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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 19:58 GMT 20:58 UK
Bush blasts 'terror funds' report
Bundles of US dollars
Tens of thousands of transactions were scrutinised
The US president has accused US newspapers of hampering the "war on terror" by publishing details of a secret scheme to track money transfers.

George W Bush defended the scheme and said the disclosure was "disgraceful".

The New York Times revealed last week the US government had monitored global money transfers using a banking group.

The paper said it acted in the public interest. It is now the focus of a fierce debate about press freedom, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington.

Some right-wing politicians have even called for the New York Times' editors to be charged with treason - but our correspondent says this is unlikely to happen.

If your transactions are completely legitimate then why should you be worried?
Marc Kay, New York, USA

The newspaper has a long record of opposition to President Bush and has won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing a secret US government scheme to monitor telephone calls as part of its "war on terror".

Mr Bush's attack was echoed by his deputy, Dick Cheney, who said the New York Times had twice disclosed secret programmes in defiance of the advice of administration officials.

'Follow their money'

Last week the New York Times, followed by other news organisations, revealed that the CIA had been given access to payment records in the world's main financial clearing house.

The paper has given itself free licence to expose any covert activity that it happens to learn of - even those that are legally grounded
John Snow,
US Treasury Secretary

The paper said the government had used its powers of administrative subpoena following the 9/11 attacks to compel Swift (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) to open its records, but added that the move had led to the arrest of al-Qaeda members.

Mr Bush said the disclosure had made it "harder to win this war on terror".

"We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America. And for people to leak that programme and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America," he said.

Mr Bush said the monitoring scheme was lawful and Congress had been made aware of it.

It's not our job to pass judgement on whether this programme is legal or effective
Bill Keller
New York Times

"If you want to figure out what the terrorists are doing, you try to follow their money," he said.

The Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security said earlier that the New York Times should be prosecuted for the publication.

"The New York Times is putting its own arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda before the interests of the American people,", Peter King told Fox News television.

US Treasury Secretary John Snow and White House officials also criticised the revelations last week.

Mr Snow has now written to the newspaper's executive editor Bill Keller, in response to Mr Keller's defence of the paper.

'No risk'

Mr Keller said the paper had listened "patiently and attentively" to the government's case against revealing the scheme.

But he denied publication was a security risk, arguing that bankers would almost certainly continue to co-operate and that terrorist organisations already knew their financial operations were being monitored.

"It's not our job to pass judgement on whether this programme is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case," Mr Keller said.

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