New York Times Passes Sensitive Information to Terrorists - Again

In yet another breath-taking display of callous disregard for public safety against potential terror attacks, the New York Times yesterday published information obtained from a disgruntled Port Authority employee concerning the dangerous vulnerability of the PATH transit tunnels running beneath the Hudson River - the most recent episode of the Times making public damaging information obtained through illegal national security and intelligence breaches.

This act further solidifies the Times' standing as the go-to media source for terrorists seeking accurate assessments of US intelligence knowledge of their operations and the national paper of record for critical targeting tips for launching attacks against the US.

The article by William Rashbaum and William Neuman, "Hudson River Tunnels Seen as Fragile",  reveals critical details of a highly sensitive review conducted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that concludes that the PATH tunnels are more vulnerable to terrorist attack than experts had previously thought.

These tunnels are the same as were targeted by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists  captured overseas earlier this year who planned to set off bombs aboard PATH trains - which carry 230,000 passengers each day - as they passed through the Hudson River tunnels hoping to breach the tunnel walls sufficient enough to flood the tubes and drown the occupants of the trains. The captured terrorists confirmed for intelligence officials that the thwarted attack was scheduled for sometime in October or November of this year.

Armed with this new information about the PATH tunnel vulnerabilities and the ongoing efforts by the Port Authority to find the best method for shoring up the tunnel's defenses against such an attack, terrorists may very well push up any plans to exploit this vulnerability before any defenses can be put into place. In that event, victims' families will have the Old Gray Lady to thank for the death of their loved ones.

This is hardly the first occasion that the Times has made such critical disclosures of classified national security and intelligence information; in fact, the paper has a long history of such activity going back to the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. But the pace of classified information being revealed in the pages of the Times has reached breakneck speed:  

  • Last December, Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed ("Bush Lets US Spy on Callers Without Courts")  a top-secret presidential authorization for the National Security Agency to conduct communications surveillance on suspected terrorists in immediate threat situations prior to obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Despite White House requests for the Times to not publish the information for fear of jeopardizing ongoing surveillance, the paper published the story just days before the release of reporter Risen's book.
  • In June, the Times published an article again by Risen and Lichtblau ("Bank Data is Sifted by US in Secret to Block Terror")  based on information obtained from illegal disclosures by intelligence officials about the international finance surveillance system, SWIFT, which the Times article admitted had been critical in the tracking, arrest and conviction of al-Qaeda operatives in the US and overseas. Times Editor Bill Keller, who rejected repeated calls from the White House to keep the details of the very successful - and entirely legal - program secret, said that the paper went forward with the story because it was "a matter of public interest". President Bush characterized the disclosure of the program by the Times as "disgraceful".
  • And then this past September, the Times published a story by Mark Mazzetti ("Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat")  based again on an intelligence leak regarding the National Intelligence Estimate, which according to the paper, said that the war in Iraq was the primary cause of an increase in terrorist activity, even though Mazzetti had not seen the actual report and was not able to quote it in any detail. These disclosures forced the Bush Administration to release a redacted summary of the report, which showed that the Times article had exaggerated the findings by the intelligence agencies. This article, which kept the attention of the national media occupied well into October, came out just six weeks before the November elections.
These articles by the New York Times relying exclusively on anonymous government sources have provided America's enemies with invaluable information about law enforcement and intelligence agency operations directed at terrorist networks. Following the lead of the Times, the national mainstream media has demonstrated time and again that the most fundamental concern is not for the safety of US citizens or the public interest, but the bottom line - newspaper sales and quarterly profit statements.

There is only one way to correct this problem: shut off the information pipeline between government agencies and the newsrooms. The Supreme Court has made clear that news agencies cannot hide their sources from government investigators when these high-level breaches occur. These damaging disclosures by the Times and their mainstream media colleagues are entirely dependent on government employees who are willing to engage in illegal - and in some cases, treasonous - conduct to advance their own personal agenda. Attorney General Gonzalez must take immediate and decisive action to stop the hemorrhaging of our nation's secrets to our avowed enemies by means of their accomplices in the mainstream media by prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law any government employee that intentionally leaks sensitive national security and intelligence information to the media.

This is precisely the policy that has protected America's most vital secrets for decades. If one walks down the halls of the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Maryland, you won't see pictures of the employee of the month; instead, you will find pictures of former agency employees, the length of their prison sentences and fines imposed for their violation of the nation's trust and their secrecy oaths.

Tragically, the mainstream media has shown at almost every opportunity that they have absolutely no self-restraint in handling classified government data; but imposing restrictions that undermine the First Amendment will be counter-productive in both the short-term and the long-term. The new Democratic congressional majority - who has been the secondary beneficiaries of these disclosures (behind the terrorists) - are unlikely to take action on these disclosures until they inevitably result in tragedy (at which point they will blame the Republicans). Thus, the responsibility lies with the Bush Administration, which must act quickly in this regard to protect our nation from even more damaging information from being passed on to our enemies.

In closing, I would like to pose two questions: do Americans really want New York Times editors and reporters making decisions about which of our country's most sensitive secrets will be revealed to terrorists planning attacks against the US? And do we want partisan hacks and government bureaucrats acting with impunity while deciding on their own what information they choose leak in "the public interest"?  It is chilling to admit that this frightening scenario is precisely what we face today. It isn't just the lives of New York commuters that have been threatened by the actions of the New York Times and their anonymous government sources, but the safety and security of every American has been endangered. The time for action is now.
In yet another breath-taking display of callous disregard for public safety against potential terror attacks, the New York Times yesterday published information obtained from a disgruntled Port Authority employee concerning the dangerous vulnerability of the PATH transit tunnels running beneath the Hudson River - the most recent episode of the Times making public damaging information obtained through illegal national security and intelligence breaches.

