What did the Times know and when did it know it?

The New York Times undertook to blow what it called, in its headline, the "secret" international terrorist financing tracking program, for reasons that it never has been able to explain. Initially, there was no doubt about the fact that the Times was exposing a secret; reporter Eric Lichtblau used that word to describe the SWIFT program something like twelve times in the body of the Times' article. But when the Times unexpectedly found itself under heavy criticism for damaging national security, it took the nearest port in a storm, and claimed that the SWIFT program wasn't a secret after all. Everyone knew about it! Which, of course, left people scratching their heads over the story's page one, above the fold placement.

And there’s more on this matter here, but you don’t find it at Romenesko: Your daily fix of media industry news, commentary, and memos, where the perspective — Mainstream gossip and industry developments — does not allow it.

Part of what you will find is this from Eric Lichtblau, written last November to give an idea of just how secret it was — impenetrable until NYT told about it:

[The administration] is now developing a program to gain access to and track potentially hundreds of millions of international bank transfers into the United States.

But experts in the field say the results have been spotty, with few clear dents in Al Qaeda's ability to move money and finance terrorist attacks.

Few clear dents, eh?  


While you’re considering this matter, see what happened in similar circumstances long ago, thanks again to NY Times!


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