The Price of Publishing Leaks: SWIFT Data Flow to U.S. Must Stop by April

In a huge blow to America’s ability to defend itself from future terrorist attacks both home and abroad, the European Central Bank has told SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, that it must halt the transfer of personal banking information to American authorities by April.

As reported by Agence France-Presse on February 1 (h/t to Dan at Riehl World View): “The agency, the European Data Protection Supervisor, told the bank to come up with measures ‘to make its payment operations fully compliant with data-protection legislation,’ urging it to ‘take appropriate measures as soon as possible.’”

Hadn’t heard about this? Well, how could you? After all, according to Google and LexisNexis searches, the only major American media outlet to bother reporting this was, coincidentally and quite ironically, the New York Times.

Isn’t that a delicious twist of fate? Yet, the hypocrisy in this goes much deeper.

For those that have forgotten, the Times first released information surrounding this top secret program on June 22, 2006, much to the dismay of the Bush administration and most right-thinking Americans.

The strategy was simple and effective: identify suspicious wire transfers of funds from suspicious sources to suspicious recipients, and one might be able to thwart the terror activity being planned while capturing or killing the participants.

Doesn’t that sound like a good strategy in a post-9/11 world?

Unfortunately for America, the New York Times and its executive editor Bill Keller felt that the public’s need to know about this program was much more important than keeping it secret. In fact, this was irrespective of whether the program was illegal, as Keller stated in a letter to his readers on June 25, 2006, that the strategy appeared not to violate any known laws.

In that letter, Keller also said that the Bush administration asked the Times not to reveal this information because it might jeopardize the viability of the program. Keller didn’t agree, and offered the following now obviously specious opinion (emphasis mine):

The central argument we heard from officials at senior levels was that international bankers would stop cooperating, would resist, if this program saw the light of day. We don't know what the banking consortium will do, but we found this argument puzzling. First, the bankers provide this information under the authority of a subpoena, which imposes a legal obligation. Second, if, as the Administration says, the program is legal, highly effective, and well protected against invasion of privacy, the bankers should have little trouble defending it. The Bush Administration and America itself may be unpopular in Europe these days, but policing the byways of international terror seems to have pretty strong support everywhere. And while it is too early to tell, the initial signs are that our article is not generating a banker backlash against the program.

Well, Bill, it appears that you were 100 percent wrong on all counts, for this counterterrorism program is about to go the way of the dodo, and you and your people are to thank.

Hope you and all the folks on the left who celebrated your decision to release this information for the public’s welfare are happy.

Of course, the point can't be made strong enough concerning how absolutely unbelievable it is that this story went virtually unreported as compared to the media firestorm the revelation of this program caused in June and July 2006.

Well, maybe that's not too shocking. After all, nobody's going to win a Pulitzer Prize for reporting this news.  

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.