This act further solidifies the Times' standing as the go-to media source for terrorists seeking accurate assessments of US intelligence knowledge of their operations and the national paper of record for critical targeting tips for launching attacks against the US.

The article by William Rashbaum and William Neuman, "Hudson River Tunnels Seen as Fragile",  reveals critical details of a highly sensitive review conducted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that concludes that the PATH tunnels are more vulnerable to terrorist attack than experts had previously thought.

These tunnels are the same as were targeted by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists  captured overseas earlier this year who planned to set off bombs aboard PATH trains - which carry 230,000 passengers each day - as they passed through the Hudson River tunnels hoping to breach the tunnel walls sufficient enough to flood the tubes and drown the occupants of the trains. The captured terrorists confirmed for intelligence officials that the thwarted attack was scheduled for sometime in October or November of this year.

Armed with this new information about the PATH tunnel vulnerabilities and the ongoing efforts by the Port Authority to find the best method for shoring up the tunnel's defenses against such an attack, terrorists may very well push up any plans to exploit this vulnerability before any defenses can be put into place. In that event, victims' families will have the Old Gray Lady to thank for the death of their loved ones.

This is hardly the first occasion that the Times has made such critical disclosures of classified national security and intelligence information; in fact, the paper has a long history of such activity going back to the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. But the pace of classified information being revealed in the pages of the Times has reached breakneck speed:  

  • Last December, Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed ("Bush Lets US Spy on Callers Without Courts")  a top-secret presidential authorization for the National Security Agency to conduct communications surveillance on suspected terrorists in immediate threat situations prior to obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Despite White House requests for the Times to not publish the information for fear of jeopardizing ongoing surveillance, the paper published the story just days before the release of reporter Risen's book.
  • In June, the Times published an article again by Risen and Lichtblau ("Bank Data is Sifted by US in Secret to Block Terror")  based on information obtained from illegal disclosures by intelligence officials about the international finance surveillance system, SWIFT, which the Times article admitted had been critical in the tracking, arrest and conviction of al-Qaeda operatives in the US and overseas. Times Editor Bill Keller, who rejected repeated calls from the White House to keep the details of the very successful - and entirely legal - program secret, said that the paper went forward with the story because it was "a matter of public interest". President Bush characterized the disclosure of the program by the Times as "disgraceful".
  • And then this past September, the Times published a story by Mark Mazzetti ("Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat")  based again on an intelligence leak regarding the National Intelligence Estimate, which according to the paper, said that the war in Iraq was the primary cause of an increase in terrorist activity, even though Mazzetti had not seen the actual report and was not able to quote it in any detail. These disclosures forced the Bush Administration to release a redacted summary of the report, which showed that the Times article had exaggerated the findings by the intelligence agencies. This article, which kept the attention of the national media occupied well into October, came out just six weeks before the November elections.
These articles by the New York Times relying exclusively on anonymous government sources have provided America's enemies with invaluable information about law enforcement and intelligence agency operations directed at terrorist networks. Following the lead of the Times, the national mainstream media has demonstrated time and again that the most fundamental concern is not for the safety of US citizens or the public interest, but the bottom line - newspaper sales and quarterly profit statements.

There is only one way to correct this problem: shut off the information pipeline between government agencies and the newsrooms. The Supreme Court has made clear that news agencies cannot hide their sources from government investigators when these high-level breaches occur. These damaging disclosures by the Times and their mainstream media colleagues are entirely dependent on government employees who are willing to engage in illegal - and in some cases, treasonous - conduct to advance their own personal agenda. Attorney General Gonzalez must take immediate and decisive action to stop the hemorrhaging of our nation's secrets to our avowed enemies by means of their accomplices in the mainstream media by prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law any government employee that intentionally leaks sensitive national security and intelligence information to the media.

This is precisely the policy that has protected America's most vital secrets for decades. If one walks down the halls of the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Maryland, you won't see pictures of the employee of the month; instead, you will find pictures of former agency employees, the length of their prison sentences and fines imposed for their violation of the nation's trust and their secrecy oaths.

Tragically, the mainstream media has shown at almost every opportunity that they have absolutely no self-restraint in handling classified government data; but imposing restrictions that undermine the First Amendment will be counter-productive in both the short-term and the long-term. The new Democratic congressional majority - who has been the secondary beneficiaries of these disclosures (behind the terrorists) - are unlikely to take action on these disclosures until they inevitably result in tragedy (at which point they will blame the Republicans). Thus, the responsibility lies with the Bush Administration, which must act quickly in this regard to protect our nation from even more damaging information from being passed on to our enemies.

In closing, I would like to pose two questions: do Americans really want New York Times editors and reporters making decisions about which of our country's most sensitive secrets will be revealed to terrorists planning attacks against the US? And do we want partisan hacks and government bureaucrats acting with impunity while deciding on their own what information they choose leak in "the public interest"?  It is chilling to admit that this frightening scenario is precisely what we face today. It isn't just the lives of New York commuters that have been threatened by the actions of the New York Times and their anonymous government sources, but the safety and security of every American has been endangered. The time for action is now.