Tell all

At tonight’s mixer for PaidContent (more on that in a minute), Arthur Sulzberger was interviewed by Rafat Ali and was asked about the impact of online news on stories such as the current terrorism intelligence program on banking. Reference was made to the Pentagon Papers. Sulzberger explained that back then, because the publication went on over time, the government could see prior restraint against The Times. But today, the entire document could be put up in a moment. So they could not come after a news organization now seeing prior restraint. But then he added as a punchline that got a laugh, “treason? — yes.”

I imagined that all across America at just that moment, bloggers and editorial writers for the New York Post stuck their noses up over their copies of Ann Coulter’s latest as their eyes twinkled and their fingers twitched.

I have been mulling over the public letter from Bill Keller justifying The Times’ outing of the banking intelligence program. I think there’s an underlying logic to the letter that’s worth poking. Keller says it is not The Times’ role to judge the program — yet, I’d argue, the decision to out it is, inevitably, a judgment. To do so is to say that the program is illegal or wrong or ineffective; there has to be some reason to expose it, knowing it is secret. Keller writes:

The Administration case for holding the story had two parts, roughly speaking: first that the program is good — that it is legal, that there are safeguards against abuse of privacy, and that it has been valuable in deterring and prosecuting terrorists. And, second, that exposing this program would put its usefulness at risk.

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 financers 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.

So that is saying that we deserve to know everything, absolutely everything. As a worshiper of speech protected by the First Amendment and of transparency as the new virtue of journalism and of reporting as a pillar of a free society, you’d think I’d be applauding that sentiment. It sounds good. But I don’t think it washes in real life. Newspapers know plenty they choose not to reveal: from troop locations to undercover cops’ identities to corporate moves that affect shareholders (you can be reporters get the same leaks blogs do). If they revealed all they knew at all times on all subjects, that would be a defensible model — ‘If we know it, you know it.’ But they keep secrets so they get secrets and also to act responsibly. So this notion that not telling us about the banking program preempts the roles of lawmakers, judges, and voters is, well, somewhat specious.

And though The Times says it is not to judge the program’s legality or effectiveness, Keller goes on to say that they weighed the government’s contention that exposing it would endanger it and they rejected that. So they did, indeed, make a most crucial judgment about the program. The Times further rejects the government’s contention that this would tip off terrorists to change their ways. So how does The Times know it has not? Inquiring minds want to know.

Keller also says, “The press and the government generally start out from opposite corners in such cases. The government would like us to publish only the official line, and some of our elected leaders tend to view anything else as harmful to the national interest.” That may be fair in many cases, but not in all. This implies that all acts of government are spin. Sometimes, they actually are in the public interest. And acting against that is not always in the public interest. Yes, the role of the press is essentially adversarial. But the government and the press are not the only players in this drama and need not always be adversarial. There are other guys out there murdering us who also play a role. They are the enemy of us all.

What’s more amazing about Keller’s letter in some ways is its glibness. He throws off a one-liner not unlike his proprietor’s, above:

Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government’s anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that’s the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.)

Now that’s patently ridiculous. Glenn Reynolds says it indicates that “Keller isn’t very bright, or else he thinks you’re not.” Yes, The Times isn’t really published until bloggers link to it.

Finally, Keller argues that the press has a special place in society:

It’s an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. Who are the editors of The New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other publications that also ran the banking story) to disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees? And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy, and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.

Jay Rosen wrote in 2004:

The press doesn’t own journalism, entirely. And Big Media doesn’t entirely own the press, because if it did then the First Amendment, which mentions the press, would belong to Big Media. And it doesn’t. These things were always true.

Yes, we need not only a press but also an open society of empowered citizens to balance the power of those we elect. But we also do elect those people to make judgments on our behalf. And we don’t — and should not — elect the members of the press who question them.

So when you get right down to it, this is a disagreement about what’s right. Keller is cloaking his decision in the First Amendment and the power of the press. George Bush wrapped his obvious disagreement around doing harm to the nation and our war on terror and others did go so far as to label it treason.

