January 14, 2007

Big Box Media: Engineering the Unthinkable

Hatched by Dafydd

Let's review the bidding:

  • The New York Times blew the NSA al-Qaeda communications intercept program, tracking the phone numbers, length, and time of phone calls that either originated or terminated abroad, to or from known terrorist telephone numbers -- a program the writers and editors later claimed to believe was unconstitutional;
  • The Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times revealed our program to track terrorist financing via SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication -- a program that everyone involved, including the writers and editors of the various newspapers, admitted was perfectly legal, and indeed exactly what everyone (themselves included) said was the most vital kind of terrorism intelligence;
  • And now, the New York Times leads with an article blowing yet a third program to gather critical intelligence on terrorist activities and plots within the United States: they revealed today that the Pentagon has been tracking funding for terrorists -- those who have infiltrated the U.S. military or are plotting to attack military installations -- by sending "national security letters" to banks, credit-card companies, and other financial institutions requesting information on specific, identified people suspected of terrorist involvement. Everyone likewise admits this counter-terrorism program is perfectly legal, since compliance with the letters is voluntary.

Each of these revelations (and "lesser included" exposés en passant), but especially the concatenation of all of them in succession, defies all reason; it's as if the media were to telephone a terrorist target before a raid and warn them it was coming (oh, wait -- they did that, too).


There is only one circumstance where all this would make sense: if senior writers and editors of the major print media in this country actually want to see another horrific terrorist act succeed in the American homeland... so they can say, "see? President Bush's fascist counter-terrorism programs cannot keep us safe. Let's junk them all and go back to the Clinton era of peace and prosperity instead!"

Very much like the SWIFT program, the terrorist-financing intelligence program that the Times blew today is a perfectly legal method of trying to "follow the money," which every expert (including the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, as well as each of these newspapers in editorials) argued was the best way to expose terrorists and their plots before they came to fruition:

The F.B.I., the lead agency on domestic counterterrorism and espionage, has issued thousands of national security letters since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provoking criticism and court challenges from civil liberties advocates who see them as unjustified intrusions into Americans’ private lives.

But it was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been using their own “noncompulsory” versions of the letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.

I'll bet it was "not previously known" to the terrorists, either. Thank goodness the New York Times has undertaken to keep them up to speed.

And once again, it appears that anonynous "intelligence officials" are the original source of the Times' information about the program (which they are now blowing), though "Pentagon officials" may also be leaking -- in fact, the leakers could be "military intelligence officers," who would fit both descriptions:

Military intelligence officers have sent letters in up to 500 investigations over the last five years, two officials estimated. The number of letters is likely to be well into the thousands, the officials said, because a single case often generates letters to multiple financial institutions. For its part, the C.I.A. issues a handful of national security letters each year, agency officials said. Congressional officials said members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had been briefed on the use of the letters by the military and the C.I.A.

So not only is it perfectly legal -- in the entire article, the New York Times never even questions the legality -- but in addition, the Bush administration has kept Congress well informed via the intelligence committees of what it's doing. (The closest the Times comes to suggesting something is wrong with the program is to note that "Some national security experts and civil liberties advocates are troubled," and that one attorney defending a chaplain initially suspected of aiding terrorists was "disturbed.")

It may be illustrative to put this into ordinary criminal terms, so we can examine the pheneomenon without the extra baggage of terrorism, the military, the CIA, and the Bush administration. Imagine that the New York City police are investigating the Gambino Mafia family:

  • They start clandestinely intercepting phone calls either to or from known members of the Gambino crime organization; but the New York Times prints a front-page exposé of that operation, claiming there is a problem with the warrant that may, perhaps, render the phone intercept illegal. The Gambinos cease using their phone for crime-related purposes, shifting to other forms of communication.
  • Next, the city obtains search warrants for two different businesses owned by the Gambinos and suspected of laundering money for them. On the eve of each search, a reporter from the Times telephones the casino and asks, "you're about to be searched by the NYPD... how do you feel about that?" In each case, when the cops search the next day, the financial records appear sanitized.
  • Then the city starts using provisions of RICO (the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act) to obtain bank records for the Gambino family and companies that it owns; the Times swiftly runs a front-page story to that effect -- admitting that the city was in full compliance with the law in trying to get that information -- and the Gambinos shift to banks in the Cayman Islands for all future banking, while all compromised individuals flee to countries with no extradition treaties with the United States, continuing Gambino operations from those locations.
  • Finally, NYC sends letters to various credit card companies, requesting that the companies voluntarily turn over the records of named individuals and companies who are known members or affiliates of the Gambinos. The New York Times even outs that voluntary attempt as soon as they hear about it, again not even bothering to allege that there is anything illegal about this... merely citing "civil liberties advocates" who are "troubled" by all this attention paid to a group of people who haven't yet been proven guilty.

