Patterico's Pontifications


Why Bill Keller Thought the Terrorists Weren’t Tipped Off

Filed under: Humor,Morons,Terrorism — Patterico @ 8:33 pm

Recall Bill Keller’s odd condemnation of right-wing blogs for spreading the story about the disclosure of the classified, legal, and effective Swift program:

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.)

At first, I didn’t understand Keller’s insinuation that people were reading the story on the right-wing blogs, but not in his paper. Why did he think that nobody had read it in the New York Times?

Then it hit me: Keller must have thought the article was available only through TimesSelect!

UPDATE: Thanks to Power Line, Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, and Mickey Kaus for the links to this snarky little post.

Your Sacred and Private Bank Records

Filed under: General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 6:38 pm

Sachi at Big Lizards has an eye-opening post about the extent to which the government already monitors your bank records, with full and enthusiastic cooperation from the banks:

I used to work at Sanwa bank, and every morning we received a report of “suspicious transactions,” sent us by the central office. In addition, we constantly monitored transactions looking for certain patterns that might indicate check kiting (large deposit quickly followed by a large withdrawl, low average balance, all timed around a check’s “floating” period).

If we decided a crime might be occurring, we reported all this information to the FBI… including records of the account transactions (without any warrant). Besides that, we also reported to the FBI anyone who deposited or withdrew a large amount of cash. Overseas wire transfers with certain characteristics were also reported to the feds.

All to catch drug dealers!

If you think your bank transactions are private, wake up from your dream. Sachi concludes:

It seems these newspapers can tolerate incredible penetration into our personal bank account information just to catch check kiters and drug dealers… but they cannot abide the much smaller intrusions, looking only at the transactions of large businesses, governments, and NGOs, in order to catch terrorists who have killed our fellow citizens and plot to destroy the rest of us!

Not when there are Pulitzers to be had.

Some Information on L.A. Times Advertisers

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Scum,Terrorism — Patterico @ 6:00 pm

Many commenters have said that they would like to boycott L.A. Times advertisers. These commenters seek a list of advertisers to whom they can write and express their displeasure at the paper’s irresponsible publication of details of a classified anti-terror program.

I haven’t found a comprehensive list of the paper’s advertisers. Some of the major ones are listed here, along with their contact information. (I can’t guarantee that all contact information is up to date.)

In addition, I have performed the following public service: I went through Section A of the one of the last paper I had saved (from June 22) and listed all of the advertisers, excluding a couple of obvious one-time advertisers. I list some contact information below. I have provided, when possible: a phone number; a street address; and a link to the company’s web site. You’ll have to follow the link to get an e-mail address; I have limited time to do this.

[UPDATE: The paper has other advertisers, but the ones from June 22 are symbolic, as that is the day the paper’s disclosure of the Swift program occurred.]

If anyone has other information on the paper’s advertisers and whom to contact, leave it in the comments.

Here is the information:


Patterico Vindicated on WSJ Role in Breaking Swift Story

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:52 am

The Wall Street Journal has printed a lengthy explanation of how it came to publish an article about the Swift anti-terror program on June 22. The piece completely vindicates my view, expressed in this post, that the Journal did not bear any responsibility for breaking the story.

In my post, I reasoned that the Journal‘s article relied entirely upon on-the-record sources. Moreover, it is clear that the Administration did not ask the Journal not to publish the story. Accordingly, unlike the New York Times and L.A. Times, we have no clear indication that the paper was prepared to ignore the government’s entreaties and publish over the objection of the Administration.

The editors of the Journal explain:

[T]he facts are that the [New York] Times’s decision was notably different from the Journal’s.

According to Tony Fratto, Treasury’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, he first contacted the Times some two months ago. He had heard Times reporters were asking questions about the highly classified program involving Swift, an international banking consortium that has cooperated with the U.S. to follow the money making its way to the likes of al Qaeda or Hezbollah. Mr. Fratto went on to ask the Times not to publish such a story on grounds that it would damage this useful terror-tracking method.

Sometime later, Secretary John Snow invited Times Executive Editor Bill Keller to his Treasury office to deliver the same message. Later still, Mr. Fratto says, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, the leaders of the 9/11 Commission, made the same request of Mr. Keller. Democratic Congressman John Murtha and Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte also urged the newspaper not to publish the story.

