Monday, July 03, 2006

No harm, no foul? Not exactly...

New York Times editor Bill Keller has been making the rounds defending his decision to publish details of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism financial tracking program. At the core of his defense is his opinion that no damage was done to national security because some terrorists and organizations that back them have resorted to lower tech methods of moving cash.

But even Keller doesn't claim that the program has no value, and in fact the article cites instances in which the program has resulted in the arrest of terrorist financiers. In Keller's own words:
It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far.
However, one consequence of publicizing the program may prove more damaging than anything the bad guys may have learned. Last week, the Washington Post reported that a civil liberties group in Britain had "...asked governments around the world to block the release of confidential financial records to U.S. anti-terrorism authorities."

Unfortunately, this is likely to be the first of many such groups to do so. In fact, I'd bet on self-serving groups such as moveon.org to jump on the band wagon and file suit to halt the program.

Every reasonably intelligent person on earth knew that international financial transactions were being watched. But now that the Times has painted the program with an Orwellian brush, it's become fair game for the loonball left to put a stop to it.

1 comment:

tom clarke said...

Congress in 1950 added Section 798 to the Espionage Act of 1917. It reads in part:

"Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits...or publishes ...any classified information...concerning the communications intelligence activities of the United States...shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both."

The statute is clear, why aren't Bill Keller and Eric Lichtblau in handcuffs?