My bottom line, not that it matters: The government has long and and long been urged to follow the cut off the money to terrorists to both starve and uncover them. I wholly endorse that. I assumed that they were doing precisely what The Times is shocked that they were doing: following transactions. I don’t think it’s known that the program is either illegal or ineffective. But I also think it is possible enough that revealing its existence can do the program and the nation harm, so I would not have revealed it.

  • Thank you so much for this detailed, thoughtful, reasonable post that brings out the Times’ reasoning, evaluates it, and dismantles it – not with any partisan fervor, but just as someone would, if he merely wished to see if another was being genuine or not.

    This post might be the most condemning I’ve seen regarding the Times yet, because of its tone, which is restrained and impartial because of the author’s willingness to talk about his own views.

    Very well done.

  • Jeff: Another issue to consider is where are the leaks about government surveilance programs (NSA, Banking, etc.) coming from? They can’t all be disgruntled civil servants who vote Democratic, can they? Has the
    White House lost the trust of people in key positions in their own administration? I could be wrong, but it seems like our national security program is leaking like a sieve.

  • WJA

    Particularly delicious is Keller’s pious references to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, and he their humble servant– as opposed to a scoop- fixated editor who can no longer distinguish between genuine news and gratutious secret-revealing that might very well put us all in more danger. Refresh my memory, for whom was patriotism the last refuge of?

  • j

    To me the point here is a lack of warrentless searches. There is a mechanism for getting the information “legally” why not use it?

  • Andy Freeman

    > There is a mechanism for getting the information “legally” why not use it?

    The Times says that they were using such mechanisms. Do you know differently?

  • Uh, “j” – the program was legal, which even the Times confessed.

    Nice job, Jeff. Calmly put.

    This is just another nail in the coffin of public trust in big media. While the sensational aspects might sell newspaper in the short term, it’s utterly dumb in the long term – especially to do this in New York, of all places.

  • For an insiders take on this story read this blog entry by Larry Johnson:
    Bush Confused about Leaks

    Also this piece by William Greider in the Nation:
    Dirty Money

  • C Bennett

    Reading Keller’s piece had an effect on me I didn’t expect when I started it: the further I read, the more uncomfortable I became and it wasn’t because of the content, I don’t think; it was because of the tone. It felt like those “talking to’s” I used to get in middle school where the teacher took the adult route and talked calmly, slowly and patronizingly — and it made the talk feel much too long. I can live with arrogance and bad logic and people arguing to win — but when they adopt that “further evolved” tone of patronizing superiority, it becomes really uncomfortable to continue listening. I value internet sources as much for their tone as their content.

  • R Rainey

    It continues to completely escape the Times that Average Joe sees this sort of disclosure as presenting a clear, and completely unnecessary, risk of harm to him and his family. He does not give a hoot that this information is now available to him. The danger that Joe sees seems to be viewed by Keller as some sort of abstract issue of a potential slight increase in danger in macro terms – Joe and most of America exist on a micro level.

  • Thedude

    The NYT and the rest of Main stream media gave this administration the benifit of doubt for years after 911. The administration abused that trust by breaking the law any number of times. At what point does the media say “these guys are not to be trusted” and start to report to the public what is really going on. From my point of view the Main stream media waited way to long. They allowed an election to be stolen, they didn’t cover the obvious mistakes before 911 by the Gov., they were complicent in twisting the evil of 911 toward Iraq, they allowed this administration to ignore hundreds of laws, its only now they are beginning to do their job. This Government has not EARNED secrecy, they have abused it. Put away your personal partisan politics and stop critizing a good thing, the waking of the media.

  • Certainly the NYTimes publishing some details behind our banking monitoring is news – but the fact that we have been monitoring banking is not – and hasn’t been. Since October 2001!

    Kenneth W. Dam – Deputy Secretary of the Treasury – October 2001

    In addition, Treasury’s Secret Service, IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and Customs investigators have joined the financial front against terrorism, providing fresh leads and added expertise. Besides working directly with FinCEN and the FBI, these investigators are forming a joint venture that leverages their incomparable financial skills to advance the financial war to a new level of sophistication.

