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July 06, 2006

Bill Keller: Sleeping With The Enemy

Again, via Cori Dauber, who has proved invaluable since I've been tied up this week with a research project at work, more on the lead-up to the release of the terrorist tracking story via Jeff at Protein Wisdom, who quotes a great American Spectator piece:

According to Treasury and Justice Department officials familiar with the briefings their senior leadership undertook with editors and reporters from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, the media outlets were told that their reports on the SWIFT financial tracking system presented risks for three ongoing terrorism financing investigations. Despite this information, both papers chose to move forward with their stories.

These were off the record meetings set up to dissuade them from reporting on SWIFT, and we thought the pressing nature of the investigations might sway them, but they didn’t,” says a Treasury official.

In fact, according to a Justice Department official, one of the reporters involved with the story was caught attempting to gain more details about one of the investigations through different sources. “We believe it was to include it in their story,” says the official.

This meshes neatly with what I reported a few days ago:

The Times decided to publish anyway, letting Mr. Fratto know about its decision a week ago Wednesday. The Times agreed to delay publishing by a day to give Mr. Fratto a chance to bring the appropriate Treasury official home from overseas. Based on his own discussions with Times reporters and editors, Mr. Fratto says he believed "they had about 80% of the story, but they had about 30% of it wrong." So the Administration decided that, in the interest of telling a more complete and accurate story, they would declassify a series of talking points about the program. They discussed those with the Times the next day, June 22.

This is just stunning. Essentially, by threatening to commit an illegal act, Bill Keller blackmailed the administration into releasing even more classified information.

The only two reasons I can think of for giving the Times (and therefore the terrorists) more information is that the Times' own informant either provided incorrect information that would have made the administration look worse, or they feared that if they allowed the Times to release incorrect information (a time-honored intel tactic called 'disinformation'), subsequent leaks would make it look as though there had been a cover-up.

Think about that for a second.

Bill Keller's arrogant refusal to cooperate with his own government during wartime not only endangered a valuable anti-terror program, but forced the government to release even more information to avoid a political nightmare that could bring the administration to its knees.

But back to the American Spectator:

According to the Treasury and Justice Department sources, the reporters and editors appeared to have been told that the SWIFT financial monitoring was somehow being undertaken without warrants and without legal supervision. But from the initial briefings, the Times papers were shown information that clearly outlined the search warrant procedures undertaken by the federal government to track some financial transactions.

“We thought that once the reporters and editors understood that one, these were not warrantless searches, and two, that this was a successful program that had netted real bad guys, and three, that it was a program that was helping us with current, ongoing cases, they would agree to hold off or just not do a story,” says the U.S. Treasury official. “But it became clear that nothing we said was going sway them. Whomever they were talking to, whoever was leaking the stuff, had them sold on this story.”

Go read the whole thing. Unbelievable.

Posted by Cassandra at July 6, 2006 07:14 AM


If this is all true, these people deserve a prize.

Posted by: Pulitzer at July 6, 2006 09:17 AM

I follwed a link to your blog and I like it quite a bit! Two favors: keep up the good work and don't ever remove the picture at the top of the main page. Thx.

Posted by: handy at July 6, 2006 01:17 PM

Thank you, handy. It's funny - she was an accident. I put her up one year ago, last Fourth of July as a bit of a joke. My husband picked her out because she reminded him of me, a bit, though obviously I'm not nearly so pretty. A few days later I tried to take her down and the oink cadre (my readers) mutinied. So she appears to be here to stay. I've become quite fond of her, and she shares my love of pretty stockings and a bit of sass :)

Posted by: Cassandra at July 6, 2006 01:29 PM

PRIZE, Pulizer? Try a ROPE! Or a bullet, a lethal injection, an electric seat, or the like.


Posted by: RobertHuntingdon at July 6, 2006 03:34 PM

It's called graymail. It's also the probable reason why the administration is reluctant to prosecute these people: They can get more secrets thru discovery and they'll publish them all.

Sadly, we have reached the point where our legal system is killing us.

Posted by: SDN at July 6, 2006 04:52 PM

> Go read the whole thing. Unbelievable.

Alas, sadly, no, it's not the least bit unbelievable.

It's the order of the day.

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at July 8, 2006 12:40 PM

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