In today’s editorial, the New York Times tries to defend itself after being roundly denounced for exposing an effective antiterror program that tracked terrorists’ financial transactions. Their arguments are complete drivel.
Heather MacDonald has a piece in The Weekly Standard, which tears apart the New York Times’ so called defense. Here’s a portion, but be sure to read all of it.
BY NOW IT’S UNDENIABLE: The New York Times is a national security threat. So drunk is it on its own power and so antagonistic to the Bush administration that it will expose every classified antiterror program it finds out about, no matter how legal the program, how carefully crafted to safeguard civil liberties, or how vital to protecting American lives.
The Times’s latest revelation of a national security secret appeared on last Friday’s front page–where no al Qaeda operative could possibly miss it. Under the deliberately sensational headline, “Bank Data Sifted in Secret by U.S. to Block Terror,” the Times blows the cover on a highly targeted program to locate terrorist financing networks. According to the report, since 9/11, the Bush administration has obtained information about terror suspects’ international financial transactions from a Belgian clearinghouse of international money transfers.
The procedure for obtaining that information could not be more solicitous of privacy and the rule of law: Agents are only allowed to seek information based on intelligence tying specific individuals to al Qaeda; they must document the intelligence behind every search request and maintain an electronic record of every search; and, in an inspired civil liberties innovation that would undoubtedly garner kudos from the Times had a Democratic administration devised it, a board of independent auditors from banks reviews the subpoena requests to make sure that only terror suspects’ transactions are traced. Any use of the data for criminal investigations into drug trafficking, say, or tax fraud is banned. The administration briefed congressional leaders and the 9/11 Commission about the system.
There is nothing about this program that exudes even a whiff of illegality. The Supreme Court has squarely held that bank records are not constitutionally protected private information. The government may obtain them without seeking a warrant from a court, because the bank depositor has already revealed his transactions to his bank–or, in the case of the present program, to a whole slew of banks that participate in the complicated international wire transfers overseen by the Belgian clearinghouse known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift. To get specific information about individual terror suspects, intelligence agents prepare an administrative subpoena, which is issued after extensive internal agency review. The government does not monitor a terror suspect’s international wire transfers in real time; the records of his transactions are delivered weeks later. And Americans’ routine financial transactions, such as ATM withdrawals or domestic banking, lie completely outside of the Swift database.
The New York Times tries very hard to argue that it is only looking out for the best interests and the privacy rights of the American people. However, as Ms. MacDonald points out, the banking transactions that the majority of Americans do every day are outside the scope of this antiterror program. Additionally, no one from the US government is accessing the Swift database and browsing around, fishing for information. The Times had to have known this at the time it published its Bush administration hit piece.
Ace of Spades doesn’t mince any words in his repudiation of the NY Times and other media outlets that outed the antiterrorism operation:
The left continues to undermine national security in the most despicable, cynical way. I’m quite sure the reasonable liberals at the NYT and WaPo know full well that programs like this are absolutely vital, and their secrecy is likewise vital. However, they have made the most anti-American and evil sort of decision: While tools like this are vital for saving American lives, they will not permit any Republican President to use them. Only Democratic Presidents are permitted to employ the full panoply of powers for protecting American lives.
It’s blackmail, pure and simple. Either let a Democrat into the White House, or we will continue to sabotage American security and, in effect, kill Americans. We will keep secrets when a Democrat is in office, but not a Republican. So we offer the American people a choice: Let the politicians we favor run the country, or we will help Al Qaeda murder you.
Whether or not the Times’ intent is to blackmail the American public into electing a Democrat for president, it is clear that the New York Times and its left-wing media cronies intend to make the Bush administration’s job of protecting the American people from terrorist attacks as difficult as possible.
And Milblogger Sergeant TF Boggs does not appreciate that. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, which Sgt. Boggs permitted Hugh Hewitt to publish on his site, he wrote in part the following:
Your recent decision to publish information about a classified program intended to track the banking transactions of possible terrorists is not only detrimental to America but also to its fighting men and women overseas. I know because I am a sergeant in the army on my second tour to Iraq. As I am sure you donâ€™t know because you arenâ€™t in Iraq, and I am sure never will be, terrorism happens here everyday because there are rich men out there willing to support the everyday terrorist who plants bombs and shoots soldiers just to make a living. Without money terrorism in Iraq would die because there would no longer be supplies for IEDâ€™s, no mortars or RPGâ€™s, and no motivation for people to abandon regular work in hopes of striking it rich after killing a soldier.
Throughout your article you mention that â€œ the banking program is a closely held secretâ€ but the cat is out of the bag now isnâ€™t it. Terrorists the world over can now change their practices because of your article. For some reason I think that last sentence will bring you guys pleasure. You have done something great in your own eyes-you think you have hurt the current administration while at the same time encouraging â€œfreedom fightersâ€ resisting the imperialism of the United States. However, I foresee a backlash coming your way. I wish I had a subscription to your paper so I could cancel it as soon as possible. But alas, that would prove a little tough right now since I am in Iraq dealing with terrorists financed by the very men you are helping.
Thank you for continually contributing to the deaths of my fellow soldiers. You guys definitely provide a valuable service with your paper. Why without you how would terrorists stay one step ahead of us? I would love to hear a response as to why you deemed revealing this program a necessity, but that will probably come as soon as the government decides to finally put you guys behind bars where you belong.
Right on, Sgt. Boggs.
Update: Check out the New York Times’ newest disclosure of classified information. It published information from a classified Pentagon briefing about troop reductions.