The leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees are scheduled to meet with National Intelligence Director James Clapper on Thursday to discuss administration leaks of classified information.
Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) along with House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Calif.) will meet with Clapper, Feinstein confirmed this afternoon. The California Democrat declined to specify what would be discussed, given the classified nature of the information in dispute.
Republicans have turned the leaks into their cause-du-jour, with several Members charging that Obama administration officials have jeopardized national security to bolster the president’s re-election résumé. Congressional Democrats, on the other hand, are threading the needle between questioning whether laws were violated without making the specific accusations against the White House.
On CNN’s “The Situation Room” today, Feinstein complained to host Wolf Blitzer that the leaks have taken on crisis proportions: “I think what we’re seeing, Wolf, is an Anschluss, an avalanche of leaks. And it’s very, very disturbing. You know, it’s dismayed our allies. It puts American lives in jeopardy. It puts our nation’s security in jeopardy. ... So I think the FBI should continue its investigation. We’re going to do ours. I think [the] Armed Services [Committee] has announced an investigation.”
Feinstein said that in her 11 years on the Intelligence panel, she has “never seen it worse” in terms of national security leaks.
Earlier in the afternoon, the White House defended itself against GOP accusations that it was behind the leaks. Press Secretary Jay Carney asserted that “any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible.”
Feinstein backed Carney, saying, “I don’t believe any of this came directly out of the top ranks of the White House. I think one of the problems is information is not closely held sufficiently.”
Either way, it’s clear the wheels are in motion for increased Congressional involvement. An aide to one of the committee chairman said the four lawmakers will make a statement after their morning meeting Thursday. And Feinstein has already said she is looking into holding a joint hearing on the issue with Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.).
That hearing, were it to happen, would be closed to the public and the press because the testimony would be classified. The leaks in question appeared in several New York Times articles, including a piece on cyberattacks on Iran, a terrorist “kill list” and an expansive drone program.
Republicans — led by McCain, the top GOP member of the Armed Services Committee — have called for a special prosecutor to investigate the disclosure of secret information.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) questioned Deputy Attorney General James Cole this morning on the potentially coordinated and illegal leaks. Cole said that while such a breach of policy would likely be a crime, he did not believe a special prosecutor would be warranted, and Feinstein agreed on CNN. Cole also declined to say whether the Department of Justice was investigating the matter because classified national security material is involved. Other media outlets have reported that an FBI investigation is under way.