Forget the warplanes in the skies of Iraq or the Special Forces in the Afghan mountains. Our entire national security strategy — your security from getting gassed in a subway or bombed in an office building — has been reduced to this: begging.

The Secretary of the Treasury, John Snow, had to go to the New York Times and literally beg for your life. The Times had found out about yet another successful and legal spy program, and they were planning on letting Al Qaeda know about it, too, by putting it on the front page.

Secretary Snow begged the Times to do the right thing. Two members of the 9/11 Commission — one Republican, one Democrat — pressed the Times not to destroy a terror surveillance program that had already snagged several terrorists. Even John Murtha, Bush-basher extraordinaire, asked the New York Times to keep their fat mouths shut.

I could have told them: save your breath, guys. When confronted with the opportunity to either a) protect Americans from being blown to smithereens by Islamist whackjobs, or b) take a cheap shot at President Bush, well, for the mainstream media, that’s a no-brainer.

“We’ll take ‘More Dead Americans’ for $500, Alec.”

You think I exaggerate. You think that the New York Times tipping off Al Qaeda that we’re monitoring their international phone calls, their e-mails, and now their formerly anonymous wire transfer activities, that none of this matters?

The 9/11 Commission disagrees with you.

According to their report, any one of these three programs might have prevented the 2001 attack, if only we’d been connecting these dots. Thanks to the New York Times, when the next attack comes, we won’t have any dots to connect.

What the New York Times has done is more than just a dispute over journalistic ethics. It’s sick. It’s reprehensible. If the folks at the Times were in their right mind, they never would have done it.

Once again, you think I exaggerate? “Michael, it’s news! And it’s their job to publish the news, period.” OK, then imagine this scenario: It’s one month after 9/11, the Bush administration has just started the Terrorist Funding Tracking Program to prevent the next attack, and an angry Bush-hater in the CIA leaks it to the Times. Do they run this story then? On the front page, along with photos of the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center?

Of course not. If they had, angry, crowbar-carrying New Yorkers would have turned the Times building into an urban renewal project.

My question is “What has changed?” The same people who wanted to kill us five years ago are plotting the next attack right now. The New York Times just made their job easier. Again.

If I could interview the irresponsible editor of the Times, my question would be, “OK, so you’re obviously not going to let us spy on Al Qaeda — not their phone calls, e-mails, or finances. Could you tell me then, Captain Genius, exactly how we are supposed to prevent the next attack?”

I predict his answer would be “no comment.”

This is not a rhetorical question. The fifth anniversary of 9/11 is fast approaching — the kind of significant date that appeals to Al Qaeda. Homeland security insiders say they’ll be stunned if we make it through the year without another attack. In just the past month, two terror cells have been uncovered as they plotted bombing attacks in the US and Canada. It is almost certain that there are Islamists on American soil looking for the chance to kill thousands of us right now.

The New York Times knows about this danger. As they reported themselves, the financial surveillance program they just destroyed caught an Al Qaeda ally laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars for terrorists … in New York City.

And still, the Times insists “Al Qaeda must know.”

Why? According to their own reporting, the program isn’t illegal and no American’s rights are at risk. So with the odds of aiding Al Qaeda at 100 percent and the probability of preventing constitutional abuses at 0 percent, why the hell run this story?

Hate. Pure, unadulterated, irrational hate. Hating Bush has become such a high, such a narcissistic satisfaction that the Times simply cannot help itself. Hating Bush is like crack for the angry Left, and to get over it the staff of the New York Times would have to enter a 12-step program.

I hope the terrorists don’t use the Times information to make their next plot a success. And I hope the gang at the New York Times gets help. Please.

I’m begging you.

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