    Another feature of our financial front against terrorism has been to benefit from the expertise of the financial institutions. Without going into specifics, I can say that U.S., as well as foreign, financial institutions have been very helpful and cooperative in the struggle against terrorism. Over the long term, the continued cooperation of banks and financial institutions is essential.


    there have been numerous articles posted about how the terrorist networks hide money from the financial system to avoid such detection in the past three years. Just look on Google.

    This entire story and controversy is just weird.

    This was all known already – except for the details.

  • President Bush – September 20, 2001

    This is not, however, just America’s fight. And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom. This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.

    We ask every nation to join us. We will ask, and we will need, the help of police forces, intelligence services, and banking systems around the world. The United States is grateful that many nations and many international organizations have already responded — with sympathy and with support. Nations from Latin America, to Asia, to Africa, to Europe, to the Islamic world. Perhaps the NATO Charter reflects best the attitude of the world: An attack on one is an attack on all.

    OMG – Bush revealed classified information!

  • Far more in this Time Magazine piece from 2001.

    In short what was already known:

    1. That we were monitoring banking transactions looking for terrorist activity
    2. That we had cooperation of numerous banking institutions across the world.

    What the hell is new about all this?

  • Thedude

    THis is the beginning shots of the war on the media. The new Gays. I’m amazed that anyone in the media business can still find exuses for this administration. They not only hate YOU they want to destroy your ability to cover ANYTHING about what they are doing. Scary times. The public needs sites like this to defend us against a very aggressively secretive admin. who do NOT respect or follow many of the institutions that make up this country. Please stop defending them.

  • doctec

    To Robt Feinman: thanks for those links, they were a good read.

    So the venerable NYT publishes an article that in essence goes into more detail about stuff already reported and known, written in a disdainful tone. Seems like this action, and the resulting noise level emanating from BushCo over its publication, says more about the apparent breakdown of the government’s relatively easy control of the media for the past 4-5 years than anything else.

  • maybe that’s what all this is about doctec. because it seems, when looking back on findings in Google, this is a big amount of noise about things, by and large, that were already known. i would imagine if you were a terrorist, you would have learned from that early wave of articles and speeches to hide your money from the banking system.

    the nytimes and administration are having a pissing match. that’s about it. and we are all taking sides in spin war.

  • j

    “The program relies not on individual judicial warrants or subpoenas but on broad “administrative subpoenas.” In other words, the administration itself authorizes secret subpoenas for large amounts of data with no review by a court, relying on authority it asserts under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. That assertion has not been tested in court. Nor has the reasoning, given to the L.A. Times by Treasury officials, that U.S. laws restricting government access to private financial records do not apply because SWIFT, the Belgian banking consortium involved, “was considered a messaging service, not a financial institution.”

    That’s what I was trying to get across before my 2nd cup of coffee. Apologies for being less than clear.

  • Ravo


    (Below is an excerpt from a comment section at LGF)

    Three days after 9/11, the New York Times published an editorial demanding financial tracking to fight terrorism, and Sweetness & Light dug it up to throw it in their lying faces:

    “Organizing the hijacking of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took significant sums of money. The cost of these plots suggests that putting Osama bin Laden and other international terrorists out of business will require more than diplomatic coalitions and military action. Washington and its allies must also disable the financial networks used by terrorists.

    The Bush administration is preparing new laws to help track terrorists through their money-laundering activity and is readying an executive order freezing the assets of known terrorists. Much more is needed, including stricter regulations, the recruitment of specialized investigators and greater cooperation with foreign banking authorities. There must also must be closer coordination among America’s law enforcement, national security and financial regulatory agencies”

  • Ravo

    Good Points made by other LGF commenters:

    (The last is particularly disturbing)

    “We really were catching terrorists and solidly prosecuting them with this program. Therefore, plenty of them didn’t know we knew. ”

    “”NYT voted for America’s law enforcement before they voted against it.”

    “It’s time to boycott all thing associated with the NYT. Advertisers, web sites, newspapers that run their hit pieces etc. ”

    “We spent $2,000,000,000,000 on defense in the 10 years before 9/11 and couldn’t prevent it that way. This isn’t armies in the field attacking each other.

    This war relies on intelligence. Spies. Tracking the communications of the enemy to find where they are and what they are doing.

