Lawmakers from both political parties called for investigations -- and possible prosecutions -- of leaks about the intelligence operation that thwarted a terrorist attack by Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“The FBI has to do a full and complete investigation, because this really is criminal in the literal sense of the word to leak out this type of sensitive, classified information on really almost unparalleled penetration of the enemy,” Representative Peter King, a New York Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview today on CNN’s “State of the Union” television program.
King said reports provided to some news organizations on counterterrorism measures that included use of a double agent and disrupted a plot to build a potentially undetectable airline bomb “caused the operation to be cut short before it could get all the information that could have been gotten.”
Representative Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan who heads the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said his panel is conducting a “preliminary review” into what he termed “a damaging leak.”
“We will make a determination -- either a full-blown committee investigation or we’ll refer it to criminal charges to the FBI,” he said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
Rogers criticized “premature chest-thumping in this whole thing” by some U.S. government officials.
“No national security operation ever should be used for a headline under any circumstances” when lives are jeopardized, he said.
As part of the plot’s disruption, U.S. intelligence agencies seized the bomb and are working to update security procedures to account for the threat. The plot and seizure were first reported by the Associated Press. The AP reported that the CIA seized the device before a would-be bomber based in Yemen had chosen a target or purchased airplane tickets.
President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, who has called al-Qaeda a weakened force, visited Yemen today to discuss “extremist groups” and U.S. assistance with Yemeni officials, the American Embassy in the Mideast nation said. Brennan has said the U.S. must keep tabs on al-Qaeda’s most active branch in the Yemen area.
Those efforts may have been harmed by disclosures about the case, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“This leak was serious,” she said. “It certainly jeopardizes our ability to relate to other countries and for other countries to help us, and it gives a tip off” to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “to be more careful about who they use as their couriers, as their bombers.”
Feinstein said “the leak did endanger sources and methods, and the leak I think has to be prosecuted.”
Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said on CNN that “one of the amazing results of this courageous and brilliant counterterrorism operation was that we not only stopped a planned terrorist attack on a U.S. airplane, but we got the device.”
Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who caucuses with the Democrats, also said his committee would conduct a public hearing May 23 into the prostitution scandal involving the U.S. Secret Service.
“We’re going to have Director Mark Sullivan of the Secret Service and the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Charles Edwards,” appear before the panel, Lieberman said.
The secret service has come under scrutiny after 12 employees were accused of misconduct involving prostitutes Cartagena, Colombia, before a visit by President Barack Obama last month. Nine of those employees are leaving the agency or are being forced out.