Patterico’s Pontifications » (See-Dubya) Arguing in the Alternative–Clarke says Times Was Just Blowing Smoke:
And indeed that’s the strange thing about Richard Clarke’s op-ed appearing in the Times. As Patterico already noted, the Timeses are aware they’ve shot themselves in the foot with their disclosure. Now Richard Clarke is downplaying both the significance and the secrecy of their findings. Strange, huh? A paper that has won Pulitzers for its past exposures of American military and intelligence secrets, suddenly eager to publish someone saying, “Oh, this? It’s no big deal. Really. Wasn’t that big a secret. Hell, my grandmother knows SWIFT monitors international terror-linked financial transactions and shares the information with the CIA!”
In fact, if Clarke and Cressley are right about this, Lichtblau and Risen grossly exaggerated how secret the program really was.
Now personally, I think Clarke is a pretty smart guy, but he’s wrong. I think this was an extremely effective terrorist fighting tool, one that captured some very, very bad guys who obviously didn’t think they’d get caught when they wired money around the globe. Even if they suspected a transaction might be monitored, they occasionally chose to risk a transfer now and then because they thought they could get away with it. I think the program was effective precisely because it was secret, and the Timeses went and ruined it in a fit of self-absorbed hubris that aids our enemies and makes Americans less safe.
It really is an interesting point: either this was an effective program looking at information for which there are real privacy concerns which meant the public had a "right to know" --- or it's a program that was only getting information for which there's no expectation of privacy, for which there's no particular privacy concern, and which everyone mildly sophisticated already knows is an open book --- but it's also not particularly interesting or newsworthy.