    By revealing our workings, it’s comparable to announcing troop movements in a traditional war. ”

    “The administration really needs to investigate how deeply the media, and the Times, has been infiltrated by enemy agents. I don’t mean just sympathizers…we know it is full of those. I mean honest to goodness agents with connections in the middle east. ”

    ” if taken to court the New York Times will fight disclosing its sources on the basis that ITS secrets are Important to keep, unlike the country’s secrets which are only of the type of national security and classified. ”

    “the NYT was happy to ignore the ‘Eschelon’ intel gathering system during the early years of the Clinton adminstration, and ‘Carnivore’ (authorized and developed in the last years of the Clinton admin, rolled out in the first three months of the Bush admin) and other similar data-gathering programs during the Clinton administration – and particularly the Clinton’s abuse of FBI data for personal vendettas.”

  • Ravo

    for those upholding the expose’ was a good thing – one more …..

    ” there is no suggestion that the program is illegal or has been abused. And the assertion, made by the Times and other newspapers after discussions with the administration and national security experts, that exposure will not harm the program betrays a breathtaking arrogance. How do they know?”

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  • Ravo

    Will the ability to track financials be destroyed?

    “Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, said the organization filed the complaints with the data protection authorities with the aim of halting what it called “illegal transfers” of private information to the United States by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or Swift.

    The complaints were filed in the 25 EU countries, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Lichtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the Chinese territory of Hong Kong.”

    Terrorist acts were thwarted because of this program’s existence. There are no doubt people walking around today going about their lives – that would have been killed by terrorist acts, were it not for this program.

    Who and how many will die in the future because of Bill Keller’s arrogance, if this program is done for?

    How can the acts of Bill Keller and the NYT not be treated as treasonous?

  • steve

    One of your best posts ever. Thanks, Jeff.

  • Sherard

    Wow, dumbass lefties actually trying to defend the NY Times.

    First of all, thedude shall not be considered sane:

    They allowed an election to be stolen, they didn’t cover the obvious mistakes before 911 by the Gov.”

    Oh, those are howlers. Keep on plugging with those moonbat conspiracy theories. That sure was a good strategy in 2004.

    Now, as far as the “Everyone knew all about this anyway” meme – according to the co-chair of the 9/11 commission, they sure as hell did not:

    Why SWIFT Mattered

    Nevermind that even IF the terrorists weren’t paying attention, Belgium and some in London will make it their life’s mission to put a stop to the program altogether.

    Congratulations to the NY Times. And congratulations to you idiot lefties for putting the final nail in the coffin that was any semblance of your sanity. Question your patriotism ? Why would I when you clearly demonstrate that you don’t know what the word means.

  • Thedude

    Come on guys, this is a fake arguement. You’re being played. This administration needs enemies to survive. The media is next on the hit list. After they take the NYT’s down.. who’s next. Maybe blogs? Stand up already. This administration does not deserve blind obediance. Haven’t they played you long enough.

    First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Communist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.

    Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left
    to speak up for me.

  • For an insiders take on this story read this blog entry by Larry Johnson:

    The inside of what, a rubber room? No thanks.

    In short what was already known:

    1. That we were monitoring banking transactions looking for terrorist activity
    2. That we had cooperation of numerous banking institutions across the world.

    What the hell is new about all this?

    A bank robber knows the cops are looking for him. So what’s the harm if the newspaper tells him where not to hide?

  • …Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.

    Not even the court-appointed psychologist?

  • thedude

    Jim Treacher playing the part of the good German.
    ‘Those that ignore history are doomed to repeat it.’

  • Achtung!

  • Chiming in to echo Mr Treacher, how does “wild-eyed, lefty blog rant” equate to “insider’s view”?

    As for the leaks, there would have to be plenty of career bureaucrats who hated Bush enough from day one to leak this stuff; it wouldn’t require any kind of “flip” or betrayal. Bush didn’t perform any kind of savage gutting of national government infrastructure, despite the left’s wild, paranoid imagination.

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  • I think Jeff is half right and half wrong on this one– I think he’s right on the big picture, but wrong when it comes to his political conclusions. I think he grants an unusual amount of deference to the White House in matters related to the “War on Terror”. Full disclosure: I grant the White House an unusually small degree of deference with regard to the War on Terror … I think they’re generally liars who care far more about the success of their own pretensions to dictatorship than they do about stopping terrorists. I would also submit that I have an enormous amount of evidence to back me up on this one. I’ll let Jeff and his readers decide whether my full disclosure inevitably taints everything else I have to say.

