Sunday, October 22, 2006

NY Times admits they erred

The NY Times is now saying (three months after the fact) that they erred in publishing the story of the secret terrorist banking data surveillance program. Ombudsman, Byron Calame, wrote this:

After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it's a close call now, as it was then, I don't think the article should have been published.

Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone's private data had actually been misused. I had mentioned both as being part of 'the most substantial argument against running the story,' but that reference was relegated to the bottom of my column.

The source of the data, as my column noted, was the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift. That Belgium-based consortium said it had honored administrative subpoenas from the American government because it has a subsidiary in this country.

I haven't found any evidence in the intervening months that the surveillance program was illegal under United States laws. Although data-protection authorities in Europe have complained that the formerly secret program violated their rules on privacy, there have been no Times reports of legal action being taken.
My original support for the article rested heavily on the fact that so many people already knew about the program that serious terrorists also must have been aware of it. But critical, and clever, readers were quick to point to a contradiction: the Times article and headline had both emphasized that a 'secret' program was being exposed.
Unbelievable! They didn't realize that the program was secret? It was ok for them to expose it if everyone knew. The word, "secret" doesn't matter because that's just a word and words today are meaningless. If the NYT knows about it, then it's not secret and everyone should know about it.

Read more at Michelle Malkin.