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Bush defends money tracking

Lashes out at NY Times, which, he says, does 'great harm' in anti-terror fight.

President Bush lashed out at the New York Times for publishing details of the SWIFT money tracking spy program, the Washington Post reports. "We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America," Bush said. He said the program was lawful and necessary.

Under the program, U.S. officials tapped records of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT, an international banking cooperative owned by nearly 8,000 banks in more than 20 countries. The Treasury Department used administrative subpoenas that do not involve a judge to search for terrorist transactions and hired Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. to verify that the data were properly handled.

Now a Republican congressman has called the Times traitors, although he did not say the same about the Wall Street Journal, which also published an article on the story on Thursday.

The Times' Bill Keller said that administration efforts to block publication seemed "half-hearted" and that officials believed that terrorists knew the international system was monitored. Officials seemed to want to block publication to avoid spooking the bankers who had not previously been willing to accept US monitoring.