That, Heather Mac Donald correctly notes, is what the press will create if it continues to undermine our ability to disrupt terrorists’ financial activities and communications. In the key paragraph of this must-read article (one of today’s NRO hot links), Mac Donald writes:
The Times implies a second reason it ignored the government’s fervent requests to protect the program’s secrecy: Large databases were involved. The Times has an attack of the vapors whenever evidence of terrorist planning is found in databases, reasoning that any program to harvest that evidence is a privacy threat and should be exposed. Such logic, if taken seriously, would mean an end to all computerized investigations and would create an impregnable shield to terrorist activity in cyberspace. Anything a terrorist does that is recorded by computers will by its very nature be interspersed among records of millions if not billions or trillions of innocent transactions by unrelated parties. That fact alone should not disable the government from seeking the evidence; it merely means that the government should follow existing procedures governing the collection of evidence–as, in the case of the Swift program, it has.
The administration started tearing down this shield after 9/11. The 9/11 Commission argued that it should be torn down faster. The NYT’s actions aid those who wish to rebuild it.