Panetta speaks: 'I deplore' classified information leaks

A Senate budget subcommittee hearing with two prestigious guests–Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey–was widely expected to include commentary on a series of classified information leaks apparently stemming from the White House, and did not disappoint.

Until now, the Pentagon has remained largely silent on the matter, but Panetta did not hesitate to speak out Wednesday, denouncing the leaks and vouching for his department.

Sen. Richard Coats (R-Ind.) pressed the Defense Secretary for details specific to documents, obtained last month by Judicial Watch, that apparently show extensive information sharing between the administration and film director Kathryn Bigelow regarding the specifics of the bin Laden raid last year, including the identity of the commander of Seal Team Six.

???My question here is the role of the Department of Defense relevant to this Hollywood situation and other situations,??? he said. ???We???re looking at every possible avenue to mitigate and eliminate these kinds of leaks.???

Panetta did not address whether the SEAL???s identity had been disclosed, but said he had conducted his own investigation into the matter.

“As former director of the CIA, I deplore unauthorized disclosures of classified information,??? he said. ???We need to make it clear that this is intolerable. I also want to make clear that no unauthorized disclosures were provided to movie producers.???

On the flip side, with the revelation that this country is waging cyber warfare on Iran, Defense leaders said the U.S. is at high risk of a cyber attack that could compromise information sharing and paralyze American financial systems–what Panetta called a ???digital Pearl Harbor.???

While the leaders said they had confidence in U.S. defenses of its military properties, much of civilian digital infrastructure remains in peril.

???All I can tell you is that, technologically, the capability to paralyze this country is there now. I think there???s a high risk,??? Panetta said.

Now that reports are in the public media, Dempsey said it???s no secret that the tools of hacking and digital warfare have developed faster than a common understanding of how to deploy them as a combat mechanism.

???What we need to develop is a rules of engagement, if you will,??? he said.