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We Explain, You React

In today's Times, Editor Dean Baquet wrote a column on "Why we ran the bank story." We'll have a more extensive post later rounding up public reactions, but for now we want to ask you -- what did you think of Baquet's column, and of the Times' decision to publish the controversial article on the secret government program to monitor international financial transactions?

 

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George Zepeda

I for one am glad the Times ran this story. I believe that nothing the Bush Administration is doing is protecting us. On the contrary, their illegal actions (Abu Grahab, Guantanamo, IMD's, etc.) only have hurt us more as a country.

Marian K. Woodall

Thanks for doing the job that is "assigned" to you. Publishing the story was appropriate--even vital. (I read LATimes on line, from Central Oregon.)

Chey

I am very disturbed with the Republican response of attacking the press in light of this story. It has the feeling of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers all over again. Every Republican in Washington should be given a copy of the Constitution and be required to recite out loud what the first amendment is. The press did their job, and it was a tough decision they had to make. If only our leaders in Washington knew how to do their job. It would help if they knew what principles they were elected to support and defend. It really is sad that my 6-year-old son knows the first amendment and some of these politicians don't seem to have a clue as to what that is.

Brian Newman Smith

I think the times should keep it up .Come nov. they will be asking themselves again why do we keep losing elections.Firts time reader from Augusta GA. THe best city in the south.

John

You were right to publish this story. Sometimes politicians forget that this is a government of, by and for the people. And while it's sometimes necessary to abstain from publishing a story to protect someone's life (like, perhaps, a CIA agent) it is never not the Peoples' business to know what our government is doing in our name.

mhr

Osama Bin Ladin has promised a long war against the west on many fronts. Reading the previous messages I am reminded that leftists do not yet believe what Osama says. I hope they are right but I would like to see the evidence that sustains their belief. I suspect that if they were forced to state clearly why, they would say merely that they hate Bush. I am a reformed Democrat and I believe both Osama Bin Ladin and President Bush. I support what Bush has done since September 11. When Clinton walked away from Somalia Bin Ladin crowed that America has no heart for a struggle with Islam. He was right about only the liberal percentage. Bush is in the tradition of Democrats FDR, Truman and Kennedy.

John

No way the Times runs such a story with a Dem in the White House. The big papers, the old media and the Dems ar ein lock step against Bush,the war and conservatives in general. In the bizarro world of the Left, such a harmful story counts as a "victory." Disgusting. The Times is quickly becoming CBS-preaching only to the choir of like-minded anti-military and Bush-hating Lewfties. Congratulations.

John Kreutzberger

I fully support your publication of the article which shows another way that this administration is trampling the civil liberties guaranteed to all of us by the Founding Fathers. This intensely secretive administration continues to do things that cannot stand the light of day. It is mandatory that your fine publication continue to act responsibly and report what you find in this area.

Larry Peery

I've been writing for newspapers for forty-fives years. One thing I've learned. Sometimes you have to publish what you think is right, regardless of the consequences. You did. For that, lauds.

Peter Henson

Only one question, does Mr. Baquet have any children serving in the military or in the frontlines of the terror war? I don't know the answer to that question, but I can't help feeling that his decision to run the story, especially during a time of war in our nation, has simply undermined our efforts to defeat this enemy across many frontiers...not just in the dirt of a battlefield...and added to the risk our military and others already face in this conflict. Shame on you sir for putting your personal selfish agenda ahead of the greater national interest and especially before the welfare of our military in a time of war.

Annine Madok

After reading Mr. Baquet's column, I was glad to see that there were a number of readers, not reflected on this board, that criticized the publication of the SWIFT bank story. I agree that a free press is necessary to keep a check on government, and I will take Mr. Baquet at his word that he seriously considered the implications of publication, but I still have a number of questions: 1)Mr Baquet says "[n]or did the government give us any strong evidence that the information would thwart true terrorism inquiries." I would hope they would not, in that there are legitimate reasons for keeping specific details of ongoing investigations secret. Given that, I see a tremendous amount of arrogance in that publication rational. 2) How do you distinguish the Valerie Plame affair, with which this paper expressed outrage for a "leak" of classified information, with this paper's "leak" of classified information? And finally, explain to us how this paper can feel they are not participating in an illegal and potentially treasonous act by leaking classified information, when clearly their source is guilty of such an offense? Please tell us, where would you draw the line?

