House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon said after meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that he’s convinced recent national-security leaks didn’t come from the Pentagon.
McKeon, a California Republican, said Panetta and other Pentagon officials who testified in a closed-door hearing today assured lawmakers they are taking steps to limit the potential for leaks amid accusations the Obama administration has disclosed sensitive information. McKeon declined to say where he thinks the leaks originated.
“They assured us that they have taken steps to put in procedures to try and limit those leaks,” McKeon said. His panel also heard today from Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s general counsel.
Conflict has developed between the Obama administration and some Republicans in Congress, who say the White House engaged in intelligence leaks to bolster President Barack Obama’s national-security credentials ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
Among unauthorized disclosures were that the U.S. and Israel created the Stuxnet computer virus that damaged Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, that Obama personally approved 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.
McKeon declined to discuss the possible motive behind leaks, and said there was no discussion at the hearing about what might be causing them. The committee’s top Democrat, Representative Adam Smith of Washington, told reporters he is convinced the leaks stem from improvements in technology in the age of the Internet.
“It’s just that information is flowing more freely,” he said.
Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services panel, and other Senate Republicans last month called for a congressional probe into the unauthorized leaks. Republicans have said the Justice Department inquiry into leaks won’t be independent.
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. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said last month that