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“All that you read about this being deliberate leaks out of the White House wasn’t my experience. Maybe it is in other cases,” he said. “I’m sure the political side of the White House probably likes reading about the president acting with drones and cyber and so forth. National security side has got very mixed emotions about it because these are classified programs.”

Said Mr. McCain: “I don’t know how one could draw any conclusion but that senior members of this administration in the national security arena have either leaked or confirmed information of the most highly classified and sensitive nature.”

On June 5, The New York Times published a review of the Sanger book by Thomas Ricks, an author and former reporter for The Washington Post.

Mr. Sanger clearly has enjoyed great access to senior White House officials, most notably to Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser,” Mr. Ricks wrote. “Mr. Donilon, in effect, is the hero of the book, as well as the commenter of record on events. He leads the team that goes to Israel and spends ‘five hours wading through the intelligence in the basement of the prime minister’s residence.’”

Three days later, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that he had appointed two U.S. attorneys to investigate leaks, including the Stuxnet disclosures.

White House press secretary Jay Carney took offense to Mr. McCain’s speech.

“Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible,” he said.

A ‘target’ in the probe

In May, The New York Times reported: “The investigation into reporting by David E. Sanger of The Times, about efforts to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program, appears to be one of the most active inquiries.”

In June, NBC News reported that the FBI had zeroed in on one of the nation’s highest-ranking military officers at the time that Mr. Sanger was researching his book in 2011.

NBC said that retired Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of Mr. Obama’s closest military advisers, was a “target” in the probe — a designation that often means the Justice Department plans to indict the person.

Gen. Cartwright retired in August 2011.

Mr. Donilon, the national security adviser, submitted his resignation in June and left the post last month.

More than any previous president, Mr. Obama has aggressively gone after leakers — in this case possibly members of his own inner circle.

The Justice Department took the unusual step of collecting data on phone calls to and from the Washington bureau of The Associated Press in an effort to find who leaked information about a foiled terrorist attack.

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