At this point, I believe an independent observer could be forgiven for concluding that the newspaper did not want the Gambinos stopped or prosecuted, but would rather they were allowed to continue their nefarious activies without police interference. In fact, I don't think it unreasonable to say that the New York Times, in this hypothetical, has functioned as an accessory to those crimes. It has certainly been on a crusade to run interference for them, alerting them to every attempt by the city to obtain enough evidence to prosecute.

It can't be illegality that has been driving the elite media's crusade to run interference for terrorists in America, because they don't even allege it except for the NSA program. So what does drive them? A pair of grafs buried deep in the Times story reveals what's really eating at the newspaper (and by extension, the elite media in general) about anti-terrorism intelligence programs:

The Pentagon’s expanded intelligence-gathering role, in particular, has created occasional conflicts with other federal agencies. Pentagon efforts to post American military officers at embassies overseas to gather intelligence for counterterrorism operations or future war plans has rankled some State Department and C.I.A. officials, who see the military teams as duplicating and potentially interfering with the intelligence agency.

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has complained about military officials dealing directly with local police -- rather than through the bureau -- for assistance in responding to possible terrorist threats against a military base. F.B.I. officials say the threats have often turned out to be uncorroborated and, at times, have stirred needless anxiety.

In other words, the Times editors are upset because they believe that the State Department (and their conjoined twin, the CIA) -- rather than the Department of Defense -- should take the lead in all terrorist investigations... because State's orientation is entirely towards "solving" the problem of global jihadism (or "sacred terror," as Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon call it) by sitting down with jihadis and negotiating... understanding them, feeling their pain, and offering them political and economic bribes to go attack someone else instead.

It may be appropriate, as Thomas P.M. Barnett argues in the Pentagon's New Map, that State take the lead in constructing the new "rule-sets" by which the democratic nations in the "Functioning Core" identify the lawless regions of the "Non-Integrating Gap" and move them, by force if necessary, out of their isolation and into the global network of democratic decision-making. But he also argues that enforcement of those new rule-sets often requires the brute force of the military; you cannot get by on mere cajoling, begging, and bribing by diplomats alone.

Even when enforcement is required, the media prefer the FBI (not DoD) to handle it, because they see terrorism as "just a crime," after all (albeit a large one that kills hundreds): It should be handled entirely by terrorists being arrested, extradited, and granted fair trials in American civilian courts... where they can be represented pro bono publico by the biggest and most powerful law firms in the country.

Which is, of course, tantamount to wanting them to be acquitted and released. Civilian courts are ill-equipped to handle trials of global jihadists, because they are vulnerable to the standard defense technique of demanding so many critical, classified national-security documents in discovery motions -- motions that are routinely granted by many Clinton-appointed federal judges -- that the administraiton eventually has to drop the case rather than compromise our most vital anti-terrorism secrets.

The Times is not unaware of this loophole.

If somebody can suggest a more honorable reason for such a relentless crusade to blow every, single anti-terrorism program we have, I wish he would suggest it. It's horrible to think that the people controlling what is ultimately our only source of national and international news deliberately manipulate that news in order to engineer a successful terrorist attack on America's heartland, for political reasons of their own; but I have yet to think up an alternative motvation that fits the facts.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 14, 2007, at the time of 5:13 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Bill M

It is obvious that you have hit the nail on the head. These "people" want the terrorists to "win", i.e., successfully carry out another terrorist attack on the US, so the media can "look with alarm" and "decry the failure of the Bush Administration to protect the American people."

I would ask if we can "question their patriotism now," but it is not necessary to do so. They have no patriotism to question. They are blatently on the side of the terrorists, though likely for reasons of their own. What they can't see (or more likely, I think, don't care) is that the end results of their actions are dead Americans. After all, they are speaking "truth to power" are they not?

The above hissed in response by: Bill M [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 14, 2007 5:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: Navyvet

As long as the DOJ fails to prosecute the anonymous leaking of classified information, we're going to have more of the same. The message being sent is there is no penalty for violating federal law.

The above hissed in response by: Navyvet [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 14, 2007 6:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: nk

There is no honorable reason.

There are two explanations:

1. The New York Times is the counter-intelligence service of Al Qaeda;
2. It wants to destroy George Bush so badly that it is willing to destroy America in the process.

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 14, 2007 6:48 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Wake up.
These continued leaks of naitonal security means and methods are now clearly the President's fault.
He should have gone after the NYT with everything he had after they leaked the CIA air transport system, putting employees and agents at risk.
Reno is gone. Gorelick is gone.
There is no excuse for leaking means and methods in time of war. There is even less excuse to put up with it.
Bush decided to turn this into Vietnam - to fight without winning, to tolerate sedition and worse, to not defend our troops when foreign powers act to kill them.
Bush allowed Rumsfeld to stay in when it was clear he could not or would not adapt to get in front of the insurgency.
He won the elections. He gets to sit in the Oval Office.
The buck stops with him.
The NYT is a predatory, opportunistic corrupt organization. Bush decided to allow them break the law without even a fight.
I am tired of defending a President who will not defend himself, much less the troops and the need to win.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 14, 2007 6:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


Oh puhleaze, if Bush could just write a memo and make these people cut this out he would. If he could wave a magic wand and make them all go to jail he probably would at this point. But this is America and it ain't that easy. It seems to me that Bush gets blamed for enough, from the weather to Abu Ghraib without blaming him for the feckless NYT as well.

