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­ WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--The White House Tuesday defended the U.S. Treasury Department's role in orchestrating a plan to help private-sector banks stave off losses on risky mortgage securities, calling the department's involvement "completely appropriate." "This isn't a bailout," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Tuesday. Critics, however, say the Treasury's unusual move to get banks together to craft a strategy to keep the subprime mortgage crisis from clogging the broader credit market could encourage banks to make risky bets in the future. Under the rescue plan, which doesn't involve any federal money, a group of banks is setting up a special fund to buy troubled assets in exchange for new short-term debt. "There's no public money involved in this," Fratto said. "The banks, as I understand it, are trying to do what's in their collective best interests and would be beneficial to the markets." -By Henry J. Pulizzi, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9256; henry.pulizzi@dowjones.com (END) Dow Jones Newswires October 16, 2007 10:25 ET (14:25 GMT)