Group to Protest NYT for Classified Bank Info Story

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT

( - Caucus for America plans to protest the New York Times Monday night for its recent article detailing the U.S. government tracking the banking information of suspected al Qaeda members, a disclosure which the group calls "un-American."

"Twice, the New York Times has published national security secrets and hurt America in the War on Terror, aiding, it appears, the enemy in a time of war," said Rabbi Aryeh Spero, president of Caucus for America, referring to the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and the Times' June 23 article on the bank program.

"They're acting very un-American," Spero told Cybercast News Service. "What they've done is jeopardize the safety of American citizens, of our families, and they've made it much more difficult for our soldiers to win this war. There's got to be a protest. People are outraged. [The newspaper] should actually be prosecuted [for espionage]. People should cancel subscriptions."

Spero called the paper's actions a "smokescreen."

"I and the protesters believe that the Times' disloyalty to the country is obvious despite their disingenuous attempt to hide behind 'freedom of the press' and 'the public's right to know,'" Spero continued. "They talk about freedom of the press, but that does not absolve one of responsibility. Newspapers cannot just publish anything.

"I don't know of too many people who want to know this. Osama bin Laden wants to know this. I know al Qaeda would love to know," Spero added, "and now the New York Times has supplied them with classified information."

Spero's group does not plan to protest the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times, which also published the story.

"The Wall Street Journal did not do this maliciously, the New York Times, I believe wants us to lose [the war on terror]," said Spero.

The New York Times defends its decision to print the article.

"My close look convinced me that Bill Keller, the executive editor, was correct in deciding that Times readers deserved to read about the banking-data surveillance program," wrote New York Times Public Editor Bill Calame in a July 2 column.

"And the growing indications that this and other financial monitoring operations were hardly a secret to the terrorist world minimizes the possibility that the article made America less safe," Calame added.

"The most fundamental reason for publishing the article, of course, was the obligation of a free press to monitor government and other powerful institutions in our society," said Calame.

Scott Bosley, executive director of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, stands by the Times.

"It would be wrong to prosecute the Times or other media outlets for printing what they believe to be true and relevant," Bosley told Cybercast News Service.

"We believe that newspapers do make judgments - you may not agree with all of them - but we don't believe that any branch of government or any other person has the right to usurp any other American's right to speak or print what he or she believes is important or relevant," he added.

"We believe that is what the Times is doing and what it believes it is doing," Bosley said.

Others say the paper's motives were not un-American, but a matter of news judgment.

"I think that one can agree or disagree with whether the New York Times made a good decision here, but I think their motives are the motives that journalists have in general, which is that a better informed public is a stronger country," Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said.

"The New York Times may be wrong, but it is too much to say they are disingenuous," Rosenstiel added.

"This was a call that the New York Times didn't make by itself. Several other newspapers came to the same judgment about this story, so if the Times was wrong, presumably these other publications would be as well, and it seems like a stretch to think that all of these newspapers when faced with the same choice decided to do the treasonous thing," he said.

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