A bipartisan group of congressional leaders pledged Thursday to tighten laws on leaking secrets to the news media after what one senator called a recent “cascade” of Obama administration disclosures about classified intelligence operations.
“This has to stop,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters.
The California Democrat and other committee members, along with the Republican chairman and senior Democrat from the House Intelligence Committee, met Thursday with intelligence and law enforcement officials. They discussed a series of leaks about highly secret U.S. operations such as the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year and the Stuxnet cyberattack on the Iranian nuclear program.
Mrs. Feinstein warned that the leaks are undermining foreign confidence in Washington’s ability to keep a secret.
“When people say they don’t want to work with the United States because they can’t trust us to keep a secret, that’s serious. … When an asset’s life is in jeopardy or the asset’s family’s life is in jeopardy, that’s a problem,” she added, after a closed-door meeting with Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper.
“It goes without saying that all of us are extremely upset,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican and vice chairman of the committee. “There’s been just a cascade of leaks coming out of the intelligence community over the last several weeks and months.”
Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House committee, said a special prosecutor or an independent investigator ought to look into the leaks.
The White House on Thursday ruled out appointing a special prosecutor. Asked if President Obama would consider a special investigation, White House spokesman Jay Carney said simply, “No.”
He added that Mr. Obama is “fully committed to preventing leaks of classified information, as well as sensitive information that could jeopardize our counterterrorism efforts.”
At a congressional news conference, Mr. Rogers said officials from the CIA were refusing to cooperate with an investigation into the leaks by his committee. He added that some Justice Department officials had recused themselves from “one element” of a criminal investigation into one of the leaks. He did not elaborate and Justice Department officials had no immediate comment.
Mrs. Feinstein did not immediately rule out supporting the call for a special investigation.
“I’ve asked for a little more time to look at it,” she said.
Both Republican and Democratic committee leaders rebuffed suggestions from some GOP lawmakers that the leaks had been deliberately orchestrated to make Mr. Obama look tough on terrorism and Iran in an election year.
While the House committee pursues its investigation, committee leaders from both chambers will work together to draft new legislation, Mrs. Feinstein said.