The Times decided to publish anyway, letting Mr. Fratto know about its decision a week ago Wednesday. The Times agreed to delay publishing by a day to give Mr. Fratto a chance to bring the appropriate Treasury official home from overseas. Based on his own discussions with Times reporters and editors, Mr. Fratto says he believed “they had about 80% of the story, but they had about 30% of it wrong.” So the Administration decided that, in the interest of telling a more complete and accurate story, they would declassify a series of talking points about the program. They discussed those with the Times the next day, June 22.

This, by the way, may be one reason that the Administration is showing no visible signs of wanting to prosecute the newspapers: the information published by the papers had apparently been declassified before publication.

[UPDATE: Actually, it would be more accurate to say “some of” the information published by the papers had apparently been declassified. We have no way of knowing whether the details published by the New York Times and L.A. Times went beyond the set of talking points that was declassified. On reflection, my guess is that it probably did. But I don’t know.]

This in no way morally excuses the New York Times and L.A. Times, who (according to the public statements of their editors) made independent decisions to publish regardless of the Administration’s view. But, if this account is accurate, it probably provides a legal defense to the newspapers against a charge of publishing classified information.

This legal defense would not extend to the original leakers, however. So, while the more rabid among you will probably have to surrender your dreams of prosecuting the papers, we are still in a strong position to move forward with my favored plan of attack: prioritizing the hunt for the leakers — including tossing reporters in the pokey, Patrick Fitzgerald-style, if they refuse to cough up their sources.

Getting back to the story: once the New York Times announced its intent to publish, that is where the Journal got involved. Again, from Journal editors:

Around the same time, Treasury contacted Journal reporter Glenn Simpson to offer him the same declassified information. Mr. Simpson has been working the terror finance beat for some time, including asking questions about the operations of Swift, and it is a common practice in Washington for government officials to disclose a story that is going to become public anyway to more than one reporter. Our guess is that Treasury also felt Mr. Simpson would write a straighter story than the Times, which was pushing a violation-of-privacy angle; on our reading of the two June 23 stories, he did.

We recount all this because more than a few commentators have tried to link the Journal and Times at the hip. On the left, the motive is to help shield the Times from political criticism. On the right, the goal is to tar everyone in the “mainstream media.” But anyone who understands how publishing decisions are made knows that different newspapers make up their minds differently.

Some argue that the Journal should have still declined to run the antiterror story. However, at no point did Treasury officials tell us not to publish the information. And while Journal editors knew the Times was about to publish the story, Treasury officials did not tell our editors they had urged the Times not to publish. What Journal editors did know is that they had senior government officials providing news they didn’t mind seeing in print. If this was a “leak,” it was entirely authorized.

This passage rather cleverly downplays the apparent fact, disclosed in Howard Kurtz’s column the other day, that the Journal‘s Glenn Simpson had indeed been nosing around the Swift program in the weeks preceding the publication of the stories. But, as I have said previously,

for all we know, the Wall Street Journal had no intention of publishing the story once they learned that the program was safe, legal, and effective. They may well have decided — like the Washington Post and the entire blogosphere — that once the New York Times had spilled the beans, it was now news and had to be discussed.

This conclusion is even stronger when we consider what is, in my mind, the crucial distinction between the Wall Street Journal, on one hand, and the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, on the other. Unlike the East and West Coast Timeses, the chances are that the Journal would not have chosen to publish the story if the Administration had asked them to withhold it:

Would the Journal have published the story had we discovered it as the Times did, and had the Administration asked us not to? Speaking for the editorial columns, our answer is probably not. Mr. Keller’s argument that the terrorists surely knew about the Swift monitoring is his own leap of faith. The terror financiers might have known the U.S. could track money from the U.S., but they might not have known the U.S. could follow the money from, say, Saudi Arabia. The first thing an al Qaeda financier would have done when the story broke is check if his bank was part of Swift.

