From today’s Press Gaggle:
Bill Sammon: Vice President Cheney said he was offended by press disclosures about the bank records story, because he said it makes it harder for us to protect ourselves against future attacks. As Press Secretary, are you also offended by that, and do you think that it makes it harder for us to protect ourselves?
Tony Snow: I’m not going to get into my state of mind about the story. I will have more to say about it in the briefing later today. I’m going to leave it to the people who are actually operating the program. They say it does make it more difficult, I’ll take them at their word.
Sammon: What about — Peter King went further, he was talking about investigating and prosecution. Is that going too far?
Snow: Well, again, there is a process for doing this. The agency in charge has to make a criminal referral. You may remember that former CIA Director Tenet made a criminal referral. It is highly unusual for somebody to announce that they’ve done so. But there are very strict processes for doing this. And beyond that, I’m not going to extend the brief.
Sammon: One last thing. How hard did you push to convince the press not to publish this —
Snow: I was not directly involved. The Department of the Treasury, since it has been operating the SWIFT program, did the work, and they’re the ones who made the contacts, primarily to The New York Times, but to others, as well.
And Bush definitely isn’t happy. “The disclosure of this program is disgraceful. 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. What we were doing was the right thing. Congress was aware of it and we were within the law to do so. The American people expect this government to protect our constitutional liberties and at the same time, make sure we understand what the terrorists are trying to do. The 9-11 Commission recommended that the government be robust in tracing money. If you want to figure out what the terrorists are doing, you try to follow their money. That’s exactly what we’re doing and the fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror.”