It's nice that Wretchard can often put things so well that there isn't much one can add, but it does make things a bit tough on the rest of us:
But what's required to gather intelligence sits uneasily with individuals and institutions who fear these methods are brutal, dangerous and warlike, which of course they all are. And so they undermine them at every turn to ease their conscience.
It's not totally accurate to call them "free riders" because they're as likely to pay the long term price as the rest of us, but they're free riding in the sense that those of us who feel compelled for the sake of consistency to acknowledge the risk and support some of these morally uncomfortable practices end up holding a load that they're too pure to touch. Well, somebody's gotta not do it, apparently:
There would be no problem with the NYT's leaks, or acceding to demands that every enemy combatant be provided with the full panoply of procedural protections, requiring that captured terrorists only be asked their name, rank and serial number -- they have any of those -- and insisting that gentlemen don't read other people's mail for so long as one was willing to pay the price. The problem is that many of the very same persons who want to restrict society's ability to make war also want casualty free wars, no collateral damage to enemy targets and a guarantee of safety not only to the population of the US and Allied Countries, but even to civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not principled behavior. It is infantile behavior.
One would think this was obvious unless there were some way to convince yourself that we're not actually at war and it's all just another Bush fiction. Or if you don't really believe that, then at least your acknowledgment can wait until there are fewer people willing to toss their load on your back should you think about joining the adults. It's a time calculation with a discount rate for an ultimate risk that no one really knows. The one thing that's certain is that the fewer people playing this free riding game, the shorter the term for everyone.
The real betrayal lies in the claim that that's not as certain as we know it to be.
Updtade 2 (because the comment section won't accept embedded links to blogspot.com blogs):
Wretchard has more material about the NYT's rather inconsistent use of editorial judgment here. It pretty much lays to rest most of the excuses and apologetics of the alchemist and others. An excerpt from Secretary Snow's letter to Bill Keller:
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.
Lastly, justifying this disclosure by citing the "public interest" in knowing information about this program means the paper has given itself free license to expose any covert activity that it happens to learn of - even those that are legally grounded, responsibly administered, independently overseen, and highly effective. Indeed, you have done so here.What you've seemed to overlook is that it is also a matter of public interest that we use all means available - lawfully and responsibly - to help protect the American people from the deadly threats of terrorists. I am deeply disappointed in the New York Times.
Thus, there isn't the slightest credibility either to the objection that the "terrorists already knew" or to the bogus concept that there was anything untoward in how the program was run. And all of that was spelled out to the Times editorial staff, who simply chose to ignore it. They did, however, decide not to "insult" the Islamists by publishing the cartoons.
Now, one might consider the main reason why they were so sensitive about giving offense to the Islamists is that the Islamists tend to hurt people who insult them. The Times staff might very well feel the same accommodative sensitivity toward motorcycle gangs.