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The Soviets Had the KGB -- Al Qaeda Has the NYT

By Mac Johnson
Human Events
Posted Jan 2, 2006

America spends $40 billion per year on intelligence operations aimed at discovering our enemies’ secret activities. All our enemies have to do is subscribe to the New York Times and, for as little as $4.65 per week, they can discover most of our secret operations -- at least as long as a Republican is President.

Granted, reading the Times won’t give them an accurate picture of the growth of the U.S. economy, the progress in the Iraq War, or the average American’s political opinions. But it will provide them a detailed description of almost any classified military, CIA, or NSA operation designed to catch or kill them.

We are now two weeks into the artificial brouhaha engineered by the Times when it exposed that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been authorized by the President to monitor the international phone calls and emails of terror suspects within the US.

Despite the best efforts of the Times and its backup singers in the mainstream media, this revelation has not resonated as scandalous with the American people. A Rasmussen poll released December 28th revealed that 64% of Americans believe that the NSA should intercept such international communications. This was the majority opinion among Republicans (81%), Democrats (51%) and Independents (57%) alike. A mere 23% thought the NSA should be prohibited from such warrant-less monitoring.

And 68% of respondents said they were following the NSA wiretapping story closely, so the President’s critics cannot blame ignorance for the rejection of their arguments by the citizenry. Indeed, the respondents understood very well that President authorizing such eavesdropping to assess national security threats is not new or unusual -- only 26% were misinformed enough to think that Bush was the first President to do so.

Contrary to press reports, there is no “Wiretapping Scandal.” But there is a “Leak Scandal”. For many Americans, the issue raised by the Times’ revelation of the secret NSA operation is not why or how it was authorized; but why the Times thinks it can expose such classified information during a time of War.

Indeed, this spying operation was judged so vital to the U.S. effort to defeat Al Qaeda that it is said that President Bush, upon hearing that the Times had learned of the covert program, summoned Arthur Sulzberger and Bill Keller (Publisher and Executive Editor of the Times, respectively) to the Oval Office for a personal meeting. At this unusual face-to-face discussion, the President explained the importance of the eavesdropping effort and that exposing it would likely cause terrorists to change their communications practices –thus depriving America of an essential source of intelligence.

And yet the Times, believing it could twist the story into “Snoopgate” and frighten average Americans into believing that the country was on a slippery slope toward Orwell’s Big Brother, chose to print the secret information anyway -- knowing it would harm our war effort.

If an individual citizen had learned of this program and communicated its existence and operational details to our enemies, we would imprison him. Yet the NY Times expects public accolades for doing the same thing.

How can the United States win a war against a worldwide secret organization like Al Qaeda, when we cannot conduct even the simplest classified operations against them without everything ending up on the front page of the New York Times?

The NSA case is not unique either.

In May of 2005 the Times ran a story detailing a classified CIA operation to transport captured terror suspects from one international facility to another using a covert network of planes. It is hard to imagine why the Times thought the American people had such a pressing need to know about this program that they were obligated to blow its cover. It is even harder to imagine why the story included so many details -- plane tail numbers, flight dates, subcontractor’s names, shell companies, home airports, even the names of individual men associated with the CIA covert air operations.

The exposé was made easy by the gross incompetence of the modern CIA. But the big question remains: why would the Times want to publish details that add nothing to the story’s debatable value in addressing civil liberties concerns, but are very valuable to those who might wish to disrupt future CIA transportation efforts? Indeed, several of the private contractors named by the Times are now the focus of lawsuits from the ACLU and former terror suspects, as well as criminal investigations by foreign governments.

And how secure are these private companies and the small airports from which they are based, now that Al Qaeda knows who and where they are?

The Times is not alone in such revelations of national secrets, of course. Extensive details about the CIA’s hidden network of overseas interrogation facilities were proudly blasted into the public domain by the Washington Post, which even speculated later that the New York Times decision to ignore the President’s appeal not to publish the NSA story was influenced by the Post having “scooped” the Times on the secret prison story, The Times later helped the world fill in some of the blanks from the Post story, so that our allies in the covert operations have all been exposed to diplomatic ridicule and potential terrorist retribution.

A number of outlets of the mainstream media seem to be in a gleeful contest with one another to publicly expose as many of our secret operations as possible. In the guise of being a valuable watchdog on government, these media organizations are serving mostly as watchdogs for our enemies.

If the press is, as they claim, the ultimate check on government, who is the check on the press? Will they police themselves? Will The Washington Post criticize the New York Times, where many Post personnel wish to work one day? No. The ultimate check on the press in cases such as this is the prosecutor’s office.

As we saw in the Valerie Plame debacle, a rare instance in which the media supported a leak investigation (solely because they believed, incorrectly, that it might ensnare George Bush or Karl Rove), when a prosecutor wishes to force a reporter to give up her sources, he can. And the world will not collapse. The First Amendment will not shrivel. And our Democracy will not fall pallid and die.

Federal Prosecutors should vigorously pursue the New York Times’ serious leak of classified information, and force the Times to reveal their sources. Anyone guilty of a crime should then be indicted, regardless of who they are or how self-righteous they behave.

It is ridiculous to imprison a foreign agent for passing secrets to our enemies, then shower praise on the New York Times for doing the same.

The convicted spy Aldrich Ames sits in a Federal Prison today for communicating some of our dearest secrets to the Soviet Union. Perhaps his real crime was forgetting to “Cc” the New York Times on those communications. It is time to stop treating the media elite as though they have the right to ignore without consequence any law that gets in the way of a journalistic scoop or a political agenda.

Certainly, the media themselves have come to believe that they have a quasi-governmental authority to randomly declassify any military or intelligence operation. Consider the following quote from a December 24th New York Times piece exposing yet another NSA operation, a data mining effort: “The current and former government officials who discussed the program were granted anonymity because it remains classified.”

The NY Times has “granted” anonymity. Really? How about prosecutorial “immunity”? Can the Times grant that? We should vigorously prosecute such hubristic non-sense and end the anti-American counter-intelligence service that our media so willfully provides to the world.

Contrary to their belief, journalists are not privileged to violate laws. They are not prosecutors capable of granting legal protection to sources. And they are not in charge of determining when and if classified material is made public. They are mere citizens, like you and me, subject to the same rights and restrictions as any other American.




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