Taking another whack at excusing the exposure of national security secrets, Howard Kurtz quotes a Boston Globe story by Bryan Bender saying information about the banking-data program was already out there:
Turning now to the Beltway furor of the week: What if the banking program, the disclosure of which has sparked calls for the tarring and feathering of the New York Times, wasn't such a big secret after all?
This Boston Globe piece has some interesting details (and yes, it's own by the NYT Co. but is not known for carrying corporate water):
"News reports disclosing the Bush administration's use of a special bank surveillance program to track terrorist financing spurred outrage in the White House and on Capitol Hill, but some specialists pointed out that the government itself has publicly discussed its stepped-up efforts to monitor terrorist finances since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks . . .
"A search of public records -- government documents posted on the Internet, congressional testimony, guidelines for bank examiners, and even an executive order President Bush signed in September 2001 -- describe how U.S. authorities have openly sought new tools to track terrorist financing since 2001. That includes getting access to information about terrorist-linked wire transfers and other transactions, including those that travel through SWIFT.
" 'There have been public references to SWIFT before,' said Roger Cressey, a senior White House counterterrorism official until 2003. 'The White House is overreaching when they say [The New York Times committed] a crime against the war on terror. It has been in the public domain before.'
That must be the reason the New York Times gave their scoop the hed Bank Data Is Sifted In Secret To Block Terror. Because everyone knew what they were doing already.
There are at least two major defenses being attempted with this story. One, it's important to expose national security secrets because of abuses that would otherwise go unknown. Two, it's not a secret. Depending on the day and the audience I suppose. After citing the story, Kurtz adds:
There's even a SWIFT Web site .
Should I even bother?