After criticizing the revelation of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program, The Wall Street Journal editorial board has been silent on the disclosure of the administration's monitoring of international financial transactions, on which the Journal's own news division reported.
On December 20, 2005, four days after The New York Times broke the story that the Bush administration was conducting a vast domestic electronic surveillance program without obtaining warrants apparently required by law, The Wall Street Journal printed an editorial saying that the Times' disclosure of the secret program was "likely to do genuine harm" to the country. On June 27, more than four days after The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), and the Los Angeles Times disclosed the existence of a secret Bush administration program designed to monitor international financial transactions, the Journal had yet to editorialize about the disclosure. Now, as then, President Bush and other administration officials have denounced the media for disclosing the program and have accused them of impeding the war on terror. But now, unlike then, The Wall Street Journal's news division was one of the media outlets to break the story.
In response to the December 16, 2005, Times report that the Bush administration had secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct domestic eavesdropping without warrants, the Journal editorialized that "[w]e won't second-guess the New York Times decision to publish" the story, but it is "likely to do genuine harm by alerting terrorists to our defenses." Furthermore, as Media Matters for America noted, Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger criticized the Times for printing the NSA wiretap story on at least two separate occasions. In his February 10 Journal column, Henninger wrote: "[H]ere's the bottom line on the surveillance program. It was going to work, and help lessen the chance of another atrocity in our America, only if it stayed secret. The odds of it staying secret would diminish as its existence spread through the Congress and judicial system. Now it is public, and its utility is about zero." Then, on the February 12 edition of Fox News' Journal Editorial Report, Henninger said "[T]his program's dead no matter what FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] thinks of it. You can't tell me that Al Qaeda is still making phone calls in and out of the United States after watching what's been going on in the Senate for two weeks."
The question for Henninger and the Journal now is whether they will stay mum, given that the Journal's own news division reported as follows: "[T]he U.S. Treasury Department has been secretly tracking suspected terrorist financing through a far-reaching program that gives it access to records from the network that handles nearly all international financial transfers."
On June 27, Editor & Publisher magazine raised a similar question of the Journal:
The paper's Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot declined to comment when asked if he planned to editorialize on the Journal's decision to publish the story, saying in an e-mail message through [Journal spokesman Robert] Christie that he does not discuss pending editorial subjects. Whatever he produces will be interesting, given the paper's conservative and pro-Bush editorial line.