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Updated: 7:21 p.m.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) today attacked the Obama administration over a series of recent news stories about national security, calling for hearings and a special prosecutor to investigate whether leaks from the White House were made for political gain.
The ranking member of the Armed Services Committee and 2008 GOP presidential nominee, McCain said he received word from committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) that the panel could hold a hearing on the issue.
“Over the past few months, there’s been a disturbing stream of articles in the media. In common among them is that they cite leaked classified or highly sensitive information in what appears to be a broader administration effort to paint a portrait of the president of the United States as a strong leader on national security issues,” McCain said on the floor.
“The fact that this administration would aggressively pursue leaks perpetrated by a 22-year-old Army private in the WikiLeaks matter, former CIA employees in other leaks cases, but apparently sanction leaks made by senior administration officials for political purposes is simply unacceptable,” McCain said, referring to Bradley Manning, the now-24-year-old private facing multiple federal charges including “aiding the enemy,” which is a capital offense.
McCain cited several high-profile stories in national media outlets as the basis for his challenge to the administration. Chief among the pieces in question are a lengthy New York Times story on a so-called terrorist “kill list,” another New York Times piece this week about Obama’s decision to begin cyberattacks on Iranian nuclear enrichment sites and yet another that reported extensively on the White House’s drone policies.
A spokeswoman for Levin said he has discussed with Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein the possibility of a joint hearing because the issue crosses jurisdictional boundaries.
“Any discussion of classified information by the committee or committees would necessarily be closed,” she added.
In a statement released after McCain’s remarks, Feinstein confirmed she has spoken to Levin about a potential joint hearing.
“I am deeply disturbed by the continuing leaks of classified information to the media, most recently regarding alleged cyber efforts targeting Iran’s nuclear program,” Feinstein said. “Today I sent a classified letter to the president outlining my deep concerns about the release of this information. I made it clear that disclosures of this type endanger American lives and undermine America’s national security.”
She added that she would address the issue in this year’s intelligence authorization bill, by requiring “timely notification of authorized disclosures and the rationale for those disclosures; More forceful investigations of unauthorized disclosures; [and] Additional authorities and resources for the U.S. government to identify and prosecute those who violate various federal laws and non-disclosure agreements by revealing highly classified information.”