WASHINGTON – President Bush on Monday sharply condemned the disclosure of a program to secretly monitor the financial transactions of suspected terrorists. “The disclosure of this program is disgraceful,” he said.
“For people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America,” Bush said, jabbing his finger for emphasis. He said the disclosure of the program “makes it harder to win this war on terror.”
The program has been going on since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. It was disclosed last week by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.
Using broad government subpoenas, the program allows U.S. counterterrorism analysts to obtain financial information from a vast database maintained by a company based in Belgium. It routes about 11 million financial transactions daily among 7,800 banks and other financial institutions in 200 countries.
“Congress was briefed and what we did was fully authorized under the law,” Bush said, talking with reporters in the Roosevelt Room after meeting with groups that support U.S. troops in Iraq.
“We’re at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America,” the president said. “What we were doing was the right thing.”
“The American people expect this government to protect our constitutional liberties and at the same time make sure we understand what the terrorists are trying to do,” Bush said. He said that to figure out what terrorists plan to do, “You try to follow their money. And that’s exactly what we’re doing and the fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror.”
NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller tries to explain the NYT’s rationale here (or you can read the Wizbang Reader’s Digest version), but I’m not buying it. Neither are Hugh Hewitt and Tom Maguire. Maguire writes:
Tell me again whether there are any checks at all on this “power that has been given us”. Where is the accountability at the Times – can We the People un-elect Bill Keller? How can we make him stop?
Or, if there is no accountability, is that really how we want to run our democracy? Don’t We the People have the right to decide that some national security secrets need to be kept secret? Or can any bureaucrat with an agenda overrule his elected superiors?
Let me re-phrase that – can any bureaucrat with an agenda with which the Times is comfortable overrule his elected superiors on national security issues?
Don’t expect Keller to be answering those questions anytime soon. Because to Bill Keller and other higher ups in the MSM, the gov’t should be held accountable while the media, OTOH, should not.
Patterico blogs about the LATimes explanation for why they published their version of the story as well.
Michelle Malkin has a link roundup of blogger/pundit reax.