I am sorry, but I am not buying the Bush attack on the New York Times for running a story on the monitoring of international money transfers through a clearing house in Belgium (Surveillance Disclosure Denounced). I especially love the fact that he keeps claiming that he informed congress. He just leaves out the part that he informed congress only after he was told by the NYT that they had the drop on him.
First, you don't get to run covert jails, illegal wire taps, phone call databases, warrantless searches, and other "secret" operations in violation of the constitution, federal statute, and international law, and expect people to just roll over. More things have been classified under this administration than any other administration in our nations history. Since this is a government of the people and for the people, the more you hide things, the more people are going to want to know what the hell is going on. Bush threw the trust of his office out the window a long time ago. Will this make us less safe? Possibly. But, when you run the most secretive administration ever, it is the natural inclination of a democracy to shine a light on the governments doings. The more you sneak around to plan your wife's surprise party, the more she is going to think that you are cheating on her.
Second, you don't get to bitch about people not following the rules if you don't follow the rules yourself. Bush has snubbed his nose at numerous constitutional provisions and federal statutes. From FISA, to all of his presidential signing declarations saying that he will interpret or ignore laws to his own liking, Bush has disregarded the U.S. framework of laws (Bush ignores laws he inks, vexing Congress)(Bush's Challenges of Laws He Signed Is Criticized). If he can't follow the rules, the message to the rest of us is not to follow the rules either. Our democracy was not intended to be an aristocratic "do as I say and not as I do," regime. The laws are applicable to all.
Third, You don't get to "leak" information for political gain and then get to bitch about "leaked" information that goes against you. Pick one or the other.
Fourth, is letting terrorist know that we are monitoring them so bad? Making them transport cash on pack mules rather than international wire transfers in not necessarily a bad thing. Like any monitoring system, there is bond to be money making it through the system that we are not catching. Just like it only take a terrorist being right once in order to cause mass damage to us. It only takes us missing one transaction that can fund the next 9/11. Knowing that they will not being able to transfer money through conventional means greatly disrupts their planning operations. Knowing that they cannot use phones to contact each other greatly diminishes their ability to communicate and coordinate. Sometimes the fear that they are being monitored is a greater tool than actually monitoring them. This holds the potential to stop those terrorist that were below the radar from doing what we would have never known they were doing. Would you rather have your kids "think" that you are always watching what they are doing, or sneak around and spy on them until you actually catch them in the act of something. I think most parents will go for the deterrent effect.
If it were not for the fact that the Bush administration is so secretive, I could almost see this as a great Rovian scheme. The top al-Qaeda members knew a long time before the NSA program was ever publicized that we were monitoring their calls. General Hayden himself had even admitted to this. This knowledge even helped some of the top terrorist leaders escape Afghanistan during our invasion and hunt for them in Tora-Bora. They sent their cell phones one way while they went another. I am sure that the top terrorist knew about the money transfers also. Additionally, the amount of traffic that we have to monitor is still a phenomenal amount and all the information, by sheer volume, is difficult to manage.
So, if you wanted to deter the smaller time actors from taking part in money movement, you publicize the fact that you are monitoring them. Couple this with it coming out in "leaks" in witch you get to blame liberals and make them look soft on terrorism and you get a great conspiracy.
I doubt this theory has any merit to it, but in 10 years I found out there was truth to it, I would not be surprised.