Tonight I was watching some dumb cop show, Law and Order Criminal Intent, and somehow or other they got onto Gitmo and needless to say the cops were horrified at the idea that some poor little terrorist might be pissing himself or answering questions without benefit of an attorney. An attorney for terrorists for Chrisake. It is just a TV show, but it makes it plain how people think.

These guys don't like these programs because they don't believe there are any bad guys to protect us from.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 14, 2007 7:16 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

BTW, in all probability the NYT did not break a law by publishing this story. Their ethics are in question, but when it comes to breaking the law it is hard to make that case against the media.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 14, 2007 7:17 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Are you telling me that the same AG who has indicted, tried and convicted 2 border agents for defending themselves from a drug runner could not find something to go after the NYT in all of these years?
If they did not break a law in publishing this latest piece, they certainly were likely to have in any of the other several national secrets they deliberately leaked. And their unlawful receipt of those secrets came from someone who stole them.
The President could have had that investigated more and chose not to.
And if you would read for content, I am not blaming him for the NYT. The NYT has earned the despised status it carries with so many Americans. I am suggesting that it is by his choice he has allowed corrupt orgs to control the dialogue abouit this war and to aid and abet the enemy. He has chosen to do nothing nothing about it.
I guess you understand my larger point: He has fallen into fighting this war like Vietnam almost exactly - safe havens for enemies, secure supply routes for enemies, weak or non existant answers to seditious press, lack of effort to sell the war to the American people, shoosing to fight the war instead of fighting to win the war.
Did Rumsfeld sell him on this and he had too much confidence in Rummy? I don't know.
Lincoln changed generals like he changed his socks until he found one who would fight to win.
We all - myself included,- treated Rumsfeld as some sort of uniquely irreplaceable leader. He was not. When Rumsfeld and the generals he guided stopped toalking about victory, they should have gone.
There is only one reason to fight a war that makes sense: to win it as quickly as possible.
Bush chose differently.
There is a sindow of time for a public to accept a war. I still back this war. I still think we can win. But I will not sit silently while the window of opportunity to win it is closing.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 14, 2007 10:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: Scott

Personally, I'd suggest (seriously) that anyone who leaks this kind of information be taken to an open field and shot. You don't leak information about how we're tracking people who want to kill us. Its just a bad idea, you know?

I'm 100% serious here. Leak something classified, and get the squad. There is a reason there is a "I can not answer that questions for reasons of National Security" answer for the witness stand. We need to start making people realize that no matter your personal opinion, when you work for the federal government, and you hear about a classified program to keep your sorry butt safe at night, you need to Keep Your Damn Mouth Shut...

We're handing it all over to the enemy. Why not just have an open house for terrorists at the NSA and CIA?

The above hissed in response by: Scott [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 8:06 AM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

Part of the problem, both with leak and their prosecution, is that Bush never cleaned house. There are a lot of Clinton hold overs and the Clintons selected people for their loyalty to the Clintons above all.

The people doing the leaking are definitely breaking the law. The reporters know who they are. Haul the reporters before a Grand Jury, ask them for the names of these criminals, and if the reporters refuse to reveal them, then they become accessories. This applies to all leaks of classified information, in some cases, the reporters can be prosecuted as a principal.

BTW, the WSJ's article was from an authorized breifing, the administration was trying to point out that the program was, in fact, legal.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 8:31 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


Oh God, do we have to bring illegal immigration into every thing?

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 12:53 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I can see the headline now: Bushitler muzzles press imprisons whistle blowers.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 12:54 PM

The following hissed in response by: MarkD

Terrye, I'd cheer. Because calling yourself a reporter confers no right to break the law. LarryD is right, Bush should have cleaned house.

The above hissed in response by: MarkD [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 2:40 PM

The following hissed in response by: Scott

How about this...

Whatever paper prints leaked, classified information...

They lose their seat in the press room, and on AF1. Sorry, bye bye, you're done here, don't let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you...

Perhaps that might start the press on policing itself for once...

The above hissed in response by: Scott [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 16, 2007 7:24 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Lose their seats on Air Force One? That's the price they pay? How about, their childrens schools get blown up by the terrorists they enable. That's far more likely by the way: the administration doesn't have the gall to bar the NYT from Air Force One.

The country became less safe again today, as the administration bowed to congressional pressure and placed the NSA intercept program under the control of the judiciary branch.

The world truly has gone mad. A wartime president has just handed over control of a vital intelligence program to an agenda driven, NYT influenced court.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 17, 2007 3:08 PM

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