Dave Fain

Let me understand the Times explanation correctly. Tracking finances between suspicious parties that seek to kill innocent people is secondary to informing the average Joe that such a program exists? The FBI routinely tracks credit card and atm transactions of escaped felons. Perhaps the Times could start a public awareness program to alert fleeing fugitives not to use these trackable instruments as they may result in getting caught. I am not a fan of the Bush administration, nor do I support the quagmire that the war in Iraq has become. However, yanking the teeth out of one of the very few logical solutions that could have prevented more terrorism is absolutely reckless. What will the Times response be if a few thousand more Americans die in a new wave of terrorist attacks that could have been prevented by this program?

Mark

What should our Government do about terrorist on our soil, go door to door asking if they know bin laden? I think the press is getting out of control on what they think we need to know or first ammendment rights.
What's next we need to know movement of our troops in Iraq? We are at war please act accordingly.
Mark

Daniel Eliason

It is about time that the government got on top of world-wide money laundering, not only that used for the benefit of terrorists, but also that conducted by banks and other financial institutions in behalf of numerous criminal endeavors and massive tax avoidance schemes. It also would be helpful if the Press supported such endeavors instead of assuming that criminals and their associates in the legal and financial world should have absolute rights to "privacy."

timotheus

The Bush Administration is so incompetent at fighting terrorism that it has to shift the blame somewhere, so what better target than a newspaper? Vice President Agnew was a master at this and rallied the red-meat brigades for years until he was caught taking bribes. People that fall for this demagoguery will be similarly surprised to find how much many billions was stolen from them under the cover of patriotism.

Gabriel Mares

It is interesting to note that many who attack both the LA and NY Times' decisions to run this story thought it entirely appropriate for journalists (most notably Judith Miller of the NYTimes) to cheerlead the administration's fight against terror in part by granting anonymity to administration officials praising their own programs. One must wonder whether we are 'safer' from terrorism due to this administration's self-congratulatory remarks that have been echoed by the media (the 'MSM' no less) as if they were news.
It seems, in fact, that any time actual anti-terror programs employed by our government are revealed, there loom questions of legality and constitutionality. Many eventually prove unpopular, if not highly controversial. For some time, the American public has been told that this administration is strong on defense and should be trusted to 'handle' the terrorist threat. If we are to continue trusting them (something that many Americans are no longer doing,) we should be entitled to know what this administration is doing in the war on terror, rather than being blandly assured that they are doing it better than anyone else could.
Not every piece of classified information relating to war and national security has the possibility of undermining our defenses or aiding our enemies. Making such a claim only works to undermine our democracy.

James Hathaway

Good for the LA Times for having the courage to do their job, and further to have the courage to stand behind the decision in the face of orchestrated attack for doing so.As it has always been, we most deserve our freedoms when we have to risk things in order to keep them. When our institutions lose their courage, America forgets its mission and confuses power with justice, ideology with righteousness and tyrany with freedom.

URBAN TORRES

The huge and constant erosion of civil liberties and civil protections in the name of the battle against terrorism is strongly reminiscent of George Orwell's novel 1984 where the country in its constant war suppresses all civil liberties. At what point does the U.S. slip into an industrial-military dictatorship?
I applaud Bacquet for his decision and hope that First Amendment rights continue.

Liberty and Justice for All

Excellent reporting! This has nothing to do with "winning elections" or similar drivel. Rather this is vital information about how our "shadow government" often hides its ineffective excesses under the cloak of "national security". The emperor truely wears no clothes and the Times has continued to emphasize the obvious. Good work!

Ron Kraus


Biggest lie of the 90's:
"I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinski"
---Bill Clinton

Biggest Lie of the 2000's
"We are not out to get the president."
---LA Times

Paul Determan

Your reasons for publishing the story are as specious as your arguments defending yourself for doing so. With your rationale, I have no doubt that if some disgruntled quisling would have told you that we had broken the German or Japanese code during WWII, you could have justified putting it on page 1 of your newspaper.

john patton

the bush administration has repeatedly argued that it needs to continue doing what it gets caught doing in secret because it works. "the end justifies the means." that is a simplistic and dangerous premise. why don't police officers simply round up and shoot all prime suspects as soon as they apprehend them? many of these people probably are the right targets, the "bad guys," and their summary execution will reduce crime, both by killing the suspects in question and possibly also by deterring others from engaging in similar criminal conduct. there is the small matter of the presumption of innocence, but why worry about that if shooting the prime suspects works? it seems fundamental to me that if we want to remain a democracy and not become a totalitarian regime, the people should be entitled, at a minimum, to fundamental safeguards and protections, such as the presumption of innocence, the right of privacy, freedom of speech and a free press, the people's right to know what their government is doing, and three separate, balanced, co-equal branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial). freedom has always come at a price, but "we the people" have been willing to pay the price for freedom. i don't remember us agreeing to pay our freedom as the price for greater security. i always thought the dictators were the ones saying, "i know what's best for you. you don't need to know what i'm doing. what i'm doing is working, therefore it's best for you. if it weren't, i would tell you. trust me."

i don't.

