Jewish World Review July 11, 2006 / 15 Tamuz, 5766

Paul Greenberg

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O TIMES, O MORES! | "... that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Still trying to justify exposing another secret counterterrorist program, the New York Times' executive editor, Bill Keller, has told CBS' "Face the Nation" that the government's attempt to track international bank transfers wasn't really a secret. After all, the administration had long talked about its efforts to cut off al-Qaida's money supply.

Strange, then, that Riduan Isamuddin, a.k.a. Hambali, never got the word. He was the mastermind behind the 2002 suicide bombing in Bali that killed a couple of hundred people; he was detected through the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program that the Times now has exposed.

Ditto, one Uzair Paracha of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was also done in by this terrorist-tracking program, which indicated he'd laundered some $200,000 for al-Qaida through a bank in Pakistan. He was convicted of lending material support to a terrorist organization.

Strange, too, if this program was so well known, that so many European leaders say they didn't know about it. Well, they know now, thanks to the New York Times.

Belgium's prime minister has ordered an investigation into the whole operation, and the European Parliament is debating the question. It's the equivalent of Western European countries opening multiple investigations into a CIA operation at the height of the Cold War, much to our adversary's delight. If the Times hasn't succeeded in killing this useful counterterrorism program, it's certainly crippled it.

Anyway, if Editor Keller is to be believed and this counterterrorism operation was widely known, why did the Times treat it as front-page news?

Well, it wasn't the existence of such a program that was news, Mr. Keller explains, but the details about how successful it has been.

But it's those details, of course, that would be of the greatest interest to terrorists trying to find a way to transfer funds from one country to another without being detected. The more Brother Keller talks, the more he contradicts himself.

As big a help as always, New York's senior senator and general nudnik, Chuck Schumer, has called on the U.S. attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, to create an independent commission that would conduct "a top-to-bottom legal review of all of the administration's ongoing anti-terror measures."

Speaking of independent commissions, one already has conducted a top-to-bottom review of the administration's response to the attacks of Sept. 11. Anybody remember the 9/11 Commission? Its co-chairmen were former Congressman Lee Hamilton and former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Keane.

Sure enough, both gentlemen were among those who appealed to the New York Times not to publish its story revealing the existence of this terrorist-tracking program. And they were joined by Congressman John Murtha, who's certainly no fan of the Bush administration. All three were brushed aside.

Arrogance, thy name is the New York almighty Times.

Conclusion: Coleridge was much too modest in his claims. It's not just poetry that requires a willing suspension of disbelief.

That requirement also comes in handy when trying to credit the New York Times' tortured rationalizations for its scoop-happy policies.

As with flights of fancy, the trick is to ignore mundane reality — lest the spell of poetic faith be broken.

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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