Posted by Curt on 2 July, 2006 at 10:50 am. 2 comments already!

I guess I missed a doozy of a “roundtable” this morning on NBC. According to Jonah Goldberg, it was a breathtaking display of arrogance:

Today’s “Meet the Press” roundtable, still going, is a scandal of media egocentrism. With the exception of Bill Bennett, the groupthink on display is staggering. Criticizing the media is inherently silly according to this papal conclave of journalists. Any criticism is either an example of know-nothing populism or cynical electioneering, according to Dana Priest, Bill Safire, John Harwood et al. Journalists are always heroes and leakers should never be prosecuted. We’re always right, no matter what.

It’s just an outrageous display of self-importance.

Here we have just a snippet of the discussion where Dana Priest makes the absurd point that releasing classified information is not a crime, and then proceeds to get personal with Bill Bennett.

Yeah, gambling and printing our secrets….the same thing….sigh.

Then we have Byron Calame writing in the New York Times:

There was a significant question as to how secret the [monitoring of the SWIFT banking program] was after five years.”Hundreds, if not thousands, of people know about this,” [executive editor Bill] Keller said he was told by an official who talked to him on condition of anonymity.

Oh really? So now the SWIFT program was not that big of a deal because hell, thousands of people probably knew about it.

Funny how the original article never stated this. In fact they stated exactly the opposite:

While the banking program is a closely held secret, administration officials have held classified briefings for some members of Congress and the Sept. 11 commission, the officials said.

This coming on the heels of the New York Times telling us that “hey, the terrorists already knew about the program, so it’s not that big of a deal.”

Terrorists have for many years employed nontraditional communications and money transfers including the ancient Middle Eastern hawala system, involving couriers and a loosely linked network of money brokers precisely because they assume that international calls, e-mail and banking are monitored not only by the United States but by Britain, France, Israel, Russia and even many third-world countries.

So it’s a-ok that we printed that story because while it may be legal, and it may have been successful, but dammit we want some pulitzers.

It’s funny when you get desk jockeys talking about actual crime and terrorist fighting. They don’t have a clue.

Lets look at it from the street level. Being a cop we run into criminals who should know a whole lot about the crime fighting techniques being used by businesses, individuals, and the police departments. But they continue to commit a crime in such a way that it’s all caught on video for example. They should reasonable know that most businesses have video surveillance nowadays. But you know what, they get lazy.

The bigger crime groups who are committing the bigger crimes such as the major drug deals and so forth, get caught because, they talk.

They should reasonably know that their phone calls are being listened to, a big crime syndicate gets to be well known in law enforcement circles and a reasonable person should understand that sooner or later a wiretap is going to get done.

But they get lazy, they forget….whichever it is, they talk and we catch.

The less the terrorists hear about our government programs the more apt they are to become lazy.

But that won’t happen with the New York Times around.

David Reinhard
writes to Bill Keller today:

Dear Bill Keller:

Remember me? We met in the elevator here at The Oregonian recently. Your decision to expose a secret program to track terrorist funding got me to thinking I had better write and apologize. I don’t think I was sufficiently deferential on our brief ride together. I treated you like the executive editor of The New York Times who used to work for The Oregonian. I had no idea I was riding with the man who decides what classified programs will be made public during a war on terror. I had no idea the American people had elected you president and commander in chief.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic. What’s that they say — sarcasm is anger’s ugly cousin? I’m angry, Bill.

I get angry when a few unauthorized individuals take it upon themselves to undermine an anti-terror program that even your own paper deems legal and successful. I get angry when the same people decide to blow the lid on a secret program designed to keep Islamic terrorists from killing Americans en masse.

“The disclosure of this program,” President Bush said Monday, “is disgraceful.”

Strong words, but not strong enough, Bill.

Your decision was contemptible, but your Sunday letter explaining the Times’ decision only undermined your case for disclosure.

“It’s an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press . . .,” you wrote. “[T]he people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy. . . . They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.”

Too true, but the issue here is your judgment. It would be one thing if you ran this story because the program was illegal, abusive or feckless. Yet your paper established nothing of the kind. In the end, your patronizing and lame letter offered only press-convention bromides (“a matter of public interest”).

The complete arrogance and stupidity of the press is mindboggling. The arrogance to believe that they should be the keepers of secrets. They should decide what to disclose and what not to. The stupidity in believing that printing a article which describes a secret tracking program will not affect our war against terror.

An example needs to be made of our treasonous press.

UPDATE

Bill Keller just admitted it: (h/t Expose The Left)

BILL KELLER: If you’re under the impression that the press is neutral in this War on Terror, that we’re agnostic, and you could get that impression from some of the criticism, that couldn’t be more wrong.

Oh, we know it Bill. Your papers reporting has proven which side you are on in this war.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

And now the other shoe is dropping:

Last month the New York Times broke the story that CIA agents and US treasury officials have been secretly monitoring financial transactions routed through Swift, an acronym for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. […]

The European Commission has already said that EU law does not cover the handing over of financial data by Swift. The European Parliament will debate the US action on Monday.

Belgium Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has ordered an investigation into the activities of Swift, which is regulated by the Belgian central bank and is subject to Belgian law.

Steven Spruiell:

There you have it: a public debate about the program in the European Parliament during which sensitive details about the program are sure to be repeated over and over in several languages and an investigation launched by the Belgian prime minister.

But hey, the Times felt it was in the national interest that they print a story about this legal program.

