Monday, June 26, 2006

Question(s) for the NY Times: When is a Secret a Good Secret? And Who Decides?

Programming Note: As I was gliding a smooth landing in celebration of two years of manning this "post", so to speak, I was summoned for one more pre-anniversary post to address the hypocrisy that is the NY Times, and by extension, the rest of the anti-American MSM.

Of course, I am speaking about the Times' extraordinary actions over the weekend.

Here is what we know about the Times' latest foray into the War on Militant Islam: 1) As it did in exposing the NSA phone-surveillance program in December, the Times ran a story on Friday that exposed an American program monitoring international money transfers routed through the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication; 2) the transfers have been monitored by the CIA, with oversight from the Treasury Department; 3) an independent auditing firm is also involved to ensure that only jihadi-related transfers are targeted; 4) congressional officials have been briefed about the program; 5) the program has worked, leading to the capture of the 2002 Bali bombing mastermind and the conviction of one individual for laundering a $200,000 payment to al-Qaeda in Pakistan; 6) the program is lawful; and 7) the President asked the Times, as he had done with the NSA surveillance program, not to run the story.

In response to the firestorm of criticism since Friday, NY Times Editor Bill Keller offered this weak response.

Quite a bit of excellent commentary on this issue is coming from the pro-America blogosphere (there's a better name than center-right, I think). I particularly liked Michael Barone's column where he asked, "Why do they hate us?" Why does the NY Times hate us (America), that is.

The law school profs are weighing in, too, and the reviews of the Times' latest pro-jihadi conduct is not good: Here is Glenn Reynolds' take. Hugh Hewitt carves up Keller's explanation line by line.

As for me, I was particularly struck by the following comment by Keller:
Most Americans seem to support extraordinary measures in defense against this extraordinary threat, but some officials who have been involved in these programs have spoken to the Times about their discomfort over the legality of the government's actions and over the adequacy of oversight. (emphasis added)
It appears clear that the NY Times would quite comfortably determine for all of us which secrets are good ones. That is, the NY Times will decide what gets to be kept quiet. Note that it won't say who "some officials" are. These people will remain secret, of course. That's an important secret, you see.

And these backstabbers will remain secret because the Times deems their secrecy important, for some reason, perhaps for the protection of the Times peculiar view of "freedom of the press". Perhaps the Times think "some officials" should remain secret in order to protect the Times power and influence. Perhaps the Times wants to just help the enemy with impunity. We are left only to speculate as to the reasons.

In any event, purposes don't matter here. The Times has what we lawyers call "unclean hands". That is, it seeks to complain about and expose secrets, but it insists on doing so in secret. It complains about a secretive Administration that is spying on America's enemies, but it thinks it fine to keep secret the identities of those in our ranks who would undermine the Administration's conduct of war.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I think the people have the right to know. Don't you? So, how about the Times telling us who these traitors are?

As Glenn Reynolds notes, the freedom of the press belongs to the people, not to the NY Times. And the people have elected a commander-in-chief, and we also have enacted laws, such as the Espionage Act.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. advocates prosecuting the NY Times under the Espionage Act. I think the better approach would be to take the one advocated by Barone: Prosecute those who are leaking this information, and put the reporters in jail who won't cooperate with the investigation.

The debate that would swirl around those prosecutions would be healthy for the nation and a good one to have in an election season.

I think this might be an appropriate time to say, "Bring it on."