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Monday, July 03, 2006

Journalists, Reporters and "Leakers" Under Severe Scrutiny

The United States is not the only country that has a problem with the press thinking they are the end all of information.

In different countries, the governments are taking steps, investigating, and prosecuting "leakers", reporters and journalists for divulging information that is secret or classified, that has the potential to cause great harm.

Headline by headline, a trickle of news leaks on Iraq and the antiterror campaign has grown into a steady stream of revelations, and from Pennsylvania Avenue to Downing Street, Copenhagen to Canberra, governments are responding with pressure and prosecutions.

The latest target is The New York Times. But the unfolding story begins as far back as 2003, when British weapons expert David Kelly was "outed" as the source of a story casting doubt on his government's arguments for invading Iraq, and he committed suicide.

And it will roll on this fall, when Danish journalists face trial for reporting their government knew there was no evidence of banned weapons in Iraq.

In London's Central Criminal Court, too, accused leakers will be in the dock this fall, for allegedly disclosing President Bush talked of bombing al-Jazeera, the Arab television station. The British government threatens to prosecute newspapers that write any more about that leaked document.

Media advocates are alarmed at what they see as a mounting assault on press freedom in country after country, arguing it is potentially chilling the pursuit of truth as U.S. and European leaders pursue wars on terror and in Iraq.

"It's grotesque that at a time when political rhetoric is full of notions of democracy and liberty that we should have this fundamental right of journalists to investigate and report on public interest matters called into question," Aidan White, general-secretary of the Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists, told The Associated Press.

But others counter that national interest requires stopping leaks of classified information, and that some media reports endanger lives by tipping terrorists to government tactics.

"We cannot continue to operate in a system where the government takes steps to counter terrorism while the media actively works to disclose those operations without any regard for protection of lives, sources and legal methods," Sen. Pat Roberts said in Washington.

The Kansas Republican was reacting to a June 23 report by the Times _ and other papers _ detailing a U.S. government program that taps into a huge international database of financial records to try to track terror financing.

Some Republican lawmakers called for criminal investigations of the journalists responsible and of the government insiders who leaked the information.

Investigations are already under way in other U.S. cases, reaching back to 2003, when whistleblower Joseph Wilson questioned a Bush administration claim about Iraq's supposed nuclear program. Times reporter Judith Miller spent three months in jail in that complex case last year, as investigators sought whoever leaked the name of Wilson's CIA-agent wife.

The Washington Times says the Justice Department is also investigating New York Times and Washington Post reporters _ the Times for disclosing in 2005 that the government was monitoring Americans' phone calls without court warrants and the Post for reporting that the CIA was operating secret prisons for suspected terrorists in eastern Europe. The CIA in April fired a top analyst as an alleged source for the reports on covert prisons.

Just as the stories cross borders, so do the crackdowns.

Swiss investigators are looking for the leaker of an intelligence document attesting to the CIA prison network and are weighing criminal charges, under secrecy laws, against three journalists at the weekly SonntagsBlick who reported the story.

In Britain, revelations and retributions have filled news columns and airwaves since the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq in 2003, when the British Broadcasting Corp., citing an unidentified government source, said allegations of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction _ now known to have been false _ had been "sexed up."

In July that year, bioweapons expert David Kelly informed superiors he was the BBC's source. He expected confidentiality, but his identity was disclosed and he was compelled to testify, under harsh questioning, before two parliamentary committees. Within days, Kelly killed himself.

In 2004-05, at London's Daily Telegraph and then at The Times, correspondent Michael Smith reported on leaked memos from Prime Minister Tony Blair's government indicating the Bush administration was long committed to invading Iraq, and weapons intelligence was "fixed" around that aim. Smith says he has been investigated under Britain's Official Secrets Act, but neither he nor any leaker has been charged.

For David Keogh, a former British Cabinet Office spokesman, and Leo O'Connor, an ex-Parliament aide, the outcome was different.

Both are charged under the secrecy act in the alleged leaking of a classified memo about a Bush-Blair meeting in 2004 at which Blair was said to have argued against a Bush suggestion of bombing al-Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar. Keogh and O'Connor face up to two years in prison if convicted this fall.

After London's Daily Mirror reported on that memo last November, Britain's attorney general warned other editors they could face prosecution if they divulged any more of the leaked document.

Across the North Sea, Michael Bjerre and Jesper Larsen of Berlingske Tidene, a major Danish daily, face two years in prison at their trial this fall _ the first such prosecution of journalists in Denmark's modern history.

They reported in 2004 that before joining the Iraq invasion, the Danish government was told by military intelligence there was no firm evidence of banned weapons in Iraq, a finding the Danes presumably based on U.S. and British information.

Because it involved going to war, "the articles published were obviously in the public interest," the newspaper's chief editor, Niels Lunde, told AP.