    First off, I think Jeff is right to take Keller to task for his hoary invocation of the rights and privileges of the institutional press (“It’s an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press…” etc etc.) As a blogger talking to blog readers, I don’t think I need to belabor this point here (I would say, however, that while the mainstream press may not possess any fundamental legal privileges relating to the first amendment, they do possess vestigial structural advantages over bloggers, i.e., that leakers wanting to leak still call the Times, not Eschaton. This advantage may be fading but its still out there, and it’s worth keeping in mind. This is also something of a tangent, so I’ll move on.)

    Second, I think Jeff is right on to criticize the argument that there was no “judgment” involved in the NYTimes decision to publish the SWIFT story “(It’s not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective”) This is obviously nonsense. People — and institutions — don’t act on the basis of non-judgment. They do just the opposite. So the question becomes: on what type of “judging logic” was the judgment to publish this story made?

    The way I see it, there are three possible logics that can be used to decide whether or not to publish a story like this. The first is the “logic of the market,” and sees newspapers as economic actors attempting to make a profit. This one is pretty simple: “will publishing this story get us readers, maximize our profit margins, etc?” It’s a cost-benefit calculation. The second logic sees the Times and the rest of the media as partisan actors, operating under a “political logic”: will publishing this story advance our (my) political cause?” The third logic is the “logic of the public”: “will publishing this story serve the public interest?” Its the logic that most media outlets have historically used to justify what they do, and it often fudges easily into the “we weren’t making any judgments al all” argument, as I think it does in Keller’s letter

    For those who argue that the Times was operating under logic #1 (market) or #2 (political), I don’t have much to say to you, other than that I disagree. Of course, there were certainly some of those motives going on here. No one makes decisions like this in real life, just in thought experiments. Nevertheless, I’m most interested in exploring the implications of logic #3, and I think Jeff is as well: what  does the logic of the public interest tell us the Times should do in these circumstances?

    Here’s where we disagree– because what we’re dealing with are two fundamentally conflicting public interests. One is the governmental interest in protecting the United States. The other is the public’s right to know. Based on the experience of this country over the past six years, I trust the Times judgement of the public interest far more than I do the current occupants of the White House. And I can’t understand why anyone else would either.

  • thedude

    THis is the guy your going to trust.

    Bush Ignores Laws He Inks, Vexing Congress
    By Laurie Kellman
    Associated Press Writer

    June 27 , 2006 – WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill becomes the rule of the land when Congress passes it and the president signs it into law, right?

    Not necessarily, according to the White House. A law is not binding when a president issues a separate statement saying he reserves the right to revise, interpret or disregard it on national security and constitutional grounds.

    That’s the argument a Bush administration official is expected to make Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who has demanded a hearing on a practice he considers an example of the administration’s abuse of power.

    “It’s a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution,” Specter said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m interested to hear from the administration just what research they’ve done to lead them to the conclusion that they can cherry-pick.”

    Apparently, enough to challenge many more statutes passed by Congress than any other president, Specter’s committee says. The White House does not dispute that, but notes that Bush is hardly the first chief executive to issue them.

    “Signing statements have long been issued by presidents, dating back to Andrew Jackson all the way through President Clinton,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Monday.

    Specter’s hearing is about more than the statements. He’s been compiling a list of White House practices he bluntly says could amount to abuse of executive power – from warrantless domestic wiretapping program to sending officials to hearings who refuse to answer lawmakers’ questions.

    But the session also concerns countering any influence Bush’s signing statements may have on court decisions regarding the new laws. Courts can be expected to look to the legislature for intent, not the executive, said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas., a former state judge.

    “There’s less here than meets the eye,” Cornyn said. “The president is entitled to express his opinion. It’s the courts that determine what the law is.”

    But Specter and his allies maintain that Bush is doing an end-run around the veto process. In his presidency’s sixth year, Bush has yet to issue a single veto that could be overridden with a two-thirds majority in each house.

