Top lawmakers in both the House and the Senate intelligence committees vowed swift action in response to intelligence leaks that have dogged the Obama Administration. On June 7th, after a closed-door meeting with the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, the four leaders of the House and Senate intelligence Committees held a bipartisan press conference to discuss the recent national security leaks and promised a complete investigation of wrongdoing. Sen. Diane Feinstein promised “a fair investigation,” and, when asked whether the leaks were politically motivated, Sen. Feinstein responded, “Wherever the chips fall, they fall.”
Critics, such as Sen. John McCain, have accused the Administration of intentionally leaking classified information for political gain and called for the appointment of a special counsel. Republicans are arguing that the information was intentionally leaked to boost approval of President Obama’s national security record during an election year and that the leaks compromise the nation’s safety. Scrutiny has centered upon a number of incidents, including two stories published by the New York Times, which exposed the extent of the U.S. involvement in cyber attacks in Iran and the White House’s secret “Kill List.” In addition, the CIA has been accused of sharing allegedly sharing classified details of the raid that led to the death of Usama Bin Laden. The CIA and Justice Department are refusing to cooperate with the investigation.
Attorney General Eric Holder appointed US Attorneys Rod J. Rosenstein and Ronald C. Machen Jr. to direct separate criminal investigations into the intelligence leaks. Although Rosenstein is a Republican and a holdover from the Bush Administration, a group of Republican senators criticized their appointments, arguing that an independent special counsel is necessary to ensure a full and fair investigation.
In the meantime, lawmakers have proposed legislation to prevent leaks from occurring in the future. Sen. Joe Lieberman described the recent intelligence leaks as “the worst in a long time” and floated the idea of a new law that would increase accountability. Lieberman believes that the current legal framework is outdated. “The last person to be convicted of a crime for leaking to the media was more than 25 years ago. We are still using a 1917 Espionage Act that requires some showing of intent and knowledge that the leak would harm the security of the United States.”
President Obama, on June 8th, denied criticism that his Administration intentionally leaked the information, describing the accusation as “offensive.” A number of commentators have noted that the Obama Administration has been tough on leakers. Prior to Obama’s presidency, the federal government brought only three cases under the Espionage Act. Under Obama, there have been six cases prosecuted.