Just as dubious is the defense in a Times editorial this week that “The Swift story bears no resemblance to security breaches, like disclosure of troop locations, that would clearly compromise the immediate safety of specific individuals.” In this asymmetric war against terrorists, intelligence and financial tracking are the equivalent of troop movements. They are America’s main weapons.

This is the key distinction, as I noted in my post:

Merely investigating is not a culpable act until it is coupled with a second act: making the decision to publish over the protest of government officials, even though the investigation reveals that the program is safe, legal, effective, and subject to oversight.

Critically, the Wall Street Journal did not publish over the protest of government officials. By contrast, the L.A. Times and New York Times did.

The left will, of course, simply call the editors of the Wall Street Journal liars. But in my view, their explanation is convincing, and their paper is utterly vindicated — as is my previous analysis.

L.A. Times Pretends the Hamdan Case Justifies Its Own Dangerous Publication Decisions

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,Dog Trainer,Scum,Terrorism — Patterico @ 12:46 am

The Los Angeles Times does something very sneaky in a piece analyzing the Hamdan case. See if you can figure it out. I’ll bold a phrase or two, just to give you a hint:

In claiming broad latitude to act, Bush has relied on the original authorization Congress granted for conducting the war on terrorism. But the Supreme Court specifically said that act contained no explicit authorization to ignore existing laws on judicial procedure and hinted it might take the same position on other assertions of executive authority on terrorism — potentially including spying on domestic communications and financial transactions.

In other words, the article suggests, the Supreme Court hinted that Bush acted illegally in devising that Swift terror finance tracking program — you know, the one that we here at the L.A. Times patriotically helped to bring to the public’s attention.

Dream on, Los Angeles Times! Dream on!

Look, guys. I know you’re starting to think you screwed up by revealing the Swift program. But get real. You’re using the Hamdan opinion as some kind of mystical hint by the Supreme Court that the Swift program is illegal?

The Hamdan opinion?!?!

What a ridiculous, sad, pathetic, desperate stretch this is.


Allah on Hamdan

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,Terrorism — Patterico @ 12:19 am

I told a friend of mine today that I hadn’t read the Hamdan opinion yet, although I had read parts of it, and skimmed the rest.

What I was looking for, I said to my friend, was this: does the opinion say that we somehow have a treaty with Al Qaeda? And if we do, does it still apply even if they seemingly violate it by hacking off a few heads belonging to people our side of the treaty?

I can’t know the answer to these questions until I’ve read the opinion myself.

But if there’s anything better than skimming an opinion yourself, it’s relying on the analysis of someone else who has skimmed it. And there’s nobody whose skimming I trust more than that of Allah, whose analysis answers exactly the questions I told my friend I wanted answered:


Show Me the Hypocrisy!

Filed under: Buffoons,General — Patterico @ 12:00 am

A new Ann Coulter ad begins running on the sidebar today.

What a damn hypocrite that Patterico is! Here he rails against Coulter, and then he accepts an ad for her book?

You betcha!

Let’s assume that you agree with me that, while she is usually right, her brand of insensitive (and often violent) invective gives conservatives a bad name. (I know, I know. Not one of you does, in fact, agree. Have you ever heard the phrase “for the sake of argument”?)

If you feel that way, then who would you rather see taking the money? Her, or me?

Okay, then.

UPDATE: OK, I can see that I will have to offer something more than the flip and somewhat tongue-in-cheek explanation I have already given.

The bottom line is this: the advertisements here are not an endorsement by me of the opinions expressed therein, any more than the comments here are.

There are certain over-the-top opinions that, if I learn of them, I may choose not to allow to be expressed here, whether in the form of an ad or a comment. This would be rare, however. Examples include racist ads/comments, or ads/comments that seriously advocate violence. (Even that is not categorical; I might choose to leave such opinions up, to show the deficiencies of the person or organization who advocates them.)

But I don’t want to be in the position of monitoring each ad for its content, to see if I agree with it or not. Since I don’t endorse the positions taken in the ads, there is no reason to do that.

It has nothing to do with the small amount of money involved. What I get from the Coulter ad, I am going to donate to Officer Kristi Ripatti’s family anyway.

The point is that I don’t want to set a precedent that says I must agree with the ads, or else I can’t run them.

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