Friday, June 23, 2006

NYT: Exposes that Legal Intel Program that Should Be Illegal?

The “matter of public interest” that Keller lists as the reason the NYT ran the story, is in fact the reason that everyone is reading about the story currently. It is what drives the media to gather and produce news and the consumption of news by consumers. It seems to me however, that the impact and effects of publishing such a story also have to be considered.

In both the NYT article and in the LA Times article, both state that the program as “legal”. So if the program is legal but a classified and a valuable intelligence tool that has been directly credited with capturing a high level terrorist (Riduan Isamuddin – Bali Resort bombing mastermind) and providing many valuable leads, then it seems to me that the security of the country and value this program added probably out weights the “public interest” argument issued by Keller…………….

The President through his spokesperson said he was concerned that the NYT had decided to run a story that revealed a classified program that helped protect the American people, via NY Sun:

"The president is concerned that, once again, the New York Times has chosen to expose a classified program that is protecting the American people," a White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said last night. "We know that terrorists look for any clue about the weapons we're using to fight them and now, with this exposure, they have more information and it increases the challenge for our law enforcement and intelligence officials."

Treasury Secretary Snow via the LATimes:

"This is government at its best," said Treasury Secretary John W. Snow. "It's responsible government It's government that works This is a program that makes Americans and the world safer." John Snow called it "regrettable" that the program had been made public. "That can only help the terrorists," said Snow, whose department runs the program……….

A former CIA official cited by the LATimes:

A former high-ranking CIA officer said it has been a success, and another official said it has allowed U.S. counterterrorism officials to follow a tremendous number of leads. CIA officials pursue leads overseas, and the FBI and other agencies pursue leads in the United States, where the CIA is prohibited from operating……………….

This story seems to prove to me that there probably is no story regardless of intelligence gathering significant, that would win out over the NYT’s “public interest” singular focus on this topic. Public Interest is an admirable quality almost always, but not in the case where a legal and valuable program is the story and exposing it damages the war against terrorists and terrorism.

Telling terrorists about a legal & classified intelligence gathering program in the name of “public interest” is more important than the intel such a legal program provides in the war against terrorism? Not in my opinion…………......It actually sounds like a crime..............


Per this NYT story, here are some details on what was monitored and what was not. It also reveals the "HUGE" value that this program provided in the effort to track terrorists and their money:

The cooperative's message traffic allows investigators, for example, to track money from the Saudi bank account of a suspected terrorist to a mosque in New York. Starting with tips from intelligence reports about specific targets, agents search the database in what one official described as a "24-7" operation. Customers' names, bank account numbers and other identifying information can be retrieved, the officials said.

The data does not allow the government to track routine financial activity, like A.T.M. withdrawals, confined to this country, or to see bank balances, Treasury officials said. And the information is not provided in real time — Swift generally turns it over several weeks later. Because of privacy concerns and the potential for abuse, the government sought the data only for terrorism investigations and prohibited its use for tax fraud, drug trafficking or other inquiries, the officials said.......

I think the NYT has made a "massive mistake" on this one...........................