President Bush is calling the recent publication of stories revealing a secret government plan to search private bank records "disgraceful."

He told reporters Monday that public disclosure of the program does great harm to the country and makes it harder to win the war on terror.

Three major U.S. newspapers published stories last week that said the Treasury Department has been gathering records from the Belgium-based consortium, SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications). The consortium handles millions of messages a day from thousands of financial institutions around the world.

Administration officials say they secretly acquired access to the consortium database in an effort to choke off funding for terrorist organizations. Democrats in Congress and civil liberties groups say the program is an abuse of the president's constitutional authority and a violation of privacy.

Republican Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security in the House of Representatives, called The New York Times newspaper "treasonous" in a television interview Monday. He said he will request the Attorney General begin a criminal investigation of the paper for publishing the story.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.