I pit the short-sighted self serving twits at the New York Times

It’s been a couple of days since the story broke…and since nobody else has taken the plunge, I guess I will.

The New York Times has decided to expose an effective program that tracks money to terrorists and organizations.

Despite being asked not to make the information public by the Treasury Department…despite the fact that Congress was aware of the program…despite the fact that the program resulted in the capture of the mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people…the twits at the Times decided to essentially end the program by calling attention to it. The two leaders of the 9/11 commission even talked to the paper about not publishing the story…to no avail.

Why? According to Times executive editor Bill Keller there were “people who are experts and involved in the program who have questions both about its legality and the way, in their view, that what was supposed to be a stopgap measure has become somewhat permanent.”

I see. So some people who are involved in the program decided to leak information about a classified program because they had “questions about its legality”. Perhaps they should have brought those concerns to their superiors rather than leak them to a newspaper. I have no concerns about the illegality of leaking classified information. I hope these “concerned” people become concerned with felony charges and prison time. They essentially killed an effective terrorism fighting tool because they wanted to score some points against someone or feel the thrill of talking to a reporter who hung on their every word.

Additionally, there is very little practical news value in the story. It was a program that had been ongoing for years. It wasn’t new. It wasn’t covert. The Times published the story because they could, not because they were serving any greater public interest.

Well fine…the Times has tagged an administration they hate. They have gotten to wax poetic about “the publics right to know”. They have had the opportunity to look in the mirror and see the principled crusading journalists everybody now knows they are.

And a program that has caught killers in the past and could have caught more in the future goes into the trash can.

And Damn the Times for publishing The Pentagon Papers as well, revealing our secret Vietnam strategy.

Your point being…?

His point is to deliver an easy throwaway line that requires very little thought or justification. It serves as a rejoinder just above “I know you are, but what am I?”

Its easier to do that than to acknowledge that there are bigger issues at stake here that are not easily resolved with slogans and ideologically comfortable earmuffs and blinders.

I’ve got another one of those:

If it ain’'t secret, what’s your problem with talking about it?

I hadn’t known about this program. Therefore it was news to me, at least. The concerns about its legality make it somewhat important news for me.

And if the program wasn’t covert, what’s the big deal about the Times publishing a story about it? Is it just that it makes the administration look bad? True, the Times doesn’t need to help them do that- the administration is doing a bang-up job of that by itself.

Silly me, I’ve always had a great respect for “the publics right to know” in journalism.

Eroding our freedom in the interest of “national security” has been this Administrations weapon of choice against it’s citizens for oh, about 4 years 9 months and 17 days now. The inability (or refusal) of this Administration to define “suspected terrorists” in a way that makes the average citizen like myself feel safe from being tagged as such leaves me no choice but to rail against programs of this ilk.

And really, who is to say that the seemingly legitimate concerns regarding the legality of this program had’nt been brought before their superiors to no avail?

But whatever. Freedom, 9/11, 9/11, Terrorism, Mission Accomplished, I suppose. :rolleyes:

I knew this would come up. As I hit “Submit Reply”, I realized that I hadn’t made this point clearly enough.

What I meant to say was that the program was not hidden from Congress. It wasn’t bleack-hearted men using the Constitution as toilet paper as they conspire to breach yet another civil liberty.

There was no compelling reason to publish the story other than playing “gotcha” with the Bush administration…and being blinded by this desire rather than seeing the greater good.

Let’s see if I can explain it, without wandering off on a tangent.

In this country, there is a concept of “freedom of the press”. It is a supposedly guaranteed “thing”, and it was put into our constitution, in order to keep the voting public informed about the deeds or misdeeds of our officials. It was also supposedly a way to keep and maintain a certain openness and transparency in the government. This freedom is especially important whenever a government tries to cloak what they do in secrecy, claiming “national security”. If it were not for the press, would anyone have ever found out about Abramoff’s deals, or Libby’s involvement in security leaks? Go further back to the Watergate burglars or the Pentagon papers. A free and unfettered press is a sort of safety valve, which “releases the pressure” of too much greed, incompetence, and corruption in government. It does this by reporting it.

This country is a republic, a form of representative democracy. The people elect their leaders. To do so, they must know the facts. Not the government approved spin, not their poltical party’s sound bites, the facts. They need to know which candidates will serve their interests of philosophies, and also which incumbents have failed or refused to do so.

The press is not supposed to be the government’s mouthpiece. It is not supposed to print or broadcast only those things that are favorable to or authorized by the government. That is manipulation and censorsip. It is misinformation. It is collusion.

As to this latest “project”, I take it this is the program that watches and records our banking activity. This could have been done before, on an as needed basis, by getting the necessary search warrants or authorizations. This program however, is yet another “fishing expedition” into the private and personal business of American citizens without probable cause, or warrants/affirmations/blahblahblah. It is the financial version of the illicit wiretapping that the government has been doing. That was done in a blanket fashion too, and was also done without warrants or authorizations from a judge.