The Danish leaker, a former intelligence officer, was convicted and jailed for four months last year. Now "the court must decide whether the penal code provision banning publishing secret information applies to these journalists," said prosecutor Karsten Hjorth. The government contends the leak damaged its intelligence relations with other nations.


_Two journalists in Romania face up to seven years in prison for possessing classified documents about the Romanian military's operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though their newspapers never published the information.

_A German parliamentary report May 26 disclosed Berlin's foreign intelligence agency had been illegally spying on German journalists since the 1990s to find the sources of leaks.

_De Telegraaf, the Netherlands' biggest paper, had to go to court to win a ruling last month ordering the Dutch secret service to stop wiretapping calls of two reporters who obtained leaked information about official corruption.

"Systematic surveillance is becoming one of the most worrying features in relations between authorities and media worldwide," said the journalist federation's White.

Even whistleblowers who don't divulge state secrets can feel the heat _ like Australia's Rod Barton.

After the Canberra government dismissed what he privately reported about phony weapons "intelligence" and prisoner abuse in Iraq, the former Iraq weapons inspector went public last year with the information. Soon Barton's government contract work evaporated, he was "disinvited" from official functions, and former colleagues were ordered to shun him.

"Although there is still freedom of speech, it is not entirely free. There is a price," he told AP.


The Press is not King of Information. They paint President Bush as King, but our Government has to go to them and ASK them not to run classified and top secret information that was leaked to them? They have to ASK?

And they sit there and patronize President Bush by calling him King Bush.
If he was King, they wouldn't be around to print anything bad, that is for certain.

Bill Bennett has some excellent quotes on how the Media affects things when they print classified information that help the enemy:

Katherine Graham on the Press' Failures in National Security

"Tragically, however, we in the media have made mistakes. You may recall that in April 1983, some 60 people were killed in a bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut. At the time, there was coded radio traffic between Syria, where the operation was being run, and Iran, which was supporting it. Alas, one television network and a newspaper columnist reported that the U.S. government had intercepted the traffic. Shortly thereafter the traffic ceased. This undermined efforts to capture the terrorist leaders and eliminated a source of information about future attacks. Five months later, apparently the same terrorists struck again at the Marine barracks in Beirut; 241 servicemen were killed.

"This kind of result, albeit unintentional, points up the necessity for full cooperation wherever possible between the media and the authorities."

Read the whole speech: HERE

John F. Kennedy on the Questions the Press Should Ask of Themselves.

"I am not suggesting any new forms of censorship or new types of security classifications. I have no easy answer to the dilemma that I have posed, and would not seek to impose it if I had one. But I am asking the members of the newspaper profession and the industry in this country to reexamine their own responsibilities, to consider the degree and the nature of the present danger, and to heed the duty of self-restraint which that danger imposes upon us all. "Every newspaper now asks itself, with respect to every story: 'Is it news?' All I suggest is that you add the question: 'Is it in the interest of the national security?' And I hope that every group in America-unions and businessmen and public officials at every level--will ask the same question of their endeavors, and subject their actions to this same exacting test."

Full Speech: HERE

The hypocrisy of the New York Times can be seen with what they wrote about how we must act on ALL fronts, including FINANCIAL ones:

The New York Times Must Have Changed Its Mind--A 9/24/2001 Editorial: "If America is going to wage a new kind of war against terrorism, it must act on all fronts, including the financial one."

The New York Times

Finances of Terror

Sep. 24, 2001

Organizing the hijacking of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took significant sums of money. The cost of these plots suggests that putting Osama bin Laden and other international terrorists out of business will require more than diplomatic coalitions and military action. Washington and its allies must also disable the financial networks used by terrorists.

The Bush administration is preparing new laws to help track terrorists through their money-laundering activity and is readying an executive order freezing the assets of known terrorists. Much more is needed, including stricter regulations, the recruitment of specialized investigators and greater cooperation with foreign banking authorities. There must also must be closer coordination among America's law enforcement, national security and financial regulatory agencies.

Osama bin Laden originally rose to prominence because his inherited fortune allowed him to bankroll Arab volunteers fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Since then, he has acquired funds from a panoply of Islamic charities and illegal and legal businesses, including export-import and commodity trading firms, and is estimated to have as much as $300 million at his disposal.

Some of these businesses move funds through major commercial banks that lack the procedures to monitor such transactions properly. Locally, terrorists can utilize tiny unregulated storefront financial centers, including what are known as hawala banks, which people in South Asian immigrant communities in the United States and other Western countries use to transfer money abroad. Though some smaller financial transactions are likely to slip through undetected even after new rules are in place, much of the financing needed for major attacks could dry up.

Washington should revive international efforts begun during the Clinton administration to pressure countries with dangerously loose banking regulations to adopt and enforce stricter rules. These need to be accompanied by strong sanctions against doing business with financial institutions based in these nations. The Bush administration initially opposed such measures. But after the events of Sept. 11, it appears ready to embrace them.

