President Barack Obama said White House officials didn’t leak classified intelligence to journalists and that the government’s investigation into the disclosures might lead to criminal charges.
“The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive,” Obama said in the White House briefing room. “It’s wrong.”
Details about a U.S. cyber attack against Iran’s nuclear program and the president’s personal role in directing drone attacks against terrorists was reported by news organizations such as the New York Times and the Associated Press. The Obama administration has been accused of leaking the information to boost the president’s national security bona fides ahead of the Nov. 6 presidential election.
In response to a question, the president said those who leaked “will suffer consequences” and in some instances leaking could be considered a “criminal act.”
In a June 6 statement, Senator John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the disclosures were “grossly irresponsible” and he says he sees “deeper political motivation” for leaks.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing the leaks, and the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees plan hearings.
‘Not a Game’
“This is not a game,” McCain said in the June 6 statement. “This is far more important than mere politics. Laws have apparently been broken.”
The Central Intelligence Agency declined to respond to a U.S. House Intelligence Committee request for information about leaks of classified data, Representative Mike Rogers, the panel’s chairman, said yesterday.
The committee had asked about last month’s disclosure of details of a covert operation that thwarted plans by al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate to smuggle a potentially undetectable bomb onto a U.S.-bound airliner, according to a congressional aide who is not authorized to speak to the media. The CIA told the panel the information wouldn’t be provided because the matter is under investigation by the FBI, the aide said.
Obama initially said he wouldn’t comment on the leaks today. He then said certain issues are “classified for a reason because they’re sensitive and because people involved may in some cases be in danger if they’re carrying out some of these missions.”
At a Bloomberg breakfast yesterday, Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he had spoken with White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew about the leaks and Lew told him he was “sickened” by allegations that they came from within the White House.
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