The New York Times is supposed to be better than others in the reporting biz, but if that is so it is going to have to start paying attention to its own history, being mindful of what it has said in the past.
Right now it is saying the revelation of a secret program to track terrorist money transfers through the banking system was a legitimate news story. The reasoning seems to go like this:
First, no the program was not illegal but it was questionable. Second, it was something the public should know about. And three, the revelation of secret programs doesn't seem to have stopped them. That is, revealing the secret NSA listening program didn't stop it. Same with the secret program to watch banking transfers. Banking transfers will continue and the feds will continue to watch.
Of course, in the case of both the NSA listening program and the banking transfer program it seems that only the stupidest Al Qaeda member will now get caught. The feds can go on listening and watching, but what terrorist is going to use systems he or she has been warned are under constant surveillance?
Then there is the little matter of what The New York Times itself has demanded in these areas. In September of 2001 — about two weeks after the 9/11 attacks — The New York Times demanded the Bush administration keep an eye on terrorist funding.
In one of its unsigned editorials titled "Finances of Terror," The Times insisted to Bush that: "Much more is needed, including stricter regulations, the recruitment of specialized investigators and greater cooperation with foreign banking authorities."
So the Bush administration goes out and does just what The New York Times says. It institutes a legal program to keep an eye on international banking transactions. And what happens? Five years later The New York Times decides it has to reveal the existence of this program, effectively rendering it useless.
So what am I supposed to make of this? That The Times suggests things the government should be doing in order to have a big story a few years down the road after the government has taken The Times' advice?
The Times thought it was a good idea for the government to be tracking terror money transfers, but The Times also thinks it is a good idea to reveal that such efforts are underway, thereby canceling out the value of the very thing Times editors thought was a valuable anti-terror tool.
This is a type of thinking that most Americans don't understand. Frankly, I don't either and I've worked in the news business a very long time.
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