Once any MSMer makes the admission that disclosure of the program could possibly help terrorists elude capture, the argument is over. To run such a risk would require an enormous benefit, and while the disclosure of the NSA surveillance program did not meet that standard in the eyes of many, the benefit of ratting out this program is so slight as to be obviously not worth the damage done.
For every MSMer engaged on this story, the question sequence ought to be:
1. Could this disclosure have helped terrorists elude capture?
2. If the answer is no, explain and defend.
3. If the answer is yes, quantify the risk.
4. If the MSMer can’t quantify, how could the papers proceed when the consequences could be so ghastly?
5. If the answer is “the public interest,” how is that measured, and how was that measurement balanced against an unquantified risk. You can’t balance when you can’t quanitfy.
The analysis must always lead to the conclusion that the papers did not know what they were doing, did not understand the program or the risks, and were reckless in ways without any precedent in the history of American journalism. Both Keller and Baquet have cited the Bay of Pigs, but that is not a precedent for disclosing classified information, but rather an example of when it wasn’t disclosed. Except in the context of this war, no major media has ever knowingly compromised intelligence gathering that could benefit the enemy.
Which is why this is such an enormous and consequential story.
I asked the Undersecretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey yesterday if there were additional classified programs the disclosure of which could injure the efforts to capture or kill terrorists, and his answer –thank goodness– was yes, of course.
This debate is about whether these papers will deal another blow to the effort to capture or kill terrorists in the future. There is no reason to believe that they won’t. The editors have no framework, and no appreciation for the consequences of their actions. There is no reason to believe that Keller/Baquet will not publish the next round of disclosures in the war against the war.
Doyle McManus dismissed Sgt. Boggs’ arguments yesterday, and no MSMer has yet responded to those of Lt. Cotton. I hope other active duty military continue to make the case directly to the MSM that the MSM is endangering the lives of the troops.