Andrew McCarthy over at NRO has an excellent column on the "Media's War Against the War." He writes specifically about the boneheaded outing by the New York Times and the LA Times of the government's tracking of financial transactions made by terror suspects. The process appears to have been completely legal but may have been rendered ineffective by the Times' stories:
For the second time in seven months, the Times has exposed classified information about a program aimed at protecting the American people against a repeat of the September 11 attacks. On this occasion, it has company in the effort: The Los Angeles Times runs a similar, sensational story. Together, the newspapers disclose the fact that the United States has covertly developed a capability to monitor the nerve center of the international financial network in order to track the movement of funds between terrorists and their facilitators.
The effort, which the government calls the "Terrorist Finance Tracking Program" (TFTP), is entirely legal. There are no conceivable constitutional violations involved. The Supreme Court held in United States v. Miller (1976) that there is no right to privacy in financial-transaction information maintained by third parties. Here, moreover, the focus is narrowed to suspected international terrorists, not Americans, and the financial transactions implicated are international, not domestic. This is not data mining, and it does not involve fishing expeditions into the financial affairs of American citizens. Indeed, few Americans even have information that is captured by the program - though there would be nothing legally offensive even if they did.
There is much more in McCarthy's piece which merits a careful read. Here are two more graphs from the column:
...the most salient thing we learn from today's compromise ... is that the program has been highly effective at keeping us safe. According to the government, it has helped identify and locate terrorists and their financial backers; it has been instrumental in charting terrorist networks; and it has been essential in starving these savage organizations of their lifeblood: funding.
It was in view of the [program's] palpable value in protecting American lives, its obvious legal propriety, and the plain fact that it was being responsibly conducted that the administration pleaded with the newspapers not to reveal it after government officials despicably leaked it. Exposing the program would tell the public nothing about official misconduct. It would accomplish only the educating of al Qaeda - the nation's enemy in an ongoing war; an enemy well-known to be feverishly plotting new, massive attacks - about how better to evade our defenses. About how better to kill us.
PowerLine notes that:
In its editorial on the subject today, the New York Times offers no shred of an argument concerning the possible illegality or overbreadth of the program. It cites no instance of abuse. Rather, the Times argues "these efforts need to be done under a clear and coherent set of rules, with the oversight of Congress and the courts." The Times purports to invoke the rule of law where no law has been broken, and where the Times itself has both broken the law and damaged American national security.
And, we might add, they've compromised our safety for a single reason: They espied an opportunity to make life more difficult for George Bush. Had Bill Clinton been president and asked them not to run the story as the Bush people did, it is hard to imagine either paper refusing the request.
Michelle Malkin is receiving photoshop entries from around the country in response to the papers' despicable decision to publicize one of the tools we use to protect ourselves from the savages. Here's a sample: