Representative Pete King, (R) NY, wants the editor and the publisher of the New York Times prosecuted.
His reason? The New York Times, followed by the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and other papers ran articles disclosing a federal intelligence initiative to monitor international financial transactions. The program, designed to root out possible terrorists, analyzes money going from one financial institution to another. The media outlets asserted that the program was being run by presidential subpoenas and not authorized by warrants from any federal court.
King called the articles “treasonous,” and has called for a criminal investigation. He appeared on The Oâ€™Reilly Factor Monday evening calling for the Times administration to be prosecuted.
Representative Ed Markey, (D) Mass, claims that the intelligence program itself is illegal, and he appeared alongside King on Mondayâ€™s Oâ€™Reilly Factor to counter arguments made by King.
“The Bush administration put out their own subpoenas; never told the courts about it all,” said Markey. “That is a very serious 4th amendment violation.”
King expressed his outrage towards the publicizing of the federal anti-terror program, claiming that congress had been properly briefed and those that needed to know were informed.
“If everybody knew about it, thereâ€™s no need to go public about it,” said King. King, a quick talking Republican from New Yorkâ€™s 3rd district, cited the laws he felt the journalists had violated.
He keeps a list of his press quotes here.
Let us clear the air right now before a discussion of the public opinion reaction: the press is not going to be prosecuted. President Bush has not called for an investigation. He merely expressed his anger that the press had run the information. That was the correct response from his administration. Clearly, the Bush administration is not going to be happy that the press ran a critical article on one of their anti-terror programs. However, even Bill O’Reilly, the Fox pundit, said that he does not believe the Times editor and publisher should or would be prosecuted.
Therefore, the reader is left with a news story, broke by a newspaper, unpopular with the Bush administration, which exposes a secret government program, for which no one will be prosecuted.
This reporter will not state any agreement or disagreement in principle with the publication of secret information. However, it is the job of the free press to hold a democratically elected government accountable to its people, with the best and most vigilant efforts, self-guided by ethics. I do believe that the publication of this story about surveillance of international banking records is good for the public relations efforts of the mainstream media.
References to the public relations efforts of the press are often an oxymoron. However, reading this article proves that the newspaper of yesterday has an uncertain future tomorrow. Clearly, the blogosphere and the advent of “Googlefied” news that is custom delivered to each reader based on their own preferences show that the news can be broken anywhere and by anybody. The Times, however, showed themselves viable with their continued ability to check the government.
Though controversial, the Times flexed their muscle. And that, whether agreed with or not, is good publicity.
Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, ran a letter June 25 addressing the financial surveillance program article.
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 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.
The Times may have been legally wrong in publishing information about a classified government program. They may have straddled the bounds of ethics. I am not a liberal pundit, but let me be the first to say that the last major country to actively prosecute its press for covering issues not agreed upon by the government flew a red flag.