UPDATE II

Hugh Hewitt kicked ass this morning on CNN against some of our MSM Bush haters, Eric Lichtblau and the host Howard Kurtz: (h/t Expose The Left)

KURTZ: In your mind, Eric Lichtblau, and I realize that you don’t make the final decision. Your editor, Bill Keller does. Was this — was this a more difficult decision, closer call than your earlier story on the domestic surveillance program, which many, even Republicans say, you know, was of questionable legality and which millions of Americans were concerned about for privacy reasons? Was this a closer call?

LICHTBLAU: I think in some ways it was a closer call. It was a difficult decision. Anytime you’re talking about, you know, revealing sensitive information, that is not something any paper does lightly, be it the “New York Times”, the “L.A. Times” or the “Wall Street Journal”. You know, the paper listened long and hard over a period of months to the administration, to the arguments. They weighed the arguments before making the decision they did.

And you know, we listened to people who the administration sent to talk to us about the program. And you know, it was not an easy decision. And outside the context of the NSA program and the debate going on over presidential powers, it probably would have been even a more difficult decision.

KURTZ: Hugh Hewitt, what do you make of that? I mean, in other words, I think that some on the right are portraying this as “The New York Times” just sort of recklessly plowing ahead, putting this information in the paper, wanting to damage the Bush administration, when in the case of domestic surveillance, they held the story for a year. In this current case, on the banking program, the story was held for at least several weeks.

So would you not grant, at least, that they wrestled seriously with the implications here?

HEWITT: No, I won’t grant that, Howard, because Bill Keller won’t do any interviews with people hostile to his decision. Eric has turned me down repeatedly to come on my program. And when you listen to the MSMers gathered round there in the beltway, they’re not dealing with the real issue.

I’m not proposing, no one is proposing what Geneva and Gene suggest that we are talking about. We’re talking about a specific story in which, for the first time in American history, following on the December story as well, major media has turned down explicit requests from the government not to reveal material illegally leaked to them by, in this instance, 20 people who broke their oaths of office, who ought to be discovered, who ought to be, at least, thrown out of the government and possibly prosecuted. And I hope Eric is in front of a grand jury and asked their names.

It’s a specific case. It’s not a general shut-down; it’s not a repeal of the First Amendment. It’s a specific…

KURTZ: Hold on. So you’re saying — you’re saying you hope that Eric Lichtblau, who’s sitting right here, has to testify before a grand jury, and if he won’t reveal his sources, then you are perfectly comfortable with a judge sending him off to jail?

HEWITT: I don’t know the circumstances of how he would not be answering or who would make him, so I won’t answer that. I hope he is called before a grand jury and asked who broke the law, who broke their oath and told him secrets that I believe, as do many other people, including for example, Lieutenant Tom Cotton, Sergeant T.F. Boggs, both of whom have written letters to the “Times” which have gone unanswered…

KURTZ: All right. Here I’ve got to…

HEWITT: … who they believe are getting killed because of what he did. I think he ought to be asked that question of who did this.

[…]KURTZ: Hugh Hewitt, do you worry at all about what the cliche is, a chilling effect on the press? That there are these investigations and prosecutions? Doesn’t — isn’t the press, whether you agree in this particular instance or not, play — exert a certain check on the power of government?

HEWITT: Of course it does. I’ve been teaching comm law for 10 years. I love the First Amendment. I think it’s necessary. But I am amazed that of your three guests, none of them even mentioned the war against the war or Bush hatred and the antipathy that has been manifesting itself by a lot of people, both inside government, but especially within mainstream media.

The astonishing thing is the little closed circle that is MSM seems to be surprised that the vast majority of Americans are suspicious of their motives and understand them to be political and hard left and engaged in a war against this administration. They’re not fooling anyone except themselves.

And I really do hope, Howard, that Eric and Gene will accept my repeated invitations to appear in a fair and a long conversation on the air so that they can defend themselves. The fact that they’re hiding tells us a lot.

KURTZ: You can call them up after the show. And I think some members of the MSM, or mainstream media, would disagree with your characterization of Bush hatred, but we’re going to have to leave it there.

Watch it all here:

[flv:hhcnn2.flv 400 300]

David Frum points out that the emerging defense the MSM is using is that everyone knew already:

This is the emerging line of defense: The financial surveillance program was not much of a secret anyway, so national security was not compromised by the decision to reveal it. If true, that raises the question: if the program was not much of a secret, why was it considered worthy of 2000+ words on the front page?

This latest defense sounds to my ears rather like excusing the publication of the departure time of a troopship with the excuse: Well, everybody knew that the US was moving troops by water. There’s a big difference between knowledge of the general outline of a program and knowledge of its specific operational details. Here are some details from the June 23 story that you have to wonder whether the terrorists knew before:

i) The US and its allies are tracking not only bank accounts, but also information from stock exchanges and mutual fund managers.

ii) The US does not however have easy access to individual ATM transactions on American soil.

iii) Wire transfer information is not available in real time, but only after a lag of several weeks.

iv) Nor is it logistically possible to get real-time information on credit-card purchases – of, for example, fertilizer or timing devices.

v) The United Arab Emirates fully cooperates with the program.

vi) Individual member banks are growing unhappy with the program and want it to end.

Doesn’t that strike you as potentially useful information – especially points iii and vi?

But dammit, all they wanted was a pulitzer. Damn the consequences.

UPDATE III

I noticed the sound and video of the above segments were not in synch. All fixed now.

Other’s Blogging:


So it�s a-ok that we printed that story because while it may be legal, and it may have been successful, but dammit we want some pulitzers.

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