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Wicker: Obama Administration Should Be Outraged Over National Security Leaks

Magnitude of Scandal, Reports of White House Involvement Demand Investigation by Independent Special Counsel

Monday, July 2, 2012

An urgent call for accountability continues in response to the recent leaks of highly classified national security information reportedly originating from the Obama Administration.  

President Obama has denied that the White House purposely planted the information, but published reports cite unnamed senior Administration officials and advisers as sources.  Criminal leaks must be prosecuted, and Americans have a right to be outraged.  

‘Never Seen It Worse’

These leaks are a serious breach of our national security interests and put the lives of American citizens and our allies at risk.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said she had “never seen it worse” in her 11 years on the committee.  It is deeply troubling that the disclosure of sensitive material could be part of a political effort to help President Obama earn flattering headlines before the election.  

The leaked intelligence, published in the New York Times and journalist David Sanger’s new book “Confront and Conceal,” includes details about the use of cyberweapons against Iran’s nuclear program and the President’s direct engagement with a terrorist “kill list.”  

The involvement of Obama Administration officials could be extensive.  According to one of the New York Times articles in question, “three dozen of [Obama’s] current and former advisers” were interviewed.   
Call for Impartial Investigation

I have joined a number of my Senate colleagues in calling for an independent special counsel to ensure that an investigation is conducted without political influence.  The Obama Administration cannot be expected to pursue a comprehensive and impartial self-investigation during an election year when its own officials and advisers are implicated.

It is unacceptable for Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint two Justice Department attorneys to investigate the leaks.  Holder is a member of the President’s national security team, which is privy to discussions of counterterrorism and intelligence operations.  According to The Washington Post, one of the attorneys that Holder appointed, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen, has donated to President Obama’s campaigns.

‘An Avalanche of Leaks’

Like past investigations of leaks, the magnitude of these violations merits truly independent scrutiny.  The President’s tepid reaction is a stark reversal from his time in the Senate when he called for a congressional investigation on the leaked identity of former CIA agent Valerie Plame and a special counsel to probe the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal.  

Unlike the Plame matter, this is not an isolated incident but what Sen. Feinstein described as “an avalanche of leaks.”  As she rightly noted, “The point of intelligence is to be able to know what might happen to protect this country.  And we can’t do that if the intelligence is no longer kept, with strict scrutiny, within the number of people that need to have it.”  

Ensuring Accountability

The stakes are too high for flagrant and criminal violations of our national security to be cast aside without reproach.  There must be consequences for those who deliberately jeopardize the safety of our military and intelligence community and the future of ongoing operations.  

An outside special counsel is essential to rebuilding public confidence and ensuring a proper response to this grave scandal.  I will continue to push for accountability from the Administration and measures that uphold and defend our national security interests.  

July 2012 Weekly Columns