Sometimes you really have to wonder if The New York Times is on the Al Queda payroll. Not content with exposing, and thus making worthless the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, the Old Gray Lady has a lengthy exclusive on a CIA/Treasury Department program to monitor financial transaction of suspected terrorists.
Much like the NSA phone taps this program simply monitors wire and financial transfers from a Belgian clearinghouse (Swift) that is a nerve center for billions of dollars worth of international financial transactions. Counter-terrorism officials say that it has been a valuable tool in fighting the war on terror and identifying previously unknown terrorists, as well as bolstering cases against others.
There are specific successes the government can point to from this program.
The Swift data has provided clues to terror money trails and ties between possible terrorists and organizations financing them, the officials said. In some instances, they said, the program has pointed them to new suspects, while in others it has buttressed cases already under investigation.
Among the successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. The Swift data identified a previously unknown figure in Southeast Asia who had financial dealings with a person suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda; that link helped locate Hambali in Thailand in 2003, they said.
In the United States, the program has provided financial data in investigations into possible domestic terrorist cells as well as inquiries of Islamic charities with suspected of having links to extremists, the officials said.
The data also helped identify a Brooklyn man who was convicted on terrorism-related charges last year, the officials said. The man, Uzair Paracha, who worked at a New York import business, aided a Qaeda operative in Pakistan by agreeing to launder $200,000 through a Karachi bank, prosecutors said.
In terrorism prosecutions, intelligence officials have been careful to “sanitize,” or hide the origins of evidence collected through the program to keep it secret, officials said.
Swift, a former government official said, was “the mother lode, the Rosetta stone” for financial data.
Read that again. Because of this program, lives have been saved and terrorists have been captured. So what’s the big deal about it? Well the NYT has found several anonymous sources (who must remain anonymous BECAUSE IT’S A CLASSIFIED PROGRAM) that had “concerns” about the scope and reach of the program.
Let’s get one thing straight. These leakers are violating the law and endangering national security. They should go straight to jail, and have done a great disservice to the country they claim to serve.
The most galling part is that both Republicans and Democrats specifically asked the NYT not to publish the story because of the nature and success of the program. Did the Times care? Of course not. Check out this mealy-mouthed explanation for exposing a program that keeps Americans safe.
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 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.”
Can anyone tell me why this program is a matter of public interest? The monitoring is done overseas, and does not involve monitoring purely domestic transactions (although I wouldn’t see the problem if it did). An outside auditor was hired to safeguard against abuses, and under International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the President had the “investigate, regulate or prohibit” foreign transactions in responding to “an unusual and extraordinary threat.”
But now, thanks to fine folks at The New York Times, yet another effective tool in the war on terror has been exposed to the enemy, despite the fact that no one can point to any legal problem with the program and that it has been effective in capturing those who would kill us.
I can’t wait to hear the Patrick Leahy’s and Chucky Schumer’s of the world get in front of the microphones to attack the President on this one. Much like the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program, I predict the Dems and the MSM will overplay their hand. Americans with common sense and who actually want to win the war on terror won’t be able to see what the big deal is about this program, and in fact would probably be upset if we weren’t doing it.
But many Democrats and nearly all of the MSM are so disconnected from common sense Americans. This story is only a big deal in the echo chambers of the Democrat caucus room, the MSNBC studios, and the newsroom of the NYT.
But the NYT should look on the bright side - they’ll still be on Al Queda’s Christmas, er, Ramadan, card list.