps the Times will reveal their sources to prove a point [that the program really wasn't secret, presumably]. It's only been a couple of days, so their failure to do so at this point cannot be construed as evidence for anything."

Assuming the Times continues to hide its sources, how much time will need to pass before we can fairly construe their continued silence as evidence of something? Of course I don't seriously expect a firm answer from Walter here. And even if he gave one, after that time passed he'd just move the goalposts. Typical.

Speaking of moving goalposts, commenter Andrew Lazarus wrote:
bq. [you are all] ignoring how even if the SWIFT program was legal here maybe it wasn't legal in other countries where we implemented it...

Wow, Andrew! Major goalpost-moving coup there, dude: If a government anti-terrorist program you don't like is legal here, look overseas and maybe you'll find a foreign country where it isn't! And then...and then...well...maybe the moonbats will have that hypothetical country subpoena Bush and by God then we'll have us some accountability! Yeeearrrgh!

Andrew then proceeds to characterize the events of 9/11 as "our little WTC Reichstag Fire". Seriously. Nice trivialization, guy.

Again, thanks to all for the nice work--or the entertainment, as the case may be.

Would some moderator kindly take the time to fix those "bq"s and make them "bq."s in the above post? It'd help with legibility... but maybe I ask too much. :)

SF,

"To put it another way: If the cash-tracking program was actually made public back in 2002, what in the hell made the NY/LA Times believe it was worth a front-page story now"

Simple. The article points to the lack of accountability, that there is no oversight.

That is what is new, and it is linked to the lack of oversight on the NSA wiretapping, as well as the refusal to follow the law regarding FISA.

So is anyone going to answer what the overriding public interest was in exposing this program?

PD Shaw (61) If I were to guess, its to keep the story going on the NSA wiretaps.

hypocrisy rules: it is linked to the lack of oversight on the NSA wiretapping, as well as the refusal to follow the law regarding FISA.

Can we all agree that the public interest was in knowing the "secretiveness" of Bush?

Burn the flag. Do it while you still can. Burn the flag to demonstrate to your children that as a free American you have the right to free speech no matter how much others may disagree.

OK now that I have your attention here is the point.

The press is free to print whatever they believe is worthy of printing. Hence we get a wide range of press genres from serious to nonsense and everything in between.

I don't like a lot of it. But as an American I support the right of the press. Support for a free press is especially important when the press publishes things the government wants to be kept secret.

Given the choice between a free press and a press that publishes only what the government wants published, I will choose a fee press every time.

That is what it means to be an American citizen.

I see that the conservatives would rather have the meaning of citizenship be closer to the soviet communist meaning where the degree of loyalty to the government is the measure of citizenship.

Defending the free press is one of the real measure of a persons patriotism and worth as an American citizen. This is so obvious that I am constantly disappointed by the cowards who advocate giving up this essential American freedom.

Ken

I too support a free press and given your alternatives, a free press is superior to a governmental controlled one. I am unaware of anyone who disputes this. But that is not the issue.

The real question is whether the press acted irresponsibly in printing an article that weakened our fight against terrorist and exposed Americans to greater risk. I believe the NYT has and so do a number of others including conservatives. The Times has given an inconsistent and hypocritical defense for its actions, only exacerbating critic's feelings that the paper has created further danger to the public it professes to serve.

I don't want government controlled media but neither do I want a media that can get me killed.

Jaybo, let's reason about this.

Why would we believe that this program is any help at all against terrorists?

It's reasonable that no dangerous terrorist would do the stupidities that make it useful. However, the director of the program says that it has been useful though of course he can't give us any details.

Now consider -- when was the last time the director of a billion-dollar government program announced that his program was useless and achieved none of its stated purposes?

JT, you're kidding, right?

"Why would we believe that this program is any help at all against terrorists?"

Um, Bali bomber, London bombers, a couple of Al-Quieda management types - did you read the New York Times article?

Good grief...

A.L.

AL, whyever would you believe that stuff?

This is a government at war, and the main front of the war is american public opinion. Why would you believe they'd tell the truth about anything connected to the forever war?

The yellow-stained pants legs of the (former) conservative movement are no better on display than here:
There's that "DANGER! This Karl-Rovian spying program could be used against ordinary U.S. citizens like YOU!" again. Tell ya what, WR: I'll gladly accept this program if it adds even a scintilla of evidence that helps us locate/capture/kill terrorists.
That's really it. Bill of Rights, Magna Carta, privacy, freedom, all the beautiful structure of limited government and the Rule of Law has to go down the drain for even a scintilla of evidence to thwart terrorists.