The Treasury Department also needs new domestic legal weapons to crack down on money laundering by terrorists. The new laws should mandate the identification of all account owners, prohibit transactions with "shell banks" that have no physical premises and require closer monitoring of accounts coming from countries with lax banking laws. Prosecutors, meanwhile, should be able to freeze more easily the assets of suspected terrorists. The Senate Banking Committee plans to hold hearings this week on a bill providing for such measures. It should be approved and signed into law by President Bush.

New regulations requiring money service businesses like the hawala banks to register and imposing criminal penalties on those that do not are scheduled to come into force late next year. The effective date should be moved up to this fall, and rules should be strictly enforced the moment they take effect. If America is going to wage a new kind of war against terrorism, it must act on all fronts, including the financial one.

That was September 24, 2001.

The administration does exactly what you are suggesting, but you blow all that time and effort out of the water, you endanger American and ally lives by allowing them to circumvent what you now have disclosed.

The American people did not "need" to know this, but the terrorists sure did. They needed to know what and where, the facts of the program so they can figure out ways to get around it. Congratulations NYT, you did it, you managed to give the terrorists all the information they needed on a program that was LEGAL AND WORKING!

I don't think you have the right to hide behind Freedom of the Press.

Freedom of the Press does not give you Carte Blanche to do whatever you think. The press does not have the right nor the duty to de-classify information. That is the President's job, not yours.

Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, chair of the 9/11 Commission talks about the damage done with this leak: HERE

That is what, four Classified or top secret programs and information on the War on Terror that the New York Times has ran to press in eight months?

An EXCELLENT article written by Andrew C. McCarthy gives very detailed information on the program on how it worked, how it kept us safe, and how it was put in place and supervised (A MUST READ!).

An Excerpt:

That’s because SWIFT, as it is better known, is not a financial institution at all. It is a consortium, centered not in the U.S. but in Belgium, which simply — albeit importantly — oversees how funds are routed globally. It is a messenger, not a bank. Nevertheless, in an abundance of caution, the government uses administrative subpoenas — which were expressly provided for by Congress in the aforementioned Financial Privacy Act and the Patriot Act — when it seeks SWIFT information. That’s not just legal; it’s hyper-legal.

Nor is there any credible worry that the Bush administration is secretly and dictatorially running roughshod over privacy interests. Prominent members of Congress — including elected officials from both parties who serve on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees — have been briefed on the program since its inception after the 9/11 attacks.

The administration, moreover, has worked closely with SWIFT managers, who are led by the National Bank of Belgium and include such other independent financial powerhouses as the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of Japan, as well as the U.S. Federal Reserve. The resulting collaboration has both narrowed the information gathered and ensured that its use is limited to counterterrorism purposes — not the prosecution of ordinary crimes. As if that were not enough, the TFTP is regularly subjected to independent auditing as an additional safeguard ensuring that information is accessed only for terrorism-related purposes.

No, the most salient thing we learn from today’s compromise of the TFTP 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.

The TFTP was evidently key to the capture of one of the world’s most formidable terrorists. Riduan bin Isamuddin, better known as “Hambali” — the critical link between al Qaeda and its Indonesian affiliate, Jemaah Islamiya, and thus at the center of the 2002 Bali bombing in which 202 people were slaughtered — is now in U.S. custody rather than wreaking more mayhem. He was apprehended in Thailand in 2003, thanks to the program, which identified a previously unknown financial link to him in Southeast Asia.


Thank you New York Times for 'outting' a completely legal program, the next terrorists attack that we miss because this program has been outted, the next attack that kills Americans or allies abroad - it is on your head. The blood of those innocents will be on your hands.

It is possible we could have stopped another attack with this program, but the NYT for profit and to sell their newspapers, ran it front and center as a frontpage story.
I wonder if Osama has a subscription to the NYT?

Yes, I am very angry at the media for doing this, but I am furious at our government officials who are "leaking" information to the press to undermine this administration because they either do not agree with it, don't like it or are disgruntled. Their actions are treasonous, and we should root them out, and make examples out of them - prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the Law and sentencing them to the maximum.

It is time for our Government to take a firm hand, quit playing with the issue of leakers, investigate, root them out and prosecute them severely. If reporters get in the way, jail them. This is National Security - and both the "leakers" and the reporters have endangered American and Ally lives in divulging this information to the terrorists.

Others blogging this issue:

Michelle Malkin with "DISSENT IS PATRIOTIC, II"

Sister Toldjah with "Subtility in media bias"

Atlas Shrugs with "The NY TImes Lies and the Liars That Tell Them"

Patterico's Pontifications with "Which Terrorists Knew What About Terror Finance Monitoring?"