NY Times Editor Answers The Critics…

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Media, The War On Terrorism

A must read…

I don’t always have time to answer my mail as fully as etiquette demands, but our story about the government’s surveillance of international banking records has generated some questions and concerns that I take very seriously. As the editor responsible for the difficult decision to publish that story, I’d like to offer a personal response.

Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government’s anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that’s the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.) Some comes from readers who have considered the story in question and wonder whether publishing such material is wise. And some comes from readers who are grateful for the information and think it is valuable to have a public debate about the lengths to which our government has gone in combatting the threat of terror.

It’s an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. Who are the editors of The New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other publications that also ran the banking story) to disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees? And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy, and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.

Well said.

Read the whole thing….


This entry was posted on Monday, June 26th, 2006 and is filed under Media, The War On Terrorism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Responses to “NY Times Editor Answers The Critics…”

  1. Monica Says:

    I guess it’s “well said” if one agrees that the NYT is justified in printing what is considered a SECRET legal and effective tool used in the WOT.

    I agree with freedom of the press 100%, but I’m of the opinion that the NYT went too far this time. I believe with great power comes great responsibility (as said in Spiderman :-)), but I haven’t seen anything about this program that has led me to believe that it should be disclosed to the public.

    For differing opinions regarding this letter you might check out:

    http://www.qando.net/details.aspx?Entry=4131
    http://instapundit.com/archives/031092.php
    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/007314.php

  2. Kevin Says:

    I worked in a bank years ago and dealt with a lot of large wire transfers. My first reaction to hearing that the government was monitoring these transactions was “no shit”. wire transfers leave records which can easily be tracked, cross referenced, etc. I refuse to believe that terrorists were so stupid as to not realize this and act accordingly.

    After all, the US government has shut down or frozen the funds of several Islamic “charities” in recent years because they were funeling money to Terrorist groups. How do you think we figured out were their money was going. The only one’s not in on this “secret” were the general public.

    Please keep that in mind when discussing this “treachery”.

  3. Monica Says:

    The secret wasn’t that we were monitoring financial transfers – that has been well known for a while now – it was HOW we were doing it that was the secret.

  4. DosPeros Says:

    Oh, boy, yeah, that was enlightening &, indeed, “well said” – such poetic prose and in-depth history & analysis of the 1st Amendment — absolutely brilliant. Particularly inspiring for lefty lapdogs.

  5. David Says:

    Nothing about freedom of the press makes it legal to knowingly publish classified information pertaining to an ongoing project which has met its legal threshhold for existence. No one has argued that the appropriate oversight was not in place.

    The NYT has done the equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre – they have crossed the boundary of acceptable behavior.

  6. Meredith Says:

    Oh please, government secrets and the War on Terror. No one would be shouting “traitor,” or calling liberals other names, or complaining that security has been breached, if the government had not been caught with their hand in the cookie jar, again.

    Warrantless wiretaps, library monitoring, watch lists galore, monitoring bank accounts, no more knocking before busting in your house, wisking people off to secret prisons overseas, locking people up indefinitely with no charges . . . .

    Jeezus Christ!!!! When will people notice that things are out of control? How far does this crap have to go?

  7. Monica Says:

    Meredith -

    Even the NYT reports that the SWIFT program seems to be legal. Congress has been informed of the program, there have been checks and balances put into place to prevent abuse, and the program has been successful at catching terrorist financiers.

    There is nothing that the NYT has reported that makes me believe it was necessary to disclose the details of this program to the public.

  8. DosPeros Says:

    Meredith — I don’t think there is any credible argument or insinuation that this program was illegal at all, in the slightest. If you think you have that argument, lets hear it. Without the allegation of illegality, we are merely talking about the NYTimes blowing the cover on a legal war-time program to trace terrorist funds. You try to obscure that simple, elementary fact with a litany of supposedly evil deeds (some of which, I admit, I would perfer weren’t happening) creating this Orwellian Zeitgeist. The problem is…this program wasn’t Orwellian, it was immensely pragmatic and practical. So the NYTime made a conscious choice to blow the cover on a practical, pragmatic, legal, effective wartime program for no apparent reason — oh, except the attitude/opinion of this editor that as a general proposition this Administration needs more oversight. Well…isn’t that nice. Your obfuscation of the simple facts of this program, with your litany of grievances, underscore the same contemptuous attitude the NYTime editorial staff has towards Bush, but their actions may prove to cost American lives. What a sad, pitiful joke is the paper “of record,” now “the paper of treason.” I relish the day this idiot editor gets indicted.

  9. Trickish Knave Says:

    Warrantless wiretaps, library monitoring, watch lists galore, monitoring bank accounts, no more knocking before busting in your house, wisking people off to secret prisons overseas, locking people up indefinitely with no charges . . . . – Meredith

    What, no mention of aliens in Area 51? You must be slipping in your Orwellian fears of this administration.

    DosPeros summed up my thoughts on your comment so, sans future unhinged comments from you, I will dismiss support for the NYT as a blind loyalty to the anti-Bush movement.

  10. Brian in MA Says:

    Warrantless wiretaps, library monitoring, watch lists galore, monitoring bank accounts, no more knocking before busting in your house, wisking people off to secret prisons overseas, locking people up indefinitely with no charges . . . .

    So Meredith, how do you recommend the government protect us, ask al-jazeera to send an e-mail to Bin laden asking him if he could please stop plotting to kill all us unworthy pig infidels?

    Do you have a guilty conscience or something? The government really doesn’t care that much about you if you aren’t on the phone with al-Zawahiri or some other terrorist thug. It appears you’d rather gut our government and have us all be killed in the name of beating back evil Bushitler and his “illegal surveillance” of “freedom fighters” who are just “getting back at the little Eichmanns”.

    A fat lot of good “freedom of the press” does if it subverts our national security to the point where it makes us powerless to stop the enemy. If the terrorists ever do succeed, I bet the last place to be blown up will be the NYT because they were instrumental useful idiots.

    This is what we call high treason, Mr. Keller. And don’t complain to us about “continuing to give the story publicity” by calling you out on it. If you and your buddies hadn’t published it all over the country in the first place, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, traitorous worm. Don’t try to fault us for calling you out, we aren’t the ones who distributed it throughout the nation. It wouldn’t be cruel enough to kill or imprison you, we should just hand you over to the terrorrists and let them have their way with you. If you somehow make it out alive, I’m sure you’ll sing a different tune then the one you do currently from your rich, fancy, unassailable office.

  11. Meredith Says:

    If the program is legal, that’s awesome. However, I still think this is all too much. You guys can make fun of me all you want, but I think you are the crazy ones. If you don’t want the government monitoring what your kids eat (see post above), then you might consider that all this spying on people stuff is kind of similar. Don’t you understand that as long as the WOT is attached to the act, you will excuse almost any behavior? That is a little weird to me.

    Also, please explain how this compromises national security. The real question, is whether there was a good reason for the NYT to NOT publish the story. And please don’t say that the terrorists, before the story came out, were not at all concerned about shielding their international banking transactions when they were buying weapons and paying spies, but now that the article has come out, they are.

    Brian, your suggestion of turning the writer over to terrorists to be tortured is completely disgusting and sad. I hope you don’t really feel that way, but are just using hyperbole to make a point.

  12. Lewis Says:

    There are some great rebuttals to Mr. Keller’s letter on many blogs. (Go see Instapundit). Of two best ones I read, one was from a marine stationed in Iraq. He thanked Mr. Keller for helping terrorists hide their money better. That money is used for buying weapons and explosives for IEDs. Now they will be able to kill and wound more American GIs and innocent men, women and children in Iraq. His next point was why then is the NYT moralizing so loudly about all the useless killing over in Iraq and how the situation keeps on deteriorating. Good point I thought.

    The other writer felt that this type of “investigative” journalism is just a hangover from the Watergate mentality. Newspapers trying to hang on to their “glory days” of long ago, attempting to duplicate that same thing that made them famous and powerful. But like most remakes, the original was so much better. Also, unlike Watergate, these guys get everything handed over to them from an inside source. It’s easy and requires no real work. And nothing really matters except the opportunity to make money and get their 5 minutes of fame. That’s reflected in the incredibly poor judgement over what they publish and how they attempt to rationalize it. It’s only about them, nothing else matters. Freedom of press my arse.

  13. Jeff Says:

    Well it seems John Murtha was against publishing the article as well

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/27/AR2006062701708.html

    Keller said he spent more than an hour in late May listening to Treasury Secretary John Snow argue against publication of the story. He said that he also got a call from Negroponte, the national intelligence czar, and that three former officials also made the case to Times editors: Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, chairmen of the 9/11 commission, and Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania — an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq.

    Hard to make the case that criticism of publishing the article is only coming from Bush-shills

    That said. I also don’t think that the harsh rhetoric being leveled at the Times is fair. There were legitimate concerns about the program that I believe justified publishing the article. But neither do I think just dismissing the criticisms of the administration is valid either.

    This is one story where both sides are acting disgracefully in my view

  14. Trickish Knave Says:

    Actually, Brian in MA never said he wishes the editor to be tortured, just that he fall into terrorist possession. Since the NYT has given the terrorists a helping hand the editor would probably just sit around and play cards with them anyway.

    [/hypersensitivity]

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