Congress should conduct its own probe into unauthorized disclosures of classified information, according to Senate Republicans who said they believe the leaks came from officials in the Obama White House.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined other lawmakers who said such a probe is needed. He said plans by the Justice Department to examine selected leaks won’t be independent.
“If we’re not going to get the kind of answers the American people deserve out of the attorney general and out of this administration, I think it falls to Congress to conduct its own independent investigation,” Cornyn, who also heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told reporters today in a news conference at the Capitol.
Republicans say the White House has engaged in intelligence leaks to bolster President Barack Obama’s national-security credentials ahead of the November election.
Among recent unauthorized disclosures were that the U.S. and Israel created the Stuxnet computer virus that damaged Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, that President Barack Obama personally approves targets for drone attacks, and that a plot by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner was foiled because intelligence officials had infiltrated the terrorist group.
Obama has denied that White House officials leaked classified information, calling the notion that they would do so “offensive.” Attorney General Eric Holder has named two U.S. attorneys to investigate the leaks.
Senate intelligence committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said today she doesn’t think a congressional investigation is necessary. The Justice Department examination has been under way for just three weeks and lawmakers should wait to see the results, Feinstein said in an interview.
“This investigation ought to be completed,” Feinstein said. “I’m satisfied at this time.”
Cornyn said today that he’s discussed the need for a congressional probe with Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, and the panel’s top Republican, Susan Collins of Maine.
Lieberman said in an interview that while he and Collins spoke this morning about the matter, he has no immediate plans to convene hearings.
“It’s not on my list right now, but I said I’d think about it,” Lieberman said.
Yesterday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said polygraph tests used by U.S. intelligence agencies must include a question about unauthorized disclosures of classified information. Clapper also said the intelligence community’s inspector general will lead an independent investigation of certain unauthorized disclosures if the Justice Department decides not to prosecute.
Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined Cornyn in calling for a congressional investigation. While Clapper’s polygraph tests are helpful, they don’t go far enough in determining what occurred, McCain said.
“It’s laudable he’s taken that step, but the fact is we need to find out what happened and who did it,” he said.
Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the Senate intelligence panel, said lawmakers in both parties are trying to add language to a pending intelligence reauthorization bill that “discourages people from committing leaks in the future.”