Saturday, June 24, 2006

The NYT Suicide Bombs Our National Security

We are fairly well acquainted with the term "suicide bomber" in this age of the War on Terror. A suicide bomber is one who, out of hate for others--generally civilians--and in order to destroy them, makes themselves the delivery device for a bomb, killing themselves in the process, feeling that the destruction of others whom they hate was worth their own death. Unfortunately, the New York Times has adopted that same philosophy when it comes to our national security.

Once considered the newspaper of record, the Times has over the past 15 years moved from a respected publication to become little more than an outpost for the distribution of leftist yellow journalism, masquerading as sober reporting inside the cloak of its old reputation. And in the past six months, The Times has made a point of releasing state secrets essential to the maintaining of our security in the war on terror.

They began last December by revealing the fact that NSA was listening in on telephone calls between suspected terrorists and persons in other nations. The Administration asked them not to do it in 2004, before the election, and so they waited a year, only because they knew that John Kerry would have probably been shortsighted enough to take the ACLU stance, just when he was desperately trying to establish some national security credibility in an election that hinged on the issue. So they released it a year later when Bush was attempting a political recovery after the Katrina disaster and other complications.

And when they released it, The Times let the NSA program be cast as a violation of our civil liberties and an indicator, however false, that the Bush Administration had overstepped its boundaries under the Constitution. But in so doing, they allowed terrorists to know how we track them and helped them adapt to our efforts to protect ourselves. Al Qaida had few greater friends than the Grey Lady.

And now again, The Times has released information on yet another classified program which monitors financial transactions and enables them to track accounts of suspected terrorists. The Administration again asked the Times not to report on the matter. But citing their opinion that to do so was "in the public interest", the Editor, Bill Keller decided to release the story anyway, again letting our enemies know that their financial histories were monitored and probably compromised. And Keller's incredible and self-contradictory apologetic (H.T. Hugh Hewitt) sets forth a really silly defense of what was plainly and foreseeably a devastating decision to our national security.

Most revealing is the real core of Keller's argument:
It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective,but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financiers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it. [emphasis mine]
In a nutshell, it's a great program that catches the bad guys, is not the source of any complaints, and is probably legal, but [snicker] we think that the whole thing ought to be decided in the public square--making the program useless. And if anyone believes this snide rationale as anything but a mask for pure partisan venom, they are simple.

Because more folks than just the Administration demanded that this information not be released. The Chairmen of the 9/11 committee, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton recommended that this not be released. As did Jack Murtha of all people. The argument that Keller offers falls flat.

The only explanation that makes sense in light of all of these facts is that the Times "suicide bombed" this program. Out of pure hate for the Bush Administration, they exposed secrets that protect us and them, but in an effort to cause trouble for the President, (and by all accounts, this is killing the Times, not Bush), they took away a valuable tool in the war on Terror.

Now to the consequences.

This was nothing if not pernicious, so perhaps a prosecution is in order, and Gabriel Schoenfeld offers a great peek into the means of prosecuting the Times, not for leaking, as they didn't do that, but for divulging information in a way that would help enemies. It's an option.

And while would not ordinarily favor prosecution, leaving this just to the court of public opinion, as reporting is almost always a 1st Amendment issue, I can't do that here. The Times' politics got in the way of national security, and they used it to make us less safe as a nation in a very real and measurable way. That needs to come at a price.

The next option is for all but the Ward Churchill left to drop their subscriptions. Stop buying it on the street, don't even give it a second look.

And for that matter, perhaps the White House should revoke their press access, leaving the Times's White House correspondent to sit outside the fence with the rest of us whom they made less safe. Freeze them out, give them nothing, no interviews, and leave them with no sourcing.

And so while Bill Keller may not have considered these things in his snarky little letter, perhaps the degrading of his paper, the shutting out of his reporters and the loss of his readers, and perhaps even his own prosecution may be helping him reevaluate his decision in hindsight.

Too bad. Because the Americans don't like the kind of arrogance that makes these kinds of decisions affecting our safety in order to score a worthless political jab.

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