Disclosure of a secret program giving the US government access to a massive international data base of financial information was "very damaging" to efforts to catch terrorists, Congress was told Tuesday.
"This disclosure compromised one of our most valuable programs and will only make our efforts to track terrorist financing - and to prevent terrorist attacks - harder," Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department, argued before a House Financial Services panel.
Levey said the program, started shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, played an important role in an investigation that eventually led to the capture of Indonesian Riduan Isamuddin, or Hambali, the operations chief of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiya, a Southeast Asian terror group. Hambali allegedly masterminded the deadly 2002 Bali bombings.
The terror tracking program was first publicly revealed late last month in published accounts by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal.