According to Treasury and Justice Department officials familiar with the briefings their senior leadership undertook with editors and reporters from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, the media outlets were told that their reports on the SWIFT financial tracking system presented risks for three ongoing terrorism financing investigations. Despite this information, both papers chose to move forward with their stories.
“We didn’t give them specifics, just general information about regions where the investigations were ongoing, terrorist organizations that we believed were being assisted. These were off the record meetings set up to dissuade them from reporting on SWIFT, and we thought the pressing nature of the investigations might sway them, but they didn’t,” says a Treasury official.
In fact, according to a Justice Department official, one of the reporters involved with the story was caught attempting to gain more details about one of the investigations through different sources. “We believe it was to include it in their story,” says the official.
No harm in that, right? Because President Bush announced that he would disrupt the terrorists’ finances. So the subject of that investigation probably already knew he was being monitored.