    Instead, he has issued hundreds of signing statements invoking his right to interpret or ignore laws on everything from whistleblower protections to how Congress oversees the Patriot Act.

    “It means that the administration does not feel bound to enforce many new laws which Congress has passed,” said David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues. “This raises profound rule of law concerns. Do we have a functioning code of federal laws?”

    Signing statements don’t carry the force of law, and other presidents have issued them for administrative reasons, such as instructing an agency how to put a certain law into effect. They usually are inserted quietly into the federal record.

    Bush’s signing statement in March on Congress’s renewal of the Patriot Act riled Specter and others who labored for months to craft a compromise between Senate and House versions, and what the White House wanted. Reluctantly, the administration relented on its objections to new congressional oversight of the way the FBI searches for terrorists.

    Bush signed the bill with much flag-waving fanfare. Then he issued a signing statement asserting his right to bypass the oversight provisions in certain circumstances.

    Specter isn’t sure how much Congress can do to check the practice. “We may figure out a way to tie it to the confirmation process or budgetary matters,” he said.

    © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • I think they’re generally liars who care far more about the success of their own pretensions to dictatorship than they do about stopping terrorists. I would also submit that I have an enormous amount of evidence to back me up on this one.

    Yeah, like the fact that you’ve just been arrested for saying that. Right? Oh wait, you can’t answer because you’re in a political prison.

  • Thedude

    Even our right wing supreme court is saying Bush overstepping his authority. Tell me again why this administration deserves the peoples respect?

    “The Supreme Court rules President Bush overstepped his authority with military war crimes trials for foreigners held at Guantanamo Bay in a case involving a former driver for Osama bin Laden.”

  • R Rainey

    Chris, I was with you until you stumbled toward the end. I think you, unfortunately, allow your animus toward this administration to cloud your thinking. First, dismissing out of hand “logics” 1 and 2 seems unreasonable to me. I think the pressure of the scoop falls under logic 1 and is real and palpable and in these pressurized times pretty obviously leads to bad publication decisionmaking (see, eg, the proliferation of bad rumors published in the legitimate press, which would not have made it in in times past). While I think logic 2 probably played a lesser role than logic 1, I think it also cannot be dismissed out of hand. We have seen Keller blur the opinion/news distinction at the Times by popping up on either side of the wall from time to time, and if there is anyone out there who does not believe the Times has a general animus toward this administration, they are living in a dark hole. To dismiss these as uninteresting and therefore irrelevant, will I think skew any analysis of the Times’ motivations.

    However, where you really fall down is logic 3. The Times has said that no law was broken, has noted that carefully crafted protections were put in place for this program and has stated that the program was effective. Any positions based on arguments that these facts are not true or are trivial, is only sniping around the edges. In the final analysis, this program is a net GOOD. Therefore, getting rid of it will be a net BAD. The Times concluded that this net bad was offset by the “public interest” without elaborating how the public interest would be served by disclosure or how they balanced out the competing interests. By failing to so elaborate, their rationale can be viewed as a mere excuse. If they cannot make a convincing argument on their “public interest” position, people naturally assume some other factor was at play, and you nicely outline what those might be.

    Finally, it is disingenuous (and in fact dangerous, as no one at the Times is elected) to say you put your faith in the public interest assessments of the Times over the administration. This is because the program was a product of our enitre system of government, not some lone act by Bush. The program begun with legally issued subpoenas (which SWIFT could have challenged in the judiciary if it desired) and the program had effective oversight and was disclosed to the legislative branch, so it was not some wanton disregard of the laws. On the other hand, the disclosure by the leakers was a violation of law and the publication by the Times could be a violation of law. The laws at issue were enacted, and the program was put in place, by legislators and the executive, both duly elected by voters. Thus, the will of the people (to use a cliche) is that this program could be engaged in and kept secret. What you are really saying is that our system of laws is not to be respected when you (or the Times editors) do not agree with the outcome. This can only lead to anarchy.

  • Gene Koehler

    Er, this might be off subject, and if so delete it and ban me from this site – that’s OK with me. But as a legal United States citizen with German heritage, I just wanted to thank “thedude” for being racist.

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