NYT editor Bill Keller appeared on Face the Nation this morning to defend his decision to expose the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program. Contrary to those who argue that the details of the program were an open secret, Keller gloated that, “the members of Congress who were beating up on us this week, most of them had not even been briefed on this program, or weren’t until the Times exposed it.” Then he said:
Clearly the terrorists, or the people who finance terrorism, know quite well, because our Treasury Department and the White House have talked openly about it, that they monitor international banking transactions. It’s not news to the terrorists. The scope of the program and its evident successes and questions about oversight were news to the voters and citizens.
Take a closer look at Keller’s false logic: He says the terrorists knew that the U.S. monitors international banking transactions. Then he says that the American people and many of their representatives in Congress did not know the “scope” of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program until the NYT “exposed” it.
But the relevant question is whether the terrorists knew those intimate, classified details about the “scope of the program” that the NYT revealed for the first time to the “voters and citizens.” If the American people and most members of Congress did not know the scope of the program, isn’t it plausible to argue that al Qaeda was also out of the loop? Obviously, and according to Keller’s own logic, the answer is that al Qaeda learned the details of the SWIFT program the same way the American people did: They read them in the New York Times.
Video here.UPDATE: David Frum KO’s the “it wasn’t news to the terrorists” defense.
UPDATE II: Allah catches another Keller contradiction.
UPDATE III: Tom Maguire sums up Keller’s logic in one headline: The SWIFT Decision – Everyone Knew But Congress.