Bloomberg News

Pentagon Says ‘No Witch Hunt’ to Track Information Leaks

July 20, 2012

The U.S. Defense Department said today a plan to track leaks of classified information isn’t intended to eavesdrop on reporters or persecute media organizations gathering news.

The Pentagon announced a series of measures yesterday to monitor unauthorized disclosures of classified government information including “mandating use of a department-wide incident report system to track” such occurrences.

Pentagon officials in charge of public affairs intend to beef up the tracking of published news reports and alert the department’s top intelligence official when they spot suspected classified information, George Little, the Pentagon’s spokesman, told reporters today. Then the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence will determine if the leak must be investigated, Little said.

“When it comes to monitoring, we mean monitoring ourselves,” Little said. Asked if the department intends to track down those who leak information and punish them, Little said “I’m not going to label this a witch hunt at all.”

The Pentagon and the White House are facing increased congressional scrutiny after news reports and books revealed how the U.S. and Israel created the Stuxnet computer virus that damaged Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, and that President Barack Obama personally approved targets for drone attacks.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testified yesterday at a closed-door hearing and assured lawmakers they are taking steps to limit the potential for leaks, according to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, who briefed reporters after the hearing.

White House

McKeon, a California Republican said he’s convinced the leaks didn’t come from the Pentagon. Some Republican lawmakers have said White House officials leaked information that would burnish President Barack Obama’s national-security credentials ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

Obama has denied that White House officials leaked classified information, calling the notion that they would do so “offensive.”

Attorney General Eric Holder has named two U.S. attorneys to investigate the leaks. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said last month that the intelligence community’s inspector general will lead an independent investigation of certain unauthorized disclosures if the Justice Department decides not to prosecute.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Washington at gratnam1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net


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