Did the NY Times Hurt National Security? 

Did the NY Times Hurt National Security?

Atrios has been very reasonably asking for one, just one reason to think the Times, in revealing Bush's warrantless searches on Americans, told terrorists anything they didn't already know.

Near total silence from Bush defenders, some of whom are calling "treason" on the Times. At a minimum they are saying nyah, nyah, just like the Plame imbroglio.

Orin Kerr has made one fairly sober attemptat answering Atrios's question (although he doesn't mention Atrios).

The more people abroad know that the NSA can easily watch their communications routed through the U.S., the less people will be willing to route their communications through the U.S. Cf. Bruce Hayden’s comment. No doubt it was a long-term priority of the NSA to ensure that lots of international communications traffic was routed through the U.S., where the NSA could have much better access to it. Indeed, Risen’s book more or less says this. The disclosure of the program presumably helps frustrate that objective.

Ted Barlow replies (link via Atrios):

The thing is, through no fault of Orin Kerr, this doesn’t touch on the controversial part of the program. It only explains why we’d keep secret the fact that we were monitoring calls that were routed through the US, but both placed by and received by people outside the US. As Kerr notes, these non-domestic wiretaps are not prohibited by FISA. If the program simply took advantage of foreigner-to-foreigner communications that happened to route through the country, there would be no criminal infraction, and probably no leak to discuss.

Rather, the controversy is about warrantless domestic wiretaps, which are obviously routed through the United States. If there’s a legitimate national security interest in keeping those wiretaps secret, I’m not aware of it.

What's funny, if funny is the word, is that Bush has almost certainly revealed more details of U.S. high-tech surveillance than anyone else. UPDATE: Link added. Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald also comments on an attempt by John Hinderaker at Powerline to answer the question: how did the NY Times revelations hurt national security? Hinderaker's "offhand thoughts" include: terrorists probably didn't know anything about FISA (the legislation that should have guided Bush) until the NY Times wrote about it; "Very few Americans knew anything about FISA before the current controversy arose."

Then, honest to God, in the next paragraph: terrorists probably knew so much about FISA, they would have assumed that if Bush submitted to the terms of the legislation, "it would take days, weeks or months to obtain a FISA order." Er, there was a way for Bush to proceed with no warrant, i.e. on an emergency basis, for 72 hours. And many wise observers including Glenn Reynolds have said the FISA court is practically a rubber stamp.

Hinderaker is identified on the site, and again I'm not kidding, as "a lawyer with a nationwide litigation practice."

Did al Qaeda learn the U.S. was monitoring satellite phones by reading it in the Moonie Washington Times, and does that prove the media has betrayed their country? Bush said so, so it must be true, right?

Er, no. Even though Hinderaker apparently still believes it.

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