Anger management issues aside, I think that the true ramifications of the Times’ (LA & NY) release of information on a top secret financial surveillance program are starting to become clear. The Times’ revelations have effectively killed the SWIFT program, not due to the terrorists becoming aware of the program, but rather due to the fact that the revelations spooked European banking officials that had previously been cooperating. This puts the terrorists at an advantage again, as they now have a sure fire transit point for their finances, where before they couldn’t be sure that their transactions weren’t being monitored. The Times have handed them a huge gift.
A secndary damaging effect is that such leaks will most likely have the effect of drying up future collaboration from Eurocrats, as they will be subject to having their cover blown by American intelligence agents with a political axe to grind leaking to a press obsessed with reliving their “glory” days in the early-to-mid ’70’s.
Arguments claiming that nothing bas been lost because the terrorists had to have guessed that they were being watched are stupid. Prior to last weekend, all they had to go on were vague suspicions, hearsay and some all too convenient arrests of comrades-in-arms. The Times handed them operational details of a working program and, in the process of doing so, neutralized our only real advantage against the terrorists: intelligence. We have Tomahawks that can hit targets from thousands of miles away, but we are at a loss without effective information telling us where and when to point those missiles.
It’s funny, too, that the Times chose to reveal the details on this ongoing operation, citing “privacy concerns” when none other than the New York Times wrote
[emphasis mine] Of course, that was written on September 24th, 2001, prior to the NYT being entirely consumed by full-fledged BDS.
Organizing the hijacking of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took significant sums of money.
[snip] Washington and its allies must also disable the financial networks used by terrorists.
[snip] 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.
[snip] 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.
[snip] If America is going to wage a new kind of war against terrorism, it must act on all fronts, including the financial one.
While the losses to the US government’s ability to pursue terrorists has been severely compromised by these revelations, it remains to be seen what consequences the Timeses will see. The results of the damage assessment will likely prove interesting and Republicans in the House and Senate should be glad to know that a comfortable majority (read: a point shy of Constitutional ammendment territory) of Americans support prosecuting the media for their involvement in the leaks . 87% of those surveyed think that punishment for the leakers themselves is well-deserved.
Finally, in response to Andy One, I have to say that terrorism is an entirely different beast than the other dangers he mentioned (earthquakes, volcanos, hurricanes, etc.). Terrorism is man-made in its entirety and to associate it with natural disasters is a straw man of the highest order. Unless I missed something, and it was suddenly within the realm of Man’s power to interdict tropical depressions before they become full-fledged hurricanes. Natural disasters aren’t sentient things – they don’t actively seek the end of our civilization, nor do they hate the freedoms we hold dear, let alone subjugate women, drop walls on homosexuals or slit the throats of those that refuse to honor their god. (“‘There is no god but Gaia, and Al Gore is Her prophet!’ chanted the tornado as it ripped through an Oklahoma trailer park.”) To conflate the SWIFT progam with flood insurance is a cheap rhetorical trick, but I’ll answer Andy’s underlying point in any event: the program was legal, it had strict oversight and was reviewed by Executive and Legislative officials extremely frequently and impinged upon no one’s freedoms (well, except the terrorists, whose “freeom not to get arrested” was severely impeded). It did not rob Andy of any of his rights any more than my phone records being available to law enforcement officials at the drop of a warrant robs me of mine.