Monday, June 26, 2006

OPSEC: It's Not For The NYT

The dynamic duo of Eric Lichtblau and James Risen have published the details of yet another classified national-security program.

This time, they exposed the workings of a database of financial records that the administration has used to track al Qaeda's banking transactions: The Bush administration has made no secret of its campaign to disrupt terrorist financing, and President Bush, Treasury officials and others have spoken publicly about those efforts. Administration officials, however, asked The New York Times not to publish this article, saying that disclosure of the Swift program could jeopardize its effectiveness (They might as well have asked al Qaeda to please stop killing civilians). They also enlisted several current and former officials, both Democrat and Republican, to vouch for its value.

Bill Keller, the newspaper's executive editor, said: "We have listened closely to the administration's arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."

According to the NYT's own reporting, the program is legal. The program is helping us catch terrorists. The administration has briefed the appropriate members of Congress. The program has built-in safeguards to prevent abuse and yet, with nothing more than a vague appeal to the "public interest" (which apparently is not outweighed in this case by the public's interest in apprehending terrorists), the NYT disregards all that and publishes intimate, classified details about the program. Keller and his team really do believe they are above the law. I suppose when it comes to national security, it isn't the government that should decide when secrecy is essential to a program's effectiveness. It is the New York Times.

Both the leakers within our intelligence agencies and those publishing the leaks are jeopardizing national security, and are not just putting those who serve in uniform in danger, but civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even here in the U.S. in harms way.

Why stop there?

Why not broadcast classified information on troop levels too?

Oh, you already got that covered...

The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say.

According to a classified briefing at the Pentagon this week by the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the number of American combat brigades in Iraq is projected to decrease to five or six from the current level of fourteen by December 2007.

General Casey's briefing has remained a closely held secret, and it was described by American officials who agreed to discuss the details only on condition of anonymity.

"Closely held secret." Not. Anymore. Way to go, NYT!

Publishing classified information during wartime...treasonous or just good reporting?

That's a rhetorical question.


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