Robert CJ Parry

Those who support what the Times did fail to acknowledge that everything Al Queda knows about our tactics and strategy gives our enemies an advantage. The 9/11 commission's bi-partisan chairmen begged them not to reveal this information. Rep. Murtha - MURTHA - begged them not to reveal this information. Yet, they still revealed it.

Where do we draw the line? Does the public have the "need" to know ICBM launch codes? How about the vulnerabilities of nuclear weapons plant security? Perhaps the public has a right to know the approach direction and altitude of Air Force One. Oh, wait, that'll never be revealed. Reporters fly on AF One, and they're not suicidal.... just negligently homicidal.

Jessica Britt

I was glad the Times had the courage to publish this information,

I work in europe a few months a year and increasingly, many of my clients are now assuming the US government is listening to everything every where, and that this the end of privacy in America ... they feel sad for us and they are finding all kinds of ways to fly into america less often now ... makes doing business there more difficult ... reminds too many people in europe of the war years with germany ... Jessica Britt

James Allen

I believe in a free press. However, the older I get, the more I realize that the press seems to function as though they were the sole arbiter of what is right or wrong in this country. There does not readily appear to be any restraint by the press. We, the people, are expected to believe that the press is operating at all times in absolute good faith, while being told by the press reports that the government does not.

Clyde Allen

Very early on, G. W. Bush was asked what he thought was the best form of governemnt. His response was, "A dictatorship. Providing I am the dictator." W has been behaving as if he believes he was appointed dictator instead of being apointed president. He and his Repubican believers in the White House have been moving this country's government toward dictatorship. One of the hallmarks of dictatorships is acting in secrecy. We have secret prisons scattered around the globe, we have secret sprying on Americans' bank accounts. The list goes on. An important role of the press is to defend Democaracy as a form of governement. This means your job is to expose secrecy in government. Thank heavens the Times (on both coasts), the Washington Post and many other newspapers, large and small, take seriously their role as a first line defender of Democracy as a form of government. Keep it uyp.

Chuck Kharrl

The reporting of this practice was disgraceful and the Times and it's managing editor should be reprimanded. I for one have nothing to hide and willing to allow the government to do what it needs to fight the war on terror.

Tina Weiss

I am extremely disturbed that you chose to further threaten national security in order to sell more papers. Companies such as yours have an added obligation at difficult times like these to help protect the nation, you clearly failed to do so. In fact, you caused more harm. Your decision was short sighted and self serving.

john patton

the bush administration has repeatedly argued that it needs to continue doing what it gets caught doing in secret because it works. "the end justifies the means." that is a simplistic and dangerous premise. why don't police officers simply round up and shoot all prime suspects as soon as they apprehend them? many of these people probably are the right targets, the "bad guys," and their summary execution will reduce crime, both by killing the suspects in question and possibly also by deterring others from engaging in similar criminal conduct. there is the small matter of the presumption of innocence, but why worry about that if shooting the prime suspects works? it seems fundamental to me that if we want to remain a democracy and not become a totalitarian regime, the people should be entitled, at a minimum, to fundamental safeguards and protections, such as the presumption of innocence, the right of privacy, freedom of speech and a free press, the people's right to know what their government is doing, and three separate, balanced, co-equal branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial). freedom has always come at a price, but "we the people" have been willing to pay the price for freedom. i don't remember us agreeing to pay our freedom as the price for greater security. i always thought the dictators were the ones saying, "i know what's best for you. you don't need to know what i'm doing. what i'm doing is working, therefore it's best for you. if it weren't, i would tell you. trust me."

i don't.

Bill Way

To try to put your unjustified justification in a historical, Jeffersonian - JFK context is remarkably naive for a person in your position. Those historical precedents were based on conventional warfare not random acts of terror. But most important, there was no internet that allows ragtag terrorist organizations to distribute intense provocation on a whim.
Finally, may I be among the first to welcome your completely obsolete publication to the American branch of al Jazeera. Both of you are journalistic terrorists who would rather see America lose than the Bush Administration win.

