Patterico's Pontifications

7/2/2006

Eric Lichtblau, Meet Your Own Story and Headline

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 4:48 pm



Eric Lichtblau’s story in the New York Times, June 22:

Bank Data Secretly Reviewed by U.S. to Fight Terror
By ERIC LICHTBLAU and JAMES RISEN

Eric Lichtblau today, on CNN’s Reliable Sources:

“USA Today”, the biggest circulation in the country, the lead story on their front page four days before our story ran was the terrorists know their money is being traced, and they are moving it into—outside of the banking system into unconventional means. It is by no means a secret.

(Thanks to Jim Treacher.)

Ah, you say, but the reporters don’t write the headlines. Yeah, but they write the story, don’t they? Here, courtesy of Chris Fotos, is a bullet-point list of quotes from the story saying that the program was secret:

  • Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the
    Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to
    financial records from a vast international database…
  • Officials described the Swift program as the biggest and most
    far-reaching of several secret efforts
    to trace terrorist financing….
  • Nearly 20 current and former government officials and industry
    executives discussed aspects of the Swift operation with The New York
    Times on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified.
  • Swift executives have been uneasy at times about their secret role, the government and industry officials said….

  • While the banking program is a closely held secret, administration
    officials have held classified briefings for some members of Congress
    and the Sept. 11 commission, the officials said….
  • Swift’s 25-member board of directors, made up of representatives from
    financial institutions around the world, was previously told of the
    program. The Group of 10’s central banks, in major industrialized
    countries, which oversee Swift, were also informed. It is not clear if
    other network participants know that American intelligence officials
    can examine their message traffic.
  • 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.
  • The idea for the Swift program, several officials recalled, grew out of
    a suggestion by a Wall Street executive, who told a senior Bush
    administration official about Swift’s database. Few government
    officials knew much about the consortium,
    which is led by a Brooklyn
    native, Leonard H. Schrank, but they quickly discovered it offered
    unparalleled access to international transactions.
  • Despite the controls, Swift executives became increasingly worried
    about their secret involvement
    with the American government, the
    officials said.

Hint for Mr. Lichtblau: when they get you under oath, you’ll be much better off if the lies are less obvious than this.

UPDATE: Thanks to Power Line and Michelle Malkin for the links.

Accepted Wisdom on the Swift Program Disclosures

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:39 pm



(Accepted Wisdom is a semi-regular feature of this site, highlighting contradictory viewpoints held by the elite.)

It is Accepted Wisdom that:

Everyone already knew about the Swift program, including the terrorists. All the details were publicly available. The recent stories revealed nothing that wasn’t already widely known.

And at the same time:

Congress didn’t know about the Swift program. The Swift program was problematic because Congress wasn’t told about it.

UPDATE: Pejman noticed this exact point before I did.

Keller on Face the Nation

Filed under: Media Bias,Scum,Terrorism — Patterico @ 11:20 am



Bill Keller was on Face the Nation this morning. Expose the Left has the video, and you have to see it to believe it.

You know the utter arrogance you have seen in this man’s written defenses of his exposure of classified information? It comes across triple-strength on video.

He says the White House has reacted strongly because it’s an election year, and it’s “red meat” to beat up on the New York Times. Also, the White House is just embarrassed that they can’t hold onto their secrets. Also, this wasn’t a secret anyway, because the terrorists knew about it. (He shows no sign of understanding the contradiction.)

The idea that this might actually have been an effective program that the paper should not have exposed is dismissed as political grandstanding.

Also — and I was astounded enough at this part to transcribe it verbatim — he says:

I don’t think the threshold test of whether you write about how the government is waging the war on terror is whether they’ve done something that’s blatantly illegal or outrageous. I think you probably would like to know what they’re doing that’s successful as well.

Or, that was successful, until you came along.

So as I understand the standard, you write about it if it’s blatantly illegal or outrageous, because the public has a right to know. And you write about it if it’s not blatantly illegal or outrageous, and it is successful — because that’s interesting. (Translation: it might get us a Pulitzer.) Gee, it doesn’t sound like you decide not to publish too often. Keller continues:

The question we start with is, why would you not publish? And sometimes, there’s good reason. When lives are clearly at risk, we often hold back information.

Often?

So when lives are clearly at risk, sometimes you publish anyway?

Keller tells us that, hey, the terrorists knew anyway:

But this was a case where, clearly the terrorists, or the people who finance terrorism, know quite well, because the Treasury Department and the White House have talked openly about it, that they monitor international banking transactions. It’s not news to the terrorists.

Keller, you’re a smart guy, and I know you know better than this. There is a difference between publishing a story saying “Government Monitors International Banking Transactions,” which, without detail, would be greeted by a big yawn — and publishing the story that you did publish, which exposed the classified details of how the government does this. As See Dubya has already observed, you can’t have it both ways. Either ths story revealed nothing secret and sensitive, in which case it didn’t deserve front-page coverage and the agonizing that you and Dean Baquet and Doyle McManus say you went through — or it did, in which case you can’t credibly argue that the terrorists were told nothing useful.

Watch the whole thing and see if you can avoid getting extremely angry.

Also, according to Power Line, Reliable Sources had Hewitt v. Lichtblau. Oh, man. I hope Expose the Left gets the video of that! UPDATE: Here it is.

UPDATE: The sharp-eyed Cori Dauber notices that the Hewitt/Lichtblau clip (at 7:08) flashes at the bottom: “GOP vs. N.Y. Times.” In other words, it’s a purely partisan issue — as the program further evidences by putting three journalists against a partisan (Hewitt) who is introduced as the author of “Painting the Map Red.” There is no mention of the fact that Americans overwhelmingly agree with Hewitt, 60% to 27%, that the publication of the story helped the terrorists more than the public. Nope, it’s just the GOP vs. those responsible newspapers. I think we know where Howie Kurtz and CNN come down on this.

Patterico on Pundit Review Radio

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:16 am



I will be on Pundit Review Radio this evening at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific, discussing the revealing of the Swift program and whatever else comes up.

You can listen by going here and clicking on “Listen Live.”

UPDATE: I had a great time. Thanks to the Pundit Review guys for having me on. As commenter Anwyn notes, I even got to have an interesting interchange with a caller named “Andy.” I think an archived version should be available in the next few days; I’ll add a link when it becomes available.


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