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Monday, June 26, 2006
Barone On the Times

He's right on the money here:

Why do they hate us? No, I'm not talking about Islamofascist terrorists. We know why they hate us: because we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, because we refuse to treat women as second-class citizens, because we do not kill homosexuals, because we are a free society.

No, the "they" I'm referring to are the editors of The New York Times. And do they hate us? Well, that may be stretching it. But at the least they have gotten into the habit of acting in reckless disregard of our safety.

Last December, the Times ran a story revealing that the National Security Agency was conducting electronic surveillance of calls from suspected al-Qaida terrorists overseas to persons in the United States. This was allegedly a violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. But in fact the president has, under his war powers, the right to order surveillance of our enemies abroad. And it makes no sense to hang up when those enemies call someone in the United States -- rather the contrary. If the government is going to protect us from those who wish to do us grievous harm -- and after Sept. 11 no one can doubt there are many such persons -- then it should try to track them down as thoroughly as possible.

The answer, of course, is that the Times no longer believes that there are terrorists out there; to them the real threat is Bushitler. In this regard, the Grey Lady is hardly alone; the peals of laughter from the Left every time a terror alert is issued reveals that it's a common belief.

Last Friday, the Times did it again, printing a story revealing the existence of U.S. government monitoring of financial transactions routed through the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which routes about $6 trillion a day in electronic money transfers around the world. The monitoring is conducted by the CIA and supervised by the Treasury Department. An independent auditing firm has been hired to make sure only terrorist-related transactions are targeted.

Members of Congress were briefed on the program, and it does not seem to violate any law, at least any that the Times could identify. And it has been effective. As the Times reporters admit, it helped to locate the mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombing in Thailand and a Brooklyn man convicted on charges of laundering a $200,000 payment to al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan.

But it's all part of a pattern with this administration; they're so nosy. And secretive! Why are they so secretive when it just encourages the press to reveal their secrets?

Bill Keller, editor of the Times, claims:

It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it.

This is an excellent point, and should be considered in other cases. For example, when our military received the information regarding the location of Zarqawi, did the electorate get an opportunity to consider whether he should be blown up? No, and the nation suffered for it. I think we're close to a principle here, which is that the nation should not use any weapons against terrorism that have not been completely debated and voted on out in the open. Anything less is being unfair to the terrorists, who after all, may have legitimate reasons for what they do.

Okay, sarcasm off.
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