As bad as Howell Raines' tenure at the New York Times was, Bill Keller's is worse. The New York Times can now be counted upon to disregard each and every request from the Bush Administration to withhold publishing classified material about any anti-terrorism program the United States has implemented. Such classified material is only exposed to the Times after it has been illegally leaked to the paper. This is irresponsible journalism at its worst. At some point the US will have to engage in a disinformation campaign to out the government employees who leak this information to the press.
Here is what happened and what's so bad about the Times' (and the LA Times') latest revelations, from Andy McCarthy:
For the second time in seven months, the Times has exposed classified information about a program aimed at protecting the American people against a repeat of the September 11 attacks. On this occasion, it has company in the effort: The Los Angeles Times runs a similar, sensational story. Together, the newspapers disclose the fact that the United States has covertly developed a capability to monitor the nerve center of the international financial network in order to track the movement of funds between terrorists and their facilitators.
The effort, which the government calls the “Terrorist Finance Tracking Program” (TFTP), is entirely legal. There are no conceivable constitutional violations involved. . .
* * *
. . . the most salient thing we learn from today’s compromise of the TFTP is that the program has been highly effective at keeping us safe. According to the government, it has helped identify and locate terrorists and their financial backers; it has been instrumental in charting terrorist networks; and it has been essential in starving these savage organizations of their lifeblood: funding.
In other words, the NY Times and LA Times have exposed the workings of a government program that has been highly successful, wholly non-invasive to ordinary citizens, and aids the US efforts against terrorists worldwide. Why? Because Keller and the LA Times deemed this a matter of "public interest."
So is every investigation against Islamist terrorism a matter of public interest; so was every spy hunt against KGB infiltration of the CIA, FBI, MI5 and MI6; so is each and every operation against al Qaeda. We ALL want to know what the government is doing, but we do not have the right to know how it is doing it unless it is violating Federal law or the Constitution. Neither the TFTP nor the NSA's phone-information gathering reach this threshold, nor do they come near it. The Times' actions are outrageous and weaken the security of the United States and the American people.
McCarthy says "The blunt reality here is that there is a war against the war. It is the jihad of privacy fetishists whose self-absorption knows no bounds. Pleas rooted in the well-being of our community hold no sway."
He's right, but there's more. This is also a partisan-divide issue -- there would be no mass exposure of alleged government intrusion into our daily lives if the media did not despise Pres. Bush.
The Times is now officially a disgrace. And every government employee who leaked this information, or would seek to leak similar information in the future, should be subject to the most severe criminal penalties for disseminating classified information that Federal law allows.
See here for more.