There’s been a lot of controversy recently concerning the New York Times’ report on the secret government program that monitors financial transactions to fight terrorism. Some have called the NYT report “treasonous,” and Republican lawmakers are calling for investigations.
But consider: Even if the government’s program of monitoring bank records does help to fight terrorism, it is only the latest in a series of revelations that our government is doing things that possibly violate the Constitution, or the Geneva Convention. Before this, it was the NSA’s database of phone records, the secret CIA prisons, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
Did the NYT make a mistake by revealing the existence of the program to monitor bank records? Possibly. Does the press occasionally make mis-steps? Certainly. Should the press (or in this case, the NYT) be prosecuted for revealing information that they feel is in the best interests of the public to know? Absolutely fucking not.
The purpose of a free press in a democracy is to keep watch on the government, lest it does something that infringes upon the rights of it’s citizens. It’s right there in the First Amendment. And in many so-called democratic countries across the world, that purpose is coming under fire.
This recent AP article details the legal troubles that reporters and newspapers are having across the world when it comes to reporting questionable actions by their governments. And these aren’t countries like Iran or North Korea, No, we’re talking about Britain, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and of course the United States.
In almost all of these cases, the ‘leaks’ have to do with activities concerning the war on terrorism or the war in Iraq. Whistleblowers who revealed that there was no evidence of WMDs in Iraq have faced prosecution or retribution. Two officials in Britain are charged with leaking a memo revealing that Bush suggested bombing the headquarters of al-Jazeera — probably the only major free press outlet available in the Arab world.
It’s been said that the first casualty of war is truth. The truth is still being told, but it is under attack by those who’d prefer we trust Big Brother instead. In two days, we will be celebrating the occasion when our forefathers broke free of an oppressive empire to create a free country. Our greatest enemy now is not Islamic terrorists or insurgents. The greatest threat to our country is ourselves. No external force can take away our freedoms. Only us, or our government, can do that for us.