Kasey Butler

The staffs of the L.A. Times and other national publications are not paid to "believe" that their reportings on sensitive issues will not jeopardize the American citizens and soldiers. I am willing to bet that these "talks" with government leaders involved those with a far-left persuasion. Give us the news, not the enemy the intel.

Joseph Kulisics

I found Mr. Baquet's claim that "The Los Angeles Times" acted in the public interest by exposing the details of government surveillance of foreign financial transactions as part of a dragnet to catch terrorists knee-slappingly funny. Aside from being some of the most self-aggrandizing blather that I've ever read---Mr. Baquet shamelessly justifies the newspaper's behavior pointing to the risk that the paper has taken in the past covering terrorism abroad---the editor's claims can't withstand even cursory scrutiny.
If "The Los Angeles Times" is committed to informing its readers regardless of the danger to its staff and facilities, why didn't the paper reprint the Danish cartoons about Muhammed? I've checked several sources online, and as far as I can discover, the only major daily to reprint the cartoons was "The Philadelphia Enquirer." Isn't the paper obligated to report the cartoon story in full and to let the public judge for itself the potential for the cartoons to give offense to reasonable people and the resulting reaction of representatives of the Muslim community? Isn't the frighteningly antidemocratic impulse of some segment of the population newsworthy? How can the public possibly form an opinion about a demographic carefully shielded from scrutiny by all major media?
In short, everyone associated with running the surveillance story should be ashamed of themselves. The people hiding the information that the public needs to make informed choices about how to fight this war don't work in the government. They work at "The Los Angeles Times."

Laz

I can not help but wonder why it has been a hard decision by editors to print this story and why people are up in arms over it. The President himself released this information at the White House lawn on Sept. 24, 2001. In his exact words: "We have established a foreign terrorist Asset Tracking Center at the Department of the Treasury to identify and investigate the financial infrastructure of international terrorist networks."

And in Paul O'Neil's, Nov 7, 2001 speech, he said: "We have begun to act; to block assets; to seize books, records and evidence; and to follow audit trails to track terrorist cells poised to do violence to our common interests".

The cat was let out of the bag more than five years ago. Al Qaeda heard it, experienced it, and they stopped international interbank transfers and started using courriers long ago.

This administration has not told the truth about Iraq, Katrina, NSA spying, reinterpreted international treaties, and has still not captured or killed Bin Laden! It has created a history of questionable actions and perceived Consitutional overreaching. Regardless of its purported motivations, efforts must be made to use the legal venues available and protect citizen's rights, while outrage ought to be directed not to those who fight for freedom and privacy, but rather to those who smear, posture and spin for political gain.

When we trample on our Constitution, we trample on the nation's soul. And that is the highest act of treason. Congratulations to all those who have the courage to stand up and defend our Constitution.

Matthew Wilson

I do not think publishing this story was worth the potential risk to national security, because I do not believe it serves the public interest. Government access to financial records does not constitute invasion of privacy. I have no problem with the government seeing my financial records, just like I have no problem with a police officer watching me as I walk down the street. It's when the officer arbitrarily stops me and asks me where I'm going that my privacy has been invaded. That's something that should only be done if there is evidence I was doing something wrong. Those walking down the street with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Same goes for those transferring money overseas.

Peter MacMonagle

If this administration wants to declare that we are now have a unitary executive (a dictatorship) that answers to nobody will people then wake up to the fact that we have a need to know what elected officials do in our name; We The People, who are the government of the United States?

Peter MacMonagle

If this democracy dies it will not be because a newspaper told somebody about a secret program. It will end because the American people no longer want to govern themselves and gladly surrender their liberties (including an independent press)for a false hope of the security of a police state. It is very naive to believe that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Law abiding Jews in Germany didn't, nor did law abiding Germans in East Germany, or Russians under Josef Stalin. Totalitarian governments always shut down the press first for a very good reason. They don't want you to know what they are doing.

Ron Paschall

It is always intesting to hear the media, in particular the Times, attempt to justify their actions. The Times damaged our nations security. It is not the reporter that gives us Freedom of the Press! But it is the Times which constantly abuses that freedom.

Todd McCaffrey

I'm glad the LA Times ran the article.

If this country is to remain a democracy, ruled by the people, then the people must be informed so that they can make informed decisions.

It has become increasingly apparent that the Bush administration does not believe in informing the people. In such times we can only hope that the press continues to keep us informed, and provide us with the chance to keep democracy alive.

roman eos

Hi,

congratulations for running this site and giving readers a greater sense of who thinks what on issues of the day.

put here not to flatter y'understand. Tis important to many who in an age and media of targeted to the 'self' or isolate news consumer that groupthink not become overbearing

Garrett Boylan

I appreciate Mr. Baquet's good will that the information is vital for my civil liberties, however, I don't feel that they are threatend by the international tracking of banking. The program is legal, we are at war, and I think the only people benefitting from the article is the enemy.

