President Obama reacted indignantly Friday to accusations that his aides may have leaked classified details of successful anti-terrorism operations to bolster his national security credentials for the fall reelection campaign.
"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive," Mr. Obama told reporters during a press conference at the White House. "It's wrong, and people I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me here approach this office."
Lawmakers in both parties this week called for a special prosecutor to investigate the national security leaks, including a report that detailed the government's efforts to launch cyberattacks at computers involved in Iran's uranium-enrichment program, the campaign of U.S. drone attacks in the Middle East and the "hit list" of terrorists that was reportedly reviewed personally by Mr. Obama.
House Homeland Security Chairman Peter T. King, New York Republican, has called the leaks "amateur hour" and said the reports "are like press releases coming from the Oval Office."
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Diane Feinstein, California Democrat, complained Thursday about an "avalanche" of leaks on national security matters.
"This has to stop," Mrs. Feinstein said. "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."
Mr. Obama downplayed calls for an independent investigation, saying his administration is capable of rooting out leakers. He implied that any such leaks may have come from people who no longer work for the government.
"My attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation," Mr. Obama said. " We have mechanisms in place, where if we can root out folks who have leaked, they will suffer consequences. We will conduct thorough investigations, as we have in the past."
He added, "We're dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and the security of the American people and our families or our military personnel or our allies. So we don't play with that. It is a source of consistent frustration, not just for my administration but for previous administrations when this stuff happens. And we will continue to let everybody know in government or after they leave government that they have certain obligations that they should carry out."
Mr. Obama said the authors of the reports that detailed the anti-terrorism operations have backed up his claim that his administration is not to blame.
"The writers of these articles have all stated unequivocally that [the leaks] didn't come from this White House," the president said. "That's not how we operate."
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