New York Times Compromises National Security, Again

The Grey Lady of Gotham has decided to publish a report about the government analyzing records of international money transfers. Readers have surely seen articles about it in any major newspaper by now. The program was legal, Congress was notified, other countries were notified and actively participated in the program, safeguards were in place to prevent abuse, and the program had been instrumental in stopping quite a few terror attacks. Yet the Times blew the lid off of it anyway, for no particular reason except a vague appeal to the "public interest."

Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of reactions across the blogosphere, none of which are particularly kind to Bill Keller, editor-in-chief of the Times. Glenn comments:
What's interesting to me is that when you talk about military force, we're supposed to use law-enforcement and intelligence methods instead. But if you use law-enforcement and intelligence methods, people shout "Big Brother" and the Times runs stories exposing them.
Another point that I get out of all this, if I can return to an older topic, is that currency is fundamentally the property of the government that issues it. The dollars that we spend are effectively lent to us by the Federal Reserve for the convenience of the people and the government both, and while governments generally permit us to do what we like with their currencies, there comes a point at which governments reassert their power.

"What!" you say. "What do you mean that we don't own our dollars?" Consider that it is a Federal crime to deface a dollar bill. In no other case are we forbidden to destroy our own property, unless doing so harms others. Consider also that governments have the power to devalue the currency, without needing to pass laws to do it.

Government allow us to use its property as a medium of exchange so that we can acquire property of our own efficiently. That being the case, government retains the privilege of knowing what is being done with its property. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with collecting information about foreign currency transactions, since it is a simple question of intelligence-gathering on another country's assets.

The situation will persist until private currencies become more widely used. In the meanwhile, for the Times to betray one of the cornerstones of our national security policy should be grounds for prosecution. As Emperor Darth Misha I is wont to say:
Rope. Tree. Journalist.
Some assembly required.

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