New York Times executive editor Bill Keller appearing today on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’

The top editor of the New York Times remains unrepentant about publishing stories exposing national security intelligence programs, saying he would do it again.

“I think it’s useful for us to discuss, to know about how our government is waging this war to protect us,” said Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program.

“This was a case where clearly the terrorists or the people who finance terrorism know quite well, because the Treasury Department and the White House have talked openly about it, that they monitor international banking transactions. It’s not news to the terrorists.”

The story exposed how the CIA and Treasury Department accesses millions of money-transfer records from SWIFT, the international group that acts as a clearinghouse for interbank transactions.

President Bush called the disclosure which later appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal “disgraceful.”

Keller claimed the attacks on his paper are, in part, political.

“It’s an election year. Beating up on the New York Times is red meat for the (Republican) conservative base,” he said. “I think the administration is a little embarrassed … And making this kind of a clamor, I suspect, they hope will silence people who do talk to the press and maybe intimidate reporters.”

“You know, the government likes to have it both ways on these kinds of programs,” he added. “They confide in us when they want to advertise the programs that are successful. And then they rebuke us if we write about something that they would prefer we didn’t write about.”

Appearing on Fox News, Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleberger today called for a special prosecutor to probe the New York Times for possible criminal charges.

“I think the New York Times on this one stepped way over the bounds, and I personally believe that if it was right to have … an inspector to deal with the earlier [Valerie] Plame business, it is equally right now to get a special prosecutor … to look into this one and particularly to the people who do the leaking,” Eagleberger said.

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