Ronald Faulseit

It amazes me that so many people are so willing to fight and die in foreign countries (or to send others like me to do the same) to "spread democracy", while at the same time we are so readily giving up our freedoms here at home.
Those of you who attack the press with vitriol in defense of your shepard, don't be surprised when he treats you like sheep--you will deserve it for not preserving our role (the people) in government.

Edward

Thank you to the Times for its reporting.

It is sad to read that individuals continue to blindly believe that the government will always do what's best for the people.

This administration has done nothing to make us more secure.

Xiomara Cruz

There is a blog written by LAZ on June 27, 2006 at 2:48pm, which pretty much summarizes and closes on this issue. The Bush administration had already disclose this program. It was the first thing they told us they did after 9/11, so why are people so upset about this story. The government has complete and upmost information on everything we do. The phone companies, such as AT&T, even admitted that all phone calls through their network is their property and they can share any information with the government as they please. I'm sure it's the same situation with the banks. After all, who regulates the banks? The questions we must ask ourselves is not so much how far the media can go, but how far can the government go. How much control can they have? And what happened to our privacy, do we no longer have one..not even the illusion. I have nothing to hide either, but if I sharply opposed this government and rose as an influential leader, the government could create any story it wanted with the information they have and bring me down. Do you not wonder why there are no leaders in the US? For how long can this continue, there appears to be no end in sight. This fighting among each other, Republicans and Democrats, Red and Blue states, is simply getting exhausting. Will we ever be the United States again?

John Haberkorn

I cancelled my LA Times subscription a while back because I felt there was an editorial bias in the LA Times. I bought the newspaper on Friday expecting to read about the Sears Tower story. Imagine my surprize when this story was buried in the newspaper and the LA Times led with the Bank Story. I thought of sending you a letter Friday.

Then I learned that the Bank Story comprimised National Security. What a disgrace. You guys just don't get it. I find you're argument about free press, etc to be a crock. It's about your bias.

Since I live in LA I'll continue to access your newspaper on-line for free, but I will not subscribe and now I won't even pick it up off a news stand.

Sean Hand

Bush is disingenious. Does he really think that terrorist don't think we are trying to follow the money trail? C'mon, the story didn't reveal who, what, when or where. Besides, Al-Queda uses the hawala system to transfer most of their funds and it's not wired into the international banking system. Bin Laden must laughing at us. Almost half a decade now Mr. Bush since you elevated him to Mythic Legend by letting him slip through your fingers at Tora Bora.

phillip vasels

Dear Editor, I am concerned about the erosion of individual liberties that would invariably include fair reporting. I feel that in the culture of fear that permeates America today that it has becomes easier to melt our civil liberties away while using the threat of terror to exercise plans that we are completely unaware of. Fear is a destructive force that clouds judgment and we should direct some of our attention to overcoming this psychological impedance that is crippling us where we see the boogeyman in every shadow.

Where are the WMD's anyway?

Angie S

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!! It's about time the press in this country stood up to be counted with everything that is right about the system of democracy under which we are supposed to be operating. Personally I believe that had the media not rolled over and submitted to the blindfold that this administration has been trying to pull over the eyes of the American people since 9/11 we wouldn't be involved in this "war" in the first place. None of it has been worth a single life. Believe what you like about Osama Bin Laden or any other terrorist cell you can name; attacks on Americans and all western democracies have been going on for decades and will continue for many decades more and none of the secrecy named as an excuse for the chipping away of our freedoms will make even a dent in the problem. Our only hope is that the country will wake up in '08 and elect a president that will deal with the root causes or terrorism - poverty, oil, and the influence of politics, the military and the wealthy both in the US and in the middle east. Wish us luck - we need it!

John Ferebee

There was no reason to publish this story. Your burning dislike of the President has clouded your judgement and that of the other Times. It makes me very sad that you would do anything to sell a few papers.

John Davis

This is just another invasion of privacy. The police state is coming. They want to know everything about you but we are allowed to know nothing about what "OUR" government is doing. Republicans be careful of what you wish for, it may come true.

Gordon Forbess

It's been the law for years that any bank transaction of over $10,000 has to be reported to the IRS. And now you fret about the government watching international monetary movements in search of terror funds? Give me a break.

 
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