WASHINGTON, June 27 — Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, asked the director of national intelligence on Tuesday to assess any damage to American counterterrorism efforts caused by the disclosure of secret programs to monitor telephone calls and financial transactions.
Mr. Roberts, Republican of Kansas, singled out The New York Times for an article last week that reported that the government was tracking money transfers handled by a banking consortium based in Belgium. The targeting of the financial data, which includes some Americans’ transactions, was also reported Thursday by The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.
In his letter to John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, Mr. Roberts wrote that “we have been unable to persuade the media to act responsibly and to protect the means by which we protect this nation.”
He asked for a formal evaluation of damage to intelligence collection resulting from the revelation of the secret financial monitoring as well as The Times’s disclosure in December of the National Security Agency’s monitoring of phone calls and e-mail messages of Americans suspected of having links to Al Qaeda.
In London, meanwhile, a human rights group said Tuesday that it had filed complaints in 32 countries alleging that the banking consortium, known as Swift, violated European and Asian privacy laws by giving the United States access to its data.
Simon Davies, director of the group, Privacy International, said the scale of the American monitoring, involving millions of records, “places this disclosure in the realm of a fishing exercise rather than a legally authorized investigation.”
The Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, has asked the Justice Ministry to investigate whether Swift violated Belgian law by allowing the United States government access to its data.
The American Civil Liberties Union has condemned the program, and a Chicago lawyer, Steven E. Schwarz, filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Swift on Friday alleging that it had violated United States financial privacy statutes.
President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and numerous Republicans in Congress have vigorously defended the financial tracking program as legal and valuable and condemned its public disclosure. They have suggested that the articles might tip off terrorists that their money transfers could be detected. Representative J. D. Hayworth, Republican of Arizona, circulated a letter to colleagues on Tuesday asking that The Times’s Congressional press credentials be suspended.
Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said any effort to measure damage to intelligence collection would take some time.
“It’s not as if the terrorists are going to say, ‘Oops! Going to stop doing that,’ ” Mr. Snow said at a briefing. “But I think it is safe to say that once you provide a piece of intelligence, people on the other side act on it.”
The electronic messaging system operated by Swift, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, routes nearly $6 trillion a day in transfers among nearly 8,000 financial institutions.
At a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for Henry M. Paulson Jr., the nominee for Treasury secretary, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, asked whether the monitoring might violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches. “I think you’ll agree that we could fight terrorism properly and adequately without having a police state in America,” Mr. Baucus said.
Mr. Paulson did not express an opinion on the propriety of the Swift monitoring but pledged to study it. “I am going to, if confirmed, be all over it, make sure I learn everything there is to learn, make sure I understand the law thoroughly,” he said.
Democratic staff members said they had pressed Treasury officials in recent days for a fuller accounting of which members of Congress were briefed on the program and whether notification requirements under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act, invoked by President Bush days after Sept. 11, were met.
Treasury officials have told Congressional staff members that they briefed the full intelligence committees of both houses about a month ago, after inquiries by The Times, according to one Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity. Some members were told of the program several years ago, but the Treasury Department has not provided a list of who was informed when, the aide said.
Democrats said they hoped to get a clearer idea of the legal foundations for the program, how it was monitored, and how long it will be allowed to continue under the president’s invocation of emergency powers.
Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat who serves on the House financial services committee, said Tuesday: “The administration is basing its actions on a 1970’s law that never envisioned a state of perpetual emergency. It wasn’t meant to become the status quo. That is why Congress needs to look at its current use.”
Victor Comras, a former State Department official who served on a United Nations counterterrorism advisory group, pointed out on The Counterterrorism Blog that a 2002 United Nations report had noted with approval that the United States was monitoring international financial systems.
While providing no details, the report mentioned Swift and similar organizations, saying “the United States has begun to apply new monitoring techniques to spot and verify suspicious transactions.”