A small group of about 15 people gathered in front of the Washington bureau of the New York Times Monday to protest the paper's publishing of what some call national security secrets. Editors from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have defended their decisions to print stories late last month that disclosed a secret Bush administration program that monitors international financial transactions. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have also singled out the New York Times for harsh criticism, as Cindy Saine reports.
A handful of protesters vented their anger at the New York Times in front of the paper's Washington, D.C. bureau. Last month, the Times reported on a secret Bush administration program to track terrorists through an international banking database. The paper came under criticism last year for reporting on the National Security Agency's efforts to monitor international phone calls without court warrants. The Times was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on that story, one of the highest honors in American journalism.
Kristinn Taylor of FreeRepublic.com, a conservative grassroots organization, accused the New York Times of betraying national security secrets. "We want publisher Arthur Sulzburger, the Executive Editor Bill Keller and two reporters, Eric Lichtblau and James Risen to be prosecuted for treason for giving aid and comfort to the enemy in a time of war."
Several other major U.S. papers also published the story on the secret financial tracking program. However, President Bush and a number of Republican lawmakers have focused on the New York Times, saying publication of classified information could endanger American lives. Bush said, "The disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We are at war with a bunch of people who want to harm the United States of America, and for people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America. What we were doing was the right thing."
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller defended his paper's decision and the readers' right to know on the CBS program "Face the Nation." "I think this is about a lot more than just the banking story,” Keller said. “Since September 11th, editors have had to make some really, really tough choices about how we keep Americans informed about how their government is waging the war on terrorism. There have been a lot of occasions when we have decided to withhold information."
Keller has also said his paper did not tell terrorists anything they did not already know, saying they are well aware that governments are tracking their international financial transactions.