Did the New York Times act treasonably when it was revealed the US Government is tracking possible terrorist financing in the US by secretly monitoring international bank transactions? Some here, including some important politicians, feel The Times and the other papers – including the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times – should be prosecuted.
One of the politicians, Congressman Pete King of Long Island, although a member of President Bush’s Republican Party and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, is urging that action should be taken against The Times and the other papers. His argument: “The terrorists did not know we had access to foreign transactions. This has definitely compromised our security in time of war.”
What particularly irks King and other politicians is that The NY Times and the other papers were all asked not to run the information. Some believe the papers involved are deliberately seeking to sabotage the anti-terrorism efforts, following similar revelations, again by the NY Times, of the US Government’s secret electronic eavesdropping programme. “As far as I am concerned the NY Times has committed treason” said Congressman King.
The paper has insisted this is not true. Editor Bill Keller has said he listened to the government appeal to keep the programme secret but decided that running the story was in the public interest. This has since been disputed by President Bush who described the public disclosure of the financial monitoring programme as “disgraceful”.
“We are at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States. And for people to leak that programme, and for newspapers to publish it, does great harm to the USA.” He stopped short of endorsing the call for The Times to be charged with treason, but did claim that what the US was doing was within the law.
In a statement published in the Times, the editor declared “We believe The Times and others in the press have served the public interest by accurately reporting on these programmes so that the public can have an informed view of them” Some other newspapers here do not endorse this view. Investors: Business Daily, an important Wall Street publication, in an editorial this week, suggested The Times had its eye on a Pulitzer Prize. But what’s worse, while the legality of printing secrets may be debateable, there is a feeling, the Business Daily said, that hatred of the President and his party is giving aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war – and that is inexcusable.