Sunday, June 25, 2006

"National Security Be Damned": Heather MacDonald on the New York Times

Heather MacDonald is a Manhattan Institute Fellow and a Contributing Editor at City Journal. She's got a new piece up at the Weekly Standard on the New York Times' disclosure last Friday of the SWIFT financial tracking program:

BY NOW IT'S UNDENIABLE: The New York Times is a national security threat. So drunk is it on its own power and so antagonistic to the Bush administration that it will expose every classified antiterror program it finds out about, no matter how legal the program, how carefully crafted to safeguard civil liberties, or how vital to protecting American lives. The Times's latest revelation of a national security secret appeared on last Friday's front page--where no al Qaeda operative could possibly miss it. Under the deliberately sensational headline, "Bank Data Sifted in Secret by U.S. to Block Terror," the Times blows the cover on a highly targeted program to locate terrorist financing networks. According to the report, since 9/11, the Bush administration has obtained information about terror suspects' international financial transactions from a Belgian clearinghouse of international money transfers....

Now that the Times has blown the cover on this terror-tracking initiative, sophisticated terrorists will figure out how to evade it, according to the Treasury's top counterterrorism official, Stuart Levey, speaking to the Wall Street Journal. The lifeblood of international terrorism--cash--will once again flow undetected. The bottom line is this: No classified secret necessary to fight terrorism is safe once the Times hears of it, at least as long as the Bush administration is in power. The Times justifies its national security breaches by the mere hypothetical possibility of abuse--without providing any evidence that this financial tracking program, or any other classified antiterror initiative that it has revealed, actually has been abused. To the contrary, the paper reports that one employee was taken off the Swift program for conducting a search that did not obviously fall within the guidelines. The truth the Times evades is that while every power, public or private, can be misused, the mere possibility of abuse does not mean that a necessary power should be discarded. Instead, the rational response is to create checks that minimize the risk of abuse. Under the Times's otherworldly logic, the United States might be better off with no government at all, because governmental power can be abused. It should not have newspapers, because the power of the press can be abused to harm the national interest (as the Times so amply demonstrates). Police forces should be disbanded, because police officers can overstep their authority. National security wiretaps? Heavens! Expose all of them.
The New York Times wasn't the only paper to publish the story; the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal did so as well (the first hard-copy article I looked at Friday morning was the WSJ's story on the program). Over at the National Review, Andrew McCarthy denounced the American press altogether, indicting the media's "war against the war." The most depressing aspect of the whole thing is the loss of such a successful counterterrorism operation -- a tremendous blow to the security of the American people. What a tragedy!


a.k.a. Blandly Urbane said...

I think this is a sad, sorry state of affairs.

Whatever the Times goes with, the msm will follow.

How about a boycott of the "paper of record?"

Donald Douglas said...

Hey Urbane One:

Thanks for visiting. Now the news is that NYT may be up for criminal prosecution. Let's see how that turns out!

Take it easy.