Bush slams terror finance info leak
The fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror," Bush said, leaning forward and jabbing his finger during a brief question-and-answer session with reporters in the Roosevelt Room.
The Times has defended its effort, saying publication has served America's public interest.
The newspaper, along with the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal, revealed last week that Treasury officials, beginning shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, had obtained access to an extensive international financial data base — the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift.
The New York Times late last year also disclosed that the National Security Agency had been conducting warrantless surveillance in the United States since 2002 of people with suspected al-Qaida ties.
"Some in the press, in particular The New York Times, have made the job of defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult by insisting on publishing detailed information about vital national security programs," Vice President Dick Cheney said in a speech at a political fundraising luncheon in Grand Island, Neb.
"The New York Times has now twice — two separate occasions — disclosed programs; both times they had been asked not to publish those stories by senior administration officials," Cheney said. "They went ahead anyway. The leaks to The New York Times and the publishing of those leaks is very damaging."
Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, defended the decision to publish the story. He said the Times had spent weeks discussing with the administration whether to publish the report.
"Most Americans seem to support extraordinary measures in defense against this extraordinary threat, but some officials who have been involved in these programs have spoken to the Times about their discomfort over the legality of the government's actions and over the adequacy of oversight," Keller said in a note on the paper's Web site Sunday.
"We believe The Times and others in the press have served the public interest by accurately reporting on these programs so that the public can have an informed view of them," Keller wrote.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said the story represented "a highly unusual departure" from the practice of newspapers honoring the secrecy of sensitive matters during wartime.