Basically the argument is that the NYT had no right to disclose a secret government operation to access global financial records of large numbers of people in an attempt to track and interdict terrorist funding. That doing so compromises national security. The problem is that it isn’t the NYT’s job to protect the nations’s secrets it is their job to protect our liberty by keeping the people informed about the actions of our government. A job they cannot do if they have to have the government’s permission to disclose anything the government doesn’t want to talk about. The First Amendment would be a joke if the US Government could get around it simply by classifying everything they didn’t want the public to know about..something that isn’t far off the practices of the Bush Administration who apparently thinks anything they do is classified until such time as the President or Vice President decides to leak it to the press thereby declassifying it.
At least in this particular case the Treasury department seems to have actually obtained subpoenas instead of just breaking into the banks records electronically and stealing the data without authorization. That’s a step up for this administration. A better discussion would be how many civil liberties do we have to give up in this country to preserve our way of life. And if you can read that last sentence without asking yourself if there isn’t a Catch 22 scenario involved you aren’t thinking enough about it. WIthout our freedoms we are not the same people. We are not the beacon for freedom and open societies that we are supposed to be. To ignore quotes in our past like “Give me liberty or give me death” or “Those who would give up a little liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” is to put our very national identity at peril.