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Lawmakers Up the Stakes on Intelligence Leaks

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Senate and House Intelligence committee leaders Dianne Feinstein, Dutch Ruppersberger, Mike Rogers and Saxby Chambliss announced an investigation into leaks they believe are jeopardizing national security.

“Just today, the CIA informed the HPSCI that it cannot respond to our requests involving the leaks — a very troubling event indeed,” Rogers said. “The DOJ’s national security division has recused itself from at least one element of the investigation, suggesting some of these leaks could have come from sources within the DOJ or the FBI.”

At first blush, the troubles facing the White House on this issue were political. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee and the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, began his Tuesday speech on the leaks issue by declaring he was “disturbed” the White House would breach protocol to boost the president’s national security bona fides.

The White House has vehemently denied that it authorized the disclosure of classified information.

But the issue could run much deeper for the administration than just the cable news sound bites, if top lawmakers continue to pursue a larger investigation. Though the four top Members on the Intelligence panels all emphasized the need for new language in the pending intelligence authorization bill, they would not specify what weaknesses exist in current law. As it is, divulging classified information is a federal crime.

“We will work with the House membership on language that can be acceptable to both sides to codify a certain process that we think will be more efficient in targeting leaking and also being able to stop it,” Feinstein said, noting that lawmakers wanted to give the intelligence community “more tools” to control leaks without disclosing what those tools might be.

Feinstein said earlier this week that she has discussed a joint hearing with Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). McCain, who initially requested a hearing for the committee, secured an agreement from Levin that a hearing will happen in the near future.

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