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.Little wonder that President Bush called in Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and top editor Bill Keller, and asked them not to run the story. But the Times went ahead and published it anyway. Now, thanks to The New York Times, al-Qaida terrorists are aware that their phone calls can be monitored, and presumably have taken precautions.
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.