Dammit. These people don’t know when to stop. The anonymous leak-addicted NYTimes tag team of Eric Lichtblau and James Risen is at it again. Their front-page, splashy piece posted on the web tonight and top-linked on Drudge:
“Secret?” Not anymore.
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.
The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database.
Viewed by the Bush administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said.
“Hidden?” Not anymore.
The blabbermouths who have just blown the cover on this program don’t seem to care that they’ve sabotaged a successful counterterrorism tool:
[The program] has provided clues to money trails and ties between possible terrorists and groups financing them, the officials said. In some instances, they said, the program has pointed them to new suspects, while in others it has buttressed cases already under investigation.
Among the successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. The Swift data identified a previously unknown figure in Southeast Asia who had financial dealings with a person suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda; that link helped locate Hambali in Thailand in 2003, they said.
In the United States, the program has provided financial data in investigations into possible domestic terrorist cells as well as inquiries of Islamic charities with suspected of having links to extremists, the officials said.
The data also helped identify a Brooklyn man who was convicted on terrorism-related charges last year, the officials said. The man, Uzair Paracha, who worked at a New York import business, aided a Qaeda operative in Pakistan by agreeing to launder $200,000 through a Karachi bank, prosecutors said.
In terrorism prosecutions, intelligence officials have been careful to “sanitize,” or hide the origins of evidence collected through the program to keep it secret, officials said.
Now all their careful efforts have been destroyed by Bush-deranged reporters who fashion themselves the true protectors of America. Here’s editor Bill Keller explaning why he ignored the Bush administration’s argument for keeping the legal program secret:
Bill Keller, the newspaper’s executive editor, said: “We have listened closely to the administration’s arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration’s extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest.”
“Public interest,” my you-know-what.
As Stephen Spruiell at The Media Blog points out (hat tip: Allah):
According to the NYT’s own reporting, the program is legal. The program is helping us catch terrorists. The administration has briefed the appropriate members of Congress. The program has built-in safeguards to prevent abuse. And yet, with nothing more than a vague appeal to the “public interest” (which apparently is not outweighed in this case by the public’s interest in apprehending terrorists), the NYT disregards all that and publishes intimate, classified details about the program. Keller and his team really do believe they are above the law. When it comes to national security, it isn’t the government that should decide when secrecy is essential to a program’s effectiveness. It is the New York Times.
National security be damned. There are Pulitzers to be won.
And more fat book advances to be chased, no doubt.
The NYTimes has in-house produced video showcasing Licthblau as he “reveals a secret Bush administration program to access to financial records.”
Aren’t we so proud of ourselves?
Can anyone tell me why this program is a matter of public interest? The monitoring is done overseas, and does not involve monitoring purely domestic transactions (although I wouldn’t see the problem if it did). An outside auditor was hired to safeguard against abuses, and under International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the President had the “investigate, regulate or prohibit” foreign transactions in responding to “an unusual and extraordinary threat.”
But now, thanks to fine folks at The New York Times, yet another effective tool in the war on terror has been exposed to the enemy, despite the fact that no one can point to any legal problem with the program and that it has been effective in capturing those who would kill us…Much like the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program, I predict the Dems and the MSM will overplay their hand. Americans with common sense and who actually want to win the war on terror won’t be able to see what the big deal is about this program, and in fact would probably be upset if we weren’t doing it.
Call me crazy, but since the program is legal and since the administration argues it has helped stop terror attacks, isn’t the weight of the public’s interest in this story on the side of keeping the program under wraps so that it can continue to stop terrorists?
When the terrorists finally do succeed, will the Times rush out with an apology for having outed two major anti-terror programs that just might have helped stop it–if they had remained secret? Of course not. We all know what the Times will do–blame Bush.
I am biting down on my rage right now. I’ll resist the temptation to say Ann Coulter was right about where Timothy McVeigh should have gone with his truck bomb. I’ll say only this: it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the people at the New York Times are not just biased media folks whose antics can be laughed off. They are actually dangerous…The article is likely to do far more than “jeopardize [the program’s] effectiveness.” It’s clear to me that the publication of the article will shut it down entirely. The article says that, in 2003, officials of the banking cooperative “were discussing pulling out because of their concerns about legal and financial risks if the program were revealed, one government official said.” But our top officials did a “full-court press” and promised to institute even tighter controls, which had apparently been quite successful.
Now that the program has been splashed all over the pages of the New York Times, I think that Swift’s era of cooperation with the U.S. Government is over.
What exactly is in the public interest about revealing classified information that has been successful in tracking and apprehending murderous terrorists?
[W]hat is most ironic about these leak stories is that dubious decision-making by today’s “adversarial” media will doubtless create a climate in which it is far more likely that future administrations will take extraordinary measures to keep information secret. All because some in the press have forgotten that with access and freedom comes great responsibility. That the NYT is willing to trade that responsibility for a “scoop” it pretends is in the “public interest” is, frankly, embarrassing—and one of the reasons Americans are increasingly unhappy with the mainstream press.
And in the long-run, we could find ourselves less informed because of it. Which is a net negative for a truly free society.
Send a letter to the editor by e-mailing [email protected] or faxing (212)556-3622.
Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
The Los Angeles Times thumbs its nose and national security:
Administration officials were concerned that news reports of the program would diminish its effectiveness and could harm overall national security.
“It’s a tough call; it was not a decision made lightly,” said Doyle McManus, the Los Angeles Times’ Washington bureau chief. “The key issue here is whether the government has shown that there are adequate safeguards in these programs to give American citizens confidence that information that should remain private is being protected.”
Treasury Department officials spent 90 minutes Thursday meeting with the newspaper’s reporters, stressing the legality of the program and urging the paper to not publish a story on the program, McManus said in a telephone interview.
“They were quite vigorous, they were quite energetic. They made a very strong case,” he said.
And they blew the Bush administration off anyway.
Write the Los Angeles Times here.