Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, addresses their controversial decision to
declare war on the United States publish information about a formerly secret program monitoring international funds transfers.
Wizbang provides the condensed version:
1) We have no reason to believe the program was illegal in any way.
2) We have every reason to believe it was effective at catching terrorists.
3) We ran the story anyway, screw you.
The longer version is simply a longer insult to the intelligence of their critics. Hugh Hewitt puts the full letter through the mill, but let me extract a few choice offerings from Mr. Keller:
Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that's the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.) Some comes from readers who have considered the story in question and wonder whether publishing such material is wise. And some comes from readers who are grateful for the information and think it is valuable to have a public debate about the lengths to which our government has gone in combatting the threat of terror.
In other words - Relax, dear Times Reader - we are getting flack from a bunch of right-wing cranks, but proper libs understand that the Times is simply contributing to the public debate.
It's an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. Who are the editors of The New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other publications that also ran the banking story) to disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees? And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy, and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.
Yes, but we also passed laws regarding the disclosure of classified information, and it is entirely possible that these leaks (although presumably not the publication thereof) are criminal. Does that aspect of the decisions made by We the People also count for anything in TimesWorld?
The power that has been given us is not something to be taken lightly. The responsibility of it weighs most heavily on us when an issue involves national security, and especially national security in times of war. I've only participated in a few such cases, but they are among the most agonizing decisions I've faced as an editor.
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?
FROM THE COMMENTS:
[Keller] mentions that this was an "agonizing" decision, but doesn't do the thing he is forever demanding of other public figures with power- he doesn't touch on what responsibility he will hold if he is wrong. He does't say what made it agonizing. Does he worry he made the wrong choice, and that people might die because of it?
He doesn't even bother to say how he will ever evaluate his own actions. What will tug at the corners of his brain and tell him maybe he made the wrong choice to publish this information?
Good point - just what is the feedback loop here? My guess is that Keller keeps score by counting how many times he is lauded for his courage at cocktail parties in the Hamptons, but maybe it is not that scientific.