Election-year politics be damned.
Bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees told reporters at a press briefing Thursday that they had launched an all-out search into a series of classified information leaks to the media, saying they wouldn‚??t shield any department when lives remained at risk.
A series of recent New York Times reports, including a story about President Obama‚??s process of identifying terrorist targets for elimination and an account of U.S. cyber-attacks on Iran that anonymously cited Obama‚??s own national security team are among stories that raised the alarm in Congress.
Senate Republicans led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) began the call for a probe into the leaks earlier this week, and McCain voiced suspicions about the timing and nature of the ‚??disturbing‚?Ě revelations.
‚??These articles have all conveyed the impression that the president is a very strong warrior in carrying out his responsibilities as commander in chief, something that I have disputed as far as Iraq, Afghanistan, and other national security issues,‚?Ě he said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that McCain‚??s allegation was ‚??grossly irresponsible,‚?Ě saying the administration was taking steps to prevent leaks without going into detail.
But now Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) have joined their Republican counterparts to say they will pursue the source of the leaks, even if that search leads them to the president‚??s doorstep.
‚??This is not finger-pointing at anybody,‚?Ě Feinstein said. ‚??What we‚??re trying to say is we‚??ve got a problem and we‚??re trying to stop that problem.‚?Ě At the same time, she said, ‚??wherever the chips fall, they fall.‚?Ě
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the legislators were calling for a nonpartisan outside security audit, with no organization permitted to recuse itself, as some have already attempted to do.
‚??From publicly available comments, it appears the sources of these leaks could be in a position to influence this investigation,‚?Ě he said. ‚??[The investigation] must be complete…it must be able to extend to any office in the United States government.‚?Ě
So far, the lawmakers have met with National Intelligence Director James Clapper and heard from inspectors general of various government agencies. They planned to sit down with FBI director Robert Mueller later on Thursday.
While the intelligence leaders were not confident of finding and prosecuting the sources of the most recent leaks, they said they intended to make an example of the situation, and re-examine how many officials had access to sensitive information, and how tightly that information was controlled.
‚??When you have the kind of leaks that have been coming out in the last few weeks, you put lives in danger and it infringes on the ability of the intelligence community to do their job,‚?Ě Chambliss said.