The NYT editors originally said said they had to go public because it's the public's right to know about such a secret program. They have since changed that excuse to the fact that there is no harm in their reporting on this program because everyone knew about it anyway. So which one is it?
Civil rights groups certainly didn't know about it. But they do now and are threatening to sue the financial institutions involved in the EU.
Co-Chairman of the 9/11 Commission Kean said that very few people even in the banking world know about SWIFT and how it works, and almost no one would have had any idea that the US was able to get access to this data.
Kean further said that: "The terrorists didn't know the financial transactions went through this one group. Treasury told me, this was a method of financial tracking that people didn't understand, that nobody knew this was how things were done. Top-notch people in the US didn't even know
As I have said before on an earlier thread, I find it very ironic that the NYT and Bill Keller have wrapped themselves in the First Amendment, the Pentegon Papers, and the "public's right to know" as a sort of license against any responsibility for potential harm they have caused to soldiers who have fought hard to preserve those First Amendment freedoms. I know many military personell who are livid. I don't know if they would win, but a group of soldiers who potentially could be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan could file a class action civil lawsuit against the Times and Bill Keller for reckless endangerment. The lawsuit wouldn't have to address the First Amendment issues, just the negligent decision making on the part of the Times for running the story after being warned it could be dangerous.