Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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NYT: Threat to national security?

I’m coming around to the view that its reckless indifference to the necessity for secrecy in the pursuit of terrorists is prosecutable. For more along these lines, go here, here, here (just keep scrolling), here (once again, just keep scrolling), and here.

Here’s the NYT article, along with one in the LAT. Here’s the transcript of Tony Snow’s press conference yesterday.

Today’s NYT contains an editorial defending its publication of the story. The concerns are all hypothetical and the safeguards are all concrete. Administrative subpoenas have been used, though Arlen Specter wonders if they’ve been overbroad. And when members of Congress are briefed on a secret program, the folks at the NYT worry that the obligation that they have to keep it secret ties their hands. In other words, it the NYT’s world, there should be no secrets. All goods are subordinate to transparency. But the First Amendment is not the only text that’s part of the Constitution. And security is an important consideration, as any responsible political leader knows. Perhaps the folks at the NYT would argue that a free press is part of a system of checks and balances. Fair enough. But no part of such a system should itself not be subject to checks. There are laws that control the revelation and publication of classified information. The Bush Administration should certainly go aggressively after those who spoke with the reporters. But as I said earlier, I’m not so sure that the newspapers themselves should be immune.

Finally, a last word on the politics of this latest revelation: my impression is that every time word gets out about a Bush Administration program to pursue information in an attempt to trace terrorists, people approve of the program. This tends to help the President. If it were only about politics, the President ought to welcome such reports, because they bolster his standing with the American people. They also give him an issue on the basis of which to pick a fight with the press, which, in the court of public opinion, he’s likely to win. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Karl Rove is behind the whole thing.

Discussions - 9 Comments

Heather does her normal great job. The NYT is just following SOP -- if a Republican is in office, anything damaging is just fine...screw the country’s security as well as the truth. A few years ago Heather pointed out how homelessness miraculously evaporates when Democrats are in office but suddenly surges when a Republican is elected. Same here...if a Democrat POTUS were to take over in 2008, the NYT will be silent about all of these "potential abuses." The "grey lady" is a political bitch, in other words...the truth is a distant priority.

The incident involving the publication of the Japanese codes in the 1930s put the FDR administration into a position where it had to decide whether prosecution of a loyal but over zealous newspaper was worth the price of exposure of more national secrets. This administration has to weigh the fact that prosecution will result in more secrets involving those programs will be exposed against the fact that failure to prosecute will result in the NYT continuing to expose secret programs.

Question: Can I sign up to be on the prosecution team on line or do I have to go to D.C. in person?

Your last paragraph expresses a thought that has also occurred to me. If one assumes that the NY Times’ motive is (at least in large part) an effort to cause problems for the Bush Administration, they should realize that this strategy is backfiring and that the revelations of the steps being taken by the Bush Administration to prevent further terrorist actions has been not only popular, but quite successful. So, maybe the NY Times is being motivated by other concerns -- an effort to increase its readership, perhaps? But even that reasoning is seriously flawed since, if the NY Times revelations precede a succesful terrorist attack within the US, the public will blame the NY Times for the harm done...and that sure is not a way to gain reader support! Maybe we should apply the prinicple that the simplest answer is the correct one -- those people running the NY Times are too stupid to understand the threat we face and the damage they do....

Maybe the folks truly believe they are doing a civic service, but there actions are doing no such thing.


It is long past time for the administration to take this ball and run with it, at least politically. It should engage in high-profile psychological warfare with the "mainstream" media over this, with the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times as its main targets. It shouldn’t just defend these public-safety programs that are being exposed. It should virulently attack not only the professionalism but the good faith and the intelligence of the editors and reporters who expose national-security secrets. And it should do it so frequently and in such strong language that the American people actually notice and sympathize.
It should, among other things, do everything it legally can to undermine these institutions economically.

I would also like to see vigorous and expedited prosecutions, but that runs up against the problem that even more may be exposed.


I’m reminded of a pearl of wisdom that was shared by one of the leading anti-PC professors who fights leftist abuses on American campuses. "Race trumps sexual orientation, gender trumps race, and careerism trumps everything." At the end of the day, he believes, the college administrators who go along with this garbage feel the heat if they think their careers are threatened.

The administration and the right need to threaten, and in some cases destroy, the careers of people in government who engage in these outrageous exposures. Guilty journalists must be turned into objects of public contempt.

Few of these people will see the light at this late date. They must be made to feel the heat.

Now this:

According to a CLASSIFIED briefing at the Pentagon this week by the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the number of American combat brigades in Iraq is projected to decrease to 5 or 6 from the current level of 14 by December 2007. (emphasis added)via LGF

What part of the word classified don’t they understand?

I’m angry about their apparent indifference, too, but the Counterterrorism Blog has an interesting (and quite different) take:

http://counterterrorismblog.org/2006/06/reports_of_us_monitoring_of_sw.php

Their point? "[R]eports on US monitoring of SWIFT transactions have been out there for some time. The information was fairly well known by terrorism financing experts back in 2002. The UN Al Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Group , on which I served as the terrorism financing expert, learned of the practice during the course of our monitoring inquiries. The information was incorporated in our report to the UN Security Council in December 2002. That report is still available on the UN Website."

I brought up the link you cited, RG. By clicking on the link provided by Victor Comras, I found the U.N. letter to which he referred. I tried to find it again by going on the U.N. official website and searching around. Admittedly, I’m not the most computer savvy guy around, but I couldn’t find it. The point is that the NYT made the information available to terrorist financiers who shouldn’t have been allowed to see it and, apparently, weren’t able to find it for themselves.

It might be an interesting exercise for some of the more computer-wise among the commenters here to try and find that report blindly.

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