"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Friday, June 30, 2006

Good-bye New York Times

Some might remember an old poster from World War II, warning that "Loose Lips Sink Ships". The idea that idle party chatter could lead to the torpedoing of a supply convoy may seem like typical Red-state ignorance to the editors of the New York Times, but it makes a valid point: when the enemy knows what you plan to do, it's a lot easier for him to counter it. Recently, the New York Times handed the type of people who like to torture and execute American soldiers the blueprint for one of our most successful post 9/11 counterterrorism programs. The program involves information-trolling through a financial database operated by "SWIFT" (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), a Belgian banking group. SWIFT allowed the American government to search its database and track money transfers to groups like al Qaeda and Hezbollah. But, if al Qaeda types have anything resembling rudimentary intelligence, they've switched to another company in the hope that fifteen minutes will save them from 500 pounds of laser-guided American vengeance.

Why is this troubling? Because, while I'd hesitate to accuse New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller of actively providing aid and comfort to the enemy (unless we find out that he emailed the story to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's laptop right before we redecorated his house), it has become clear that Keller's newspaper considers the aggressive pursuit of terrorists and the safety of this country, its citizens, and its defenders in uniform, secondary to making the Bush administration look bad. Think I'm off the mark? September 24, 2001, with the rubble of the World Trade Center still warm: "Much more is needed, including stricter regulations, the recruitment of specialized investigators and greater cooperation with foreign banking authorities." So quoth the Times in an editorial entitled "Finances of Terror." Well, the government may have done little to secure our borders, ports, and airlines, but they took the financial advice to heart.

For the last time, if I can help it, I will link you to the
New York Times so that you may read the story for yourself. Interestingly enough, it seems the Times can't avoid the admission that the program reaped vast and concrete rewards. It identified Uzair Paracha, a Brooklyn man convicted in 2005 on terrorism-related charges (last time I checked, Brooklyn was somewhere in the vicinity of New York City, so if I were a New Yorker I'd be relieved that a neighbor who wanted to kill me was now behind bars. Though perhaps Keller thinks that if he publishes enough of these stories, the world's Bin Ladens will give his building a miss next time they target the city). It helped capture an al Qaeda operative known as Hambali, who organized the bombing of the Bali resort in 2002. The Treasury Department described it as "a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks". Officials participating in it claimed that "the program has pointed them to new suspects, while in others it has buttressed cases already under investigation."

A careful reading of the article also shows that the Times found no instances of anything illegal or 'Big-Brotherish' in how the program was executed. Oh, the authors wring their hands on every page about the "potential for abuse", as one unnamed "former senior counterterrorism official" states (who, in the same sentence, is noted as considering the program "valuable"). And, reading the article, you find that every abuse the authors could think of remained "potential". More officials "express reservations", describe themselves as "troubled", talk about the appearance of the program to do "end-runs" around privacy laws or it striking them as "inappropriate". And that's the most critics could come up with: appearances and potential. The report cites a single case of a person being removed from the program for conducting an "inappropriate" search. There was no widespread intrusion into the financial records of ordinary Americans, no potentially valid examples given of violations of privacy laws; just one person was fired for a search that the paper couldn't even characterize as "illegal".

Thus, the Times would have us believe that the potential for abuses which never materialized during the five years the program operated was sufficient grounds for crippling its proven ability to find individuals who would like nothing more than to turn all of America into a smoldering Ground Zero. Doesn't sound like a fair trade to me. And, given the Times' track record of exposing government counterterrorism efforts, I find no reason to think that this latest leak was in
"anything close to good faith" . The Times thought they had a winner when they blabbed about the so-called wiretapping program (apparently failing to note later that most Americans had no problem with the government monitoring international phone calls in which at least one member was a suspected terrorist). They think this story will further prove their earnest desire to protect the public interest; the only thing it proves, however, is that criticizing anything and everything to do with George W. Bush is more important to them than, say, maintaining the integrity of the Manhattan skyline or protecting men like Lieutenant Tom Cotton from the deadly devices that terrorist money buys. So, Mr. Keller, I hope you and your boss sleep well tonight, warmed by the fires of righteous indignation against Bush that burn in your bellies. I simply pray that your selfish, sanctimoneous actions don't help the Zarqawis of the world put innocent Americans to sleep permanently. P.S. I will no longer provide a link to your rag on my blog, lest I myself be accused of providing aid and comfort to the enemy.


Oh, and in case you were wondering what good our troops are doing over there (on a daily basis, almost always unreported), read
this story and remember that it, and not allegations at Haditha, is how Americans conduct war.

I'm almost out of energy (this is probably best for all concerned). I leave you with a note from
Victor Davis Hanson on the military's struggle to win in Iraq and the Left's desire to lose, and Mark Steyn reminding us that you can call it "redeployment", but the enemy - and the world - will see it for what it is: surrender. And the threats facing this world will become even more dangerous if its only superpower throws in the towel because her naysayers sacrifice national strength for the sake of destroying a man named W.


Ammianus Marcellinus said...

Just to let you know, the Wall Street Journal broke the story on the financing research the exact same day as the NY Times. I anxiously await similar condemnation.

Cincinnatus said...

On a purely technical level, yes, the Wall Street Journal reported the story the same day as the New York Times. The circumstances behind each publication, however, are quite different, which is why I hold the Times responsible.

Tony Fratto, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Treasury Department, learned two months ago that the Times was investigating the SWIFT program and asked them not to publish the details of this successful operation. Later, Secretary Snow himself personally asked Bill Keller not to publish; along with Snow, the heads of the 9/11 Commission, the Director of National Intelligence, and even John Murtha (in a rare moment of clarity) made the same request.

The Times rebuffed all such requests. The administration thus decided to declassify portions of the program, providing it to Journal reporter Glenn Simpson (who had done previous work on terror financing), under the precedent that officials will sometimes provide a story to different papers that's going to be published anyway, and in the hopes that the Journal would give the SWIFT program a fairer analysis than the fearmongerers at the Times.

Thus, it was the Times' determination to expose the program in defiance of bipartisan requests not to, that led the government to provide the Journal with the story as well. Had the Times not gone ahead with the story, there is no reason to believe that the Journal (which was not actively pursuing it) would have received the information to publish also. Even if the Journal had, independently, been researching the same story, there is also no reason to believe they would have reported it with so many officials asking them not to.

I think those circumstances make a big difference in who deserves condemnation and who doesn't.

Ammianus Marcellinus said...

Fair enough.