This is a partial transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," July 9, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST: The disclosure last month by The New York Times of a secret Bush administration program to monitor international banking transactions has set off a new round of debate over the obligations of the press in wartime.
In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, my colleagues and I weighed in, criticizing The Times for compromising, if not overtly obstructing, the administration's efforts to fight the war on terror.
We invited New York Times executive editor Bill Keller to be on the show. He declined.
We are pleased to be joined instead by Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at the Jones Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, and a FOX News contributor.
Marvin, welcome to the program.
MARVIN KALB, SENIOR FELLOW, JONES SHORENSTEIN CENTER: Thank you very much, Paul.
GIGOT: Let me read to you a quote from Senator John McCain this week. And I want to get you to respond.
He said the following, when it was asked whether the press should have published this story on terror financing; "No, I don't think they should have. I think there are laws that were passed that allow programs such as this. I think it is a very important program. Tracking the money is always a vital tool. And members of Congress were kept informed and agreed to this program," end quote.
Why is John McCain wrong?
KALB: Well, I'm not saying that he is wrong. I think that the story that The New York Times broke is one of those that you end up 49-51, do I go with it or do I sit on it?
My own feeling is that The New York Times did the right thing by going with the story. In that sense, I disagree with the senator, most respectfully.
I do believe, however, that if I were the editor of The Times — a very unlikely prospect — I would have gone with the story in a different way. Not with all of the detail on finances, but by focusing on another major activity of the administration without sufficient consultation with the Congress and possibly — although not necessarily in this case — in some violation of the law itself.
GIGOT: But nobody since that story has broken has said this has violated the law. I mean, there hasn't been…
KALB: Now, that's true.
GIGOT: And John McCain and others — Jack Murtha, in fact — asked The Times not to publish it — the Democrat from Pennsylvania. So there is no assertion here that Congress wasn't adequately informed.
KALB: I think the assertion was made by The New York Times, by the LA Times, by your own newspaper and the Washington Post, all of whom ran this story.
And what they said was that there was very limited consultation with the Congress. Only after the administration knew that the Times was going to go with the story were all of the people on the relevant committees informed.
I think that the editorial that you ran, Paul — and I say this, as you know, with total respect for you as a journalist — I think it was dead wrong. I think you declared war on another American newspaper without due cause. It is mean. It is mean-spirited.
GIGOT: What we want to know is — what I've heard from many people, many of our readers is what is the public interest that was served in disclosing this story? Why did we have to undermine a program that really worked effectively to track terror financing? What specific interest was served?