Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Intimidation of the Press
The leak is “treasonous” and The New York Times should be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act, according to Rep. Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. In his usual one-word way, “President” George W. Bush has called the disclosure simply “disgraceful”.
The government claims that keeping track of our banking activities is necessary for the “war on terror” (yawn). But watching bank transfers is not going to stop Ali, Ahmed and Muhammed from blowing up cars in Baghdad or themselves in New York.
The New York Times and other US papers broke the story last week: the Treasury Department has been subpoenaing information from SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, for years. Most international bank transfers go through the SWIFT system – in fact, about $6 trillion every day.
The administration says they only go into the SWIFT database when they have specific information about a suspected terrorist. Yes, of course, just like they are only monitoring overseas phone calls made by terrorists. And just how would you define “suspected terrorist” anyway?
Before The New York Times broke the story last week, Treasury Secretary John Snow had “invited” New York Times executive editor Bill Keller to his office to try to “talk him out of publishing” the story. Snow has since claimed that letting the terrorists know that we are watching their money has put lives at risk.
Eric Lichtblau, one of the reporters who wrote the New York Times story, disputes Snow’s allegation. “This is not giving away information that is tangibly helping terrorists know what they don't already know.”
And that is the bottom line. The terrorists already knew they were being watched. The only people who may not have been aware of the bank spying were us, the American people.
VP Dick “Dickhead” Cheney thinks it is “a disgrace” that The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the government’s domestic telephone surveillance programme. But Cheney has it completely the wrong way.
The New York Times and other papers have done us a great service by not allowing the government to intimidate them, and by telling us what we have every right to know. They deserve more awards.