There were millions of Germans like you, sf, after the Reichstag burned. The gave over all their institutional freedoms to one man who promised them he would stop at nothing to defeat Judeo-Bolshevism, and you must admit, he certainly did stop at nothing. Why you wish to follow this example, you will have to explain.

There's that "DANGER! This Karl-Rovian spying program could be used against ordinary U.S. citizens like YOU!" again. Tell ya what, WR: I'll gladly accept this program if it adds even a scintilla of evidence that helps us locate/capture/kill terrorists.

That's really it. Bill of Rights, Magna Carta, privacy, freedom, all the beautiful structure of limited government and the Rule of Law has to go down the drain for even a scintilla of evidence to thwart terrorists.

Well, but the Bush administration says it's necessary. So the basic question here is, do you trust them? If you trust them to do the right thing, if you trust them with your life, then you'll trust them with the Bill of Rights and the laws and all that.

And if you don't trust them, what could they do to get you to trust them?

There were millions of Germans like you, sf, after the Reichstag burned. The gave over all their institutional freedoms to one man who promised them he would stop at nothing to defeat Judeo-Bolshevism, and you must admit, he certainly did stop at nothing. Why you wish to follow this example, you will have to explain.

It's different. Millions of germans believed that the jews and the communists were trying to destroy them, and would do anything at all, and the only way to stop them was to give up all restraint and do absolutely whatever it took.

And millions of americans believe that the arabs and the islamists are trying to destroy us, and will do anything at all. and the only way to stop them is to give up all restraint and do absolutely whatever it takes.

But it's a false comparison. The essential difference is that the germans were wrong and we are right. The germans really had no enemies, certainly not their own jewish citizens. The germans were just paranoid. But we really do have enemies. Millions of arabs and muslims are our dedicated enemies, and they are recruiting more. We could easily wind up with up to 1.2 billion suicide bombers coming after us, sneaking into our country to damage us however they can. They might take over oil-rich countries, and get tremendous wealth selling the oil, and then buy the weapons from europe that they'd need to conquer the whole middle east and north africa and then europe. They are the worst threat we've faced since the USSR collapsed, and they'll continue to be our worst threat until china gets armed.

That's the difference. The germans wrongly thought that jews were their deadly enemies and a terrible threat, but we rightly think that islamists are our deadly enemies and a terrible threat.

And the important thing about this is that there are people -- some of them on this very blog -- who'd say almost the same thing with no sense of irony whatsoever.

Leave a comment

Here are some quick tips for adding simple Textile formatting to your comments, though you can also use proper HTML tags:

*This* puts text in bold.

_This_ puts text in italics.

bq. This "bq." at the beginning of a paragraph, flush with the left hand side and with a space after it, is the code to indent one paragraph of text as a block quote.

To add a live URL, "Text to display":http://windsofchange.net/ (no spaces between) will show up as Text to display. Always use this for links - otherwise you will screw up the columns on our main blog page.




Recent Comments
  • TM Lutas: Jobs' formula was simple enough. Passionately care about your users, read more
  • sabinesgreenp.myopenid.com: Just seeing the green community in action makes me confident read more
  • Glen Wishard: Jobs was on the losing end of competition many times, read more
  • Chris M: Thanks for the great post, Joe ... linked it on read more
  • Joe Katzman: Collect them all! Though the French would be upset about read more
  • Glen Wishard: Now all the Saudis need is a division's worth of read more
  • mark buehner: Its one thing to accept the Iranians as an ally read more
  • J Aguilar: Saudis were around here (Spain) a year ago trying the read more
  • Fred: Good point, brutality didn't work terribly well for the Russians read more
  • mark buehner: Certainly plausible but there are plenty of examples of that read more
  • Fred: They have no need to project power but have the read more
  • mark buehner: Good stuff here. The only caveat is that a nuclear read more
  • Ian C.: OK... Here's the problem. Perceived relevance. When it was 'Weapons read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: Chris, If there were some way to do all these read more
  • Chris M: Marcus Vitruvius, I'm surprised by your comments. You're quite right, read more
The Winds Crew
Town Founder: Left-Hand Man: Other Winds Marshals
  • 'AMac', aka. Marshal Festus (AMac@...)
  • Robin "Straight Shooter" Burk
  • 'Cicero', aka. The Quiet Man (cicero@...)
  • David Blue (david.blue@...)
  • 'Lewy14', aka. Marshal Leroy (lewy14@...)
  • 'Nortius Maximus', aka. Big Tuna (nortius.maximus@...)
Other Regulars Semi-Active: Posting Affiliates Emeritus:
Winds Blogroll
Author Archives
Categories
Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en