Friday, July 7

From Bagdad to the New York Times

Lt. Tom Cotton writes this morning from Baghdad with a word for the New York Times:

Dear Messrs. Keller, Lichtblau & Risen:

Congratulations on disclosing our government's highly classified anti-terrorist-financing program (June 23). I apologize for not writing sooner, but I am a lieutenant in the United States Army and I spent the last four days patrolling one of the more dangerous areas in Iraq. (Alas, operational security and common sense prevents me from even revealing this unclassified location in a private medium like email.)

Unfortunately, as I supervised my soldiers late one night, I heard a booming explosion several miles away. I learned a few hours later that a powerful roadside bomb killed one soldier and severely injured another from my 130-man company. I deeply hope that we can find and kill or capture the terrorists responsible for that bomb. But, of course, these terrorists do not spring from the soil like Plato's guardians. No, they require financing to obtain mortars and artillery shells, priming explosives, wiring and circuitry, not to mention for training and payments to locals willing to emplace bombs in exchange for a few months' salary.

As your story states, the program was legal, briefed to Congress, supported in the government and financial industry, and very successful.

Not anymore. You may think you have done a public service, but you have gravely endangered the lives of my soldiers and all other soldiers and innocent Iraqis here. Next time I hear that familiar explosion -- or next time I feel it -- I will wonder whether we could have stopped that bomb had you not instructed terrorists how to evade our financial surveillance.

And, by the way, having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms before becoming an infantry officer, I am well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others -- laws you have plainly violated. I hope that my colleagues at the Department of Justice match the courage of my soldiers here and prosecute you and your newspaper to the fullest extent of the law. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.

Very truly yours,
Tom Cotton Baghdad, Iraq

Tuesday, July 4

Careless Talk of The Times

"Careless talk" is what the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have published without responsibility, apology and without remorse. Vital intelligence has been compromised by irresponsible "leakers," reporters, editors and publishers. The person who leaked the report about the US tracking and cutting off terrorist funds should be prosecuted for treason, as should the reporters, editors and publishers of both newspapers.

And frankly, since there is something each of us could do to stop such media irresponsibility, I don't understand why someone hasn't called for a boycott of both those newspapers.

Perhaps the American people don't understand the seriousness of the situation. Perhaps they've forgotten that we have undergone a series of attacks from an enemy that is far more elusive and far more destructive than any we have faced before. Certainly the editors and publishers of those two former great publications don't understand the nature of the problem.

They are quick to criticize the Administration for not publishing their plans for executing the war and when someone leaks vital and sensitive information to them, they are quick to publish that information with no regard for the damage it may do -- not only in terms of American lives lost but in terms of how those revelations might shut down intelligence gathering.

Of course terrorist militants knew we were trying to shut down their financing; what they didn't know, and what the NY and LA Times were happy to reveal to them, was how our government was going about it. I suspect those editors and publishers know full well the damage they have done, and they knew before they did it.

When our grandson was a small boy, he did not like mushrooms at all and went to extremes to avoid them. Once he even said, "I hate mushrooms so much that I hate everyone who likes mushrooms." That's about the way I feel about an irresponsible press that places this nation in further jeopardy and refuses to correct a terrible wrong. I think I hate the LA Times and the NY Times and everyone who likes them.