It is the duty of the press to report such things. It is what they are supposed to do. If the press does not report things of such magnituded that effect every citizen, then it has no reason and no right to exsit.

*“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” - The First Amendment

Let it be impressed upon your minds, let it be instilled into your children, that the liberty of the press is the palladium of all the civil, political, and religious rights. - Junius

Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost. - Thomas Jefferson

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington

The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure. - Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette

“No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defence. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics. I think it as honorable to the government neither to know nor notice its sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter.” --Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1792

The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers… [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. - Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp

To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves. ~Claude-Adrien Helvétius

The test of democracy is freedom of criticism. ~David Ben-Gurion*

Gabe, if are unwilling to concede that Bush has a point, I won’t try to teach you to sing.

And what would be your plan to try to preempt terrorist attacks? One that would be in keeping with your political philosophy?

Hmmm, “Follow the Money” is a ‘top secret program’ that, if talked about, jeopardizes the security of the United States…?

I guess Fancy telling Sipowicz that in '95 must have been a real NSA nightmare. :smack:

Seriously, I can’t blame Bush for his point of view in guarding Intelligence; this administration had so little of it to begin with. As a matter of fact, it can be argued that this administration has made the most with the least amount of Actual Intelligence of any administration in the history of the United States. But that’s for another thread.

Steve, I say the following sincerely and free of sarcasm.

Your post was thoughtful and relevant. I appreciate your effort in putting it together. I spent 20 years in the news business and have done my share of putting out facts that someone didn’t want released. I take pride in the fact that my efforts have improved the lives of others by publically exposing wrongs and having them righted.

That said…I still don’t see the compelling journalistic reason to expose this program and end it by default. For every example that someone who disagrees with me comes up with, I can come up with examples of news outlets keeping their mouths shut for the greater good. It was common practice in World War II, for example, for the press to put the publics safety and the war effort ahead of “their right to know”.

I think the difference today is the fact that a lot of the political opponents of the president view the fact that we are in a war with internal quotation marks above the word “war”. They can’t bring themselves to face the fact that we are trying to kill people before they kill us. If they did face that reality, it would pull them out of their ideological comfort zone.

I now make some of you uncomfortable by involking 9/11. Some people understood the reality of fighting terrorism before 9/11. For others, 9/11 was the 2X4 to the head that they needed. And today, others who are a bit more stubborn are going to require another attack to hit them between the eyes before they begin pulling the plow in the same direction as the rest of us.

Do you not understand the issue at hand or are you being deliberately obtuse to make a political point?


In addition, you’re asserting at least two implicit assumptions, first “if Congress knows about a clandesting project, then it’s ethical and should remain secret,” and second “if a law-enforcement policy catches criminals, then it is ethically justified.” Neither of those hold water.

It’s always a tough call on whether stuff like this should be published. I don’t buy the argument that “the terrorists already know this, so we’re not telling them anything new”. For one thing, terrorism operates in highly disconnected cells without perfect information flow between them. Who knows if the next crop of independent or semi-independent operators will be smart enought to take the needed evasive actions.

OTOH, Bush is notorious for 2 things: intense secrecy and pushing the legal boundaries. He isn’t going to be given the benefit of the doubt.

I would hope that if the NYT got a bipartisan request to not publish that they would have not published. If the administation was sure about its claims, it should have been able to convince some Democratic Congressmen to support them in making the case to the NYT. Anyone know if this happened?

And lets not forget that in this day and age, if someone wants to leak something, they’re going to leak it and they’re going to find someone to publish it. And once it’s out there, it’s fair game for all the press outlets.

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? How does this country maintain it’s identy as the one that holds the moral high ground by insisting that EVERYBODY follow the law of the land without becoming a sitting duck for every terrorist out there?

I suspect everyone has their own answer as to how many intrusions are too many and how safe is safe enough.

I believe that if we lose our civil liberties and allow torture then we have kissed our soul as a country good-bye and the terrorists have truely already won.

By publishing the article the NYT raises the issue. What is the price we are paying for the current plan to preempt terrorist attacks? It’s an important question and we ought to be discussing it more than we do, IMHO.

Oh, Congress knew about it! That’s alright then! We can trust Congress!

Evil One, when people say they don’t trust the government, exactly who do you think they’re talking about?

Logic, a basic understanding of the political climate in the United States and knowledge of the New York Times editorial political philosophy.

If congress knows about a program, the party that is out of power can use it to bash the current administration over the head with if the program is not kosher. The intelligence committees in the house and senate have members of both parties.

And herein lies the rub. When do you sacrifice effectiveness for philosophy? Does the program catch the guilty and protect the innocent? Does it violate the law or common sense to do so? Hard questions, indeed…an issue beyond talking points and slogans.