FNC Panel Chastises NYT Bank Story: ‘Disgrace,’ Consider Bush Worse Than al Qaeda
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. (Transcript follows)
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. My April 18 NewsBusters posting, “Pulitzer Prizes Award Journalists Who Undermined Anti-Terrorism Programs,” 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.
"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.”Clay Waters, Editor of the MRC’s TimesWatch site, posted an analysis on NewsBusters, “NYT Wrecks Another Terrorist-Surveillance Program,” of the Times article.
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.”
Now, to 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."