On Sunday Representative Peter King (R-New York), Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for the executive branch to file criminal charges against media outlets that reported on a secret finance-tracking program used to follow the path of terrorist transactions. He specifically called out the New York Times for its piece on the program. “We’re at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous,” complains King. The program, run by the CIA and overseen by the Treasury Department, has been in place since late 2001.
The finance-tracking program was exposed last week after the successful foiling of a terrorist plot in Florida. And it was all over the papers, the internet, and talk radio. NPR’s Laura Sullivan did a nice interview with an expert who basically said hey, this program works. He suggested that it’s usefulness outweighed concerns about illicit prying to the lives of private citizens, and that maybe, since people get so worked up about it, perhaps it would be better if we just didn’t know about it. In addition to this astounding non-leftist viewpoint heard on NPR, we heard more conventional proponents of the initiative like Treasury Secretary John Snow, who says that “By following the money we’ve been able to locate operatives, we’ve been able to locate their financiers, we’ve been able to chart the terrorist networks and we’ve been able to bring the terrorists to justice.” Makes sense, right?
But, to our immense suprise, the Democrats and other assorted leftists immediatly cryed foul, that we were spying on private citizens, that we are not safe from intrustion by Dubya’s psycho CIA and FBI lackeys, etc, etc. Its a cheap trick of the Dems to capitalise on fear that they create in the American populace. Ah, those paternalistic Dems, the noble advocate of the people in the face of an evil Republican Administration. What is reality? In the name of protecting the people, one by one Democrats try to destroy our initiatives to win a WAR. And the media has been right at their side at every juncture.
Back to the earlier point, that perhaps if using records of transaction and phone calls makes us queasy about invasion of privacy perhaps we should just cover our ears. I don’t like the idea of shutting out things I don’t like. Perhaps we should step further backward and say that maybe the media should stop digging up bones, “exhumin’ things thats better left alone,” to quote Nashville crooner Randy Tavis. We need transparency in our government. But the media is responsible to stay on the other side of a line that has national security behind it. The media in the past was always judicious about reporting. But now they seem to think nothing of reporting on the latest anti-terror initiative. Being a terrorist would appear easy in this arrangement of things. To know how to beat anti-terror initiatives, were I one I would simply watch TV. Its all there. I would know which cities are least prepared for an attack, what they are doing to increase security at high-risk locations, how to avoid having communications tracked, how to avoid having money tracked, where the least defended portion of the border is, and much more.
Do you want the media to expose our anti-terror strategy just to get some mileage out of the old invasion of privacy angle? I don’t. Like most Americans I am not into black helicopter hallucinations; I trust the government just enough to let them push the envelope a little harder to protect my security. The media needs to check itself big time. I think criminal charges are a little questionable. Certainly, Republican leaders are a little hestitant to join King in calling for such action. Its a dicey precedent to be sure. But no less is the prospect of allowing to media to act as the world’s spies and to share national security secrets with not only one enemy, but the entire world. Bottom line, I am a little reluctant to throw the New York Times in jail, but if the media continues to threaten national security just to make a buck, somebody’s got to lay the smack down.