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NYT Bank Story Condemned as 'Disgrace,'
Why Times Losing Trust

By Media Research Center
June 26, 2006

     Panelists on Fox News Sunday and on Friday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC denounced the New York Times for its Friday article, quickly picked up by other newspapers and published over the objection of the Bush administration and 9/11 commissioners, about how the CIA and Treasury Department are tracking international banking transactions by terrorist operatives. On Sunday, Brit Hume mocked New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller's "matter of public interest" reasoning: "Well, that can apply to almost anything," such as "ball scores." Hume contended the Times is "rapidly spending" its "credit" with the public and so "eventually it won't be there anymore. And at the rate it's going, it doesn't deserve to be." Bill Kristol, Publisher of The Weekly Standard, argued: "I think the Attorney General has an absolute obligation to consider prosecution here." Kristol asserted: "This isn't a partisan thing of the Bush administration. This is a U.S. government secret program in a time of war, willfully exposed for no good reason by the New York Times."
    
     Friday night on FNC, columnist Charles Krauthammer contended "there's a reason why we haven't had an attack since 9/11, and unfortunately we've learned about it by these journalistic leaks about all of the secret programs." He lit into the judgment of the Times: "The idea of having it published out there, in a sense disarming us by letting the bad guys know how we're tracing their wire transfers, I think, is a disgrace." Krauthammer added: "I think this is the 21st century equivalent of publishing the Enigma program in the Second World War in which we listened in on secret German communications in submarines." Morton Kondracke suggested the New York Times assumes "we've got more to fear from our own government than we do from terrorist attacks" and regretted how "there are evidently people in the bureaucracy who share that view who are willing to blabber to the New York Times." As for what motivates the newspaper, the panelists pointed to the wish to win another Pulitzer Prize.

     [The portion of this item about FNC on Friday was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, Newsbusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

     Indeed, James Risen, whose byline appears on this latest divulging of an anti-terrorist program, won a Pulitzer for his December exposure of the NSA's international telephone monitoring effort. The April 18 CyberAlert item, "Pulitzer Prizes Award Journalists Who Undermined Anti-Terrorism," detailed Risen's honor along with how the prize board awarded Washington Post reporter Dana Priest for exposing the existence of secret sites in Europe to hold terrorists: www.mrc.org

     "Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror," read the headline over the June 23 story by reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen, who led:
     "Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials."

     For the front page article in full: www.nytimes.com

     Clay Waters, Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch site, posted an analysis, "Times Cripples Another Terrorist Surveillance Program," of the story: www.timeswatch.org

     The CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News stories Friday night on the disclosure noted Bush administration objection to the publication, but ABC's World News Tonight also pointed out the objection from another respected party. Betsy Stark reported: 
     "The other question today is how effective the program will be now that newspapers have published stories about it. Tom Kean, the Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, told us he asked the New York Times not to publish the story."
     Tom Kean: "I think we have one less tool. Because we've found that al Qaeda, when they find out things we're using to intercept messages, intercept money, intercept whatever -- they stop doing that. We were, probably, a step ahead of them, and in this area, we're probably not ahead that step anymore."


     # Fox News Sunday, June 25: Some highlights from the first panel segment with Brit Hume, Bill Kristol, Juan Williams and Mara Liasson.

     Hume: "I would say about the program that it's probably less important in some ways than the wiretapping or the phone intercept program. But I have to say that the case for revealing it seems even worse, even weaker. The editor of the New York Times said something to the effect it's a matter of public interest. Well, that can apply to almost anything. Juan and I were talking about this earlier. That applies to ball scores. And you know, I mean, women with their breasts exposed are a matter of public interest to some people.
     "What kind of an argument is that for the revelation of a classified program? Look, we live in a country that has made a decision that there's going to be enough freedom so that editors get to make these decisions. One would certainly hope that the editor of the New York Times would have something more interesting and more compelling to say about why they chose to reveal this program and make its existence, therefore, known to the enemy than what he said...
     "The New York Times over the long years of its presence there has built up, justifiably, a great deal of credit with the American people, and the paper carries great weight. It is now, in my judgment, rapidly spending that credit. There's enough of it that will last a long time, but eventually it won't be there anymore. And at the rate it's going, it doesn't deserve to be."

     Bill Kristol, Publisher of The Weekly Standard: "I think the Attorney General has an absolute obligation to consider prosecution here. This is not a Bush -- I love the way Bill Keller calls it the Bush administration program. This is a program of the United States government. There's no charge that it's unconstitutional, illegal. There aren't whistle blowers coming forward saying data's being misused. This seems to have been a total sort of vanilla secret program in an ongoing war on terror.
     "This is not the Pentagon Papers, a historical document that was classified where you're probably not going to prosecute people because it's not revealing ongoing operations in a war that has stopped people from killing Americans. Absolutely, I think the Justice Department has an obligation to consider prosecution, and I think Congress can weigh in here, too, because the New York Times' rhetorical defense is well, we're exposing the Bush administration.
     "Well, Congress should consider whether -- if Congress approves of this program, which I believe it does, it might want to pass a sense of the Senate, sense of the House resolution this week saying you know what, we approve of this kind of legislation, and we do not think the executive editor of the New York Times has the unilateral ability to decide what is and isn't in the national security interests of the United States.
     "I would like to find a single responsible Democrat from the Clinton administration who thinks this should have been exposed. As you say, they consulted Lee Hamilton, the Democratic co-chair of the 9/11 Commission. He counseled against revealing this. This isn't a partisan thing of the Bush administration. This is a U.S. government secret program in a time of war, willfully exposed for no good reason by the New York Times."

     The new edition of Kristol's magazine out this week -- dated July 3 -- features two articles railing against the New York Times:

     -- "National Security Be Damned: The guiding philosophy on West 43rd Street," by Heather MacDonald: www.weeklystandard.com

     -- "Leaks and the Law: The case for prosecuting the New York Times," by Gabriel Schoenfeld: www.weeklystandard.com


     # The first panel segment on the June 23 Special Report with Brit Hume anchored, as usual on Fridays, by Jim Angle. The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video, picking up with Charles Krauthammer:
     "Look, there's a reason why we haven't had an attack since 9/11, and unfortunately we've learned about it by these journalistic leaks about all of the secret programs. This is an extremely effective program. And the idea of having it published out there, in a sense disarming us by letting the bad guys know how we're tracing their wire transfers, I think, is a disgrace. There's no evidence of illegality. There is no evidence of abuse. There isn't even evidence of secrecy in the sense of a rogue operation, a J. Edgar Hoover rogue operation type thing. The heads of the central banks in Europe knew about this, the commissioners of the Swift Consortium, which is the one that routes all this information, knew about this. The members of Congress, the intelligence committee knew about this."
     Angle: "The Fed."
     Krauthammer: "The Fed, Alan Greenspan, the heads of the 9/11 Commission. I'm told that even John Murtha objected and tried to get the New York Times to cease and desist in publishing this. So it shows you how wide is the understanding of how important a program it is. I think this is the 21st century equivalent of publishing the Enigma program in the Second World War in which we listened in on secret German communications in submarines. Why it would end up in the public domain, given its efficacy and given the absence of abuse, is a mystery to me."
     Morton Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call: "Well, yeah, I concur with everything Charles said. You know, there are two terrible things. One is the totally adversarial attitude of the New York Times toward its own government. I mean, it's as though the New York Times thinks that somehow if the government, if the Bush administration is doing it, it's worse than something al-Qaeda might do to the United States, that we've got more to fear from our own government than we do from terrorist attacks. The second thing is that there are evidently people in the bureaucracy who share that view who are willing to blabber to the New York Times about the NSA spying activity, so-called, domestic spying which was not domestic spying, and now the details of bank transfers. I mean, there is no discipline anymore, and it's got to be based on Bush hatred, you know, the notion that George Bush is George III, as Ed Markey put it. Thank heavens Ed Markey is out there by himself on this one."
     Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard: "Somebody tell, somebody needs to send the word to Ed Markey that bank records are not constitutionally protected information. To get them, investigators aren't required to get a warrant. But he doesn't seem to know that. He seems to think that-"
     Angle: "Well, these aren't even domestic bank records."
     Barnes: "I know they aren't."
     Angle: "These are records of transfers of money across borders."
     Barnes: "These are not, and they aren't constitutionally protected, so you don't have a constitutional issue here. Now, when you read about the kind of hoops that anybody who wants to do this, any investigator who wants to do this has to jump through in order to get an administrative warrant to investigate some transactions, it's incredible, you know. Even bringing in this, independent auditors from banks to make sure it's all right. They're not examining our ATM transactions or anything like that. And I can only, I mean, the Times argues that, well, there's the possibility of abuse. Well, in almost everything the government does there's a possibility of abuse. That doesn't warrant this. And let me say one other thing, you know, so many people, you know, even the two leaders of the 9/11 Commission and so on urged the New York Times not to reveal this. Back when they revealed the NSA eavesdropping program, which was a critical national security effort, the President, the four members, the four Democrats and Republicans, leaders of the two House and Senate Intelligence Committees, all asked the New York Times not to reveal that information. And they went ahead. There's a pattern here."
     Angle: "And there is a very interesting question here, and there was no allegation that any abuse had actually occurred, so what, then, becomes the rationale for exposing a program that has been effective in uncovering terrorist activities if you're not pointing or uncovering some abuse?"
     Kondracke: "You know, I think, I think what-"
     Krauthammer: "Winning a Pulitzer Prize."
     Kondracke: "Yeah, that's-"
     Krauthammer: "That's probably a rationale."
     Kondracke: "Well, they've already won one. These same guys-"
     Krauthammer: "That right. They want to win another one."
     Kondracke: "Right. Well, you know, I think that the ideo-
     Krauthammer: "At any cost."
     Kondracke: "-the ideological sensibility behind this was revealed by the Washington Post today, which didn't get the story. It got beat on the story by the New York Times, so they had to make basically editorial comment that this was vast penetration of individual constitutional rights and stuff like that. It was almost an editorial blast, and it shows you where the mainstream media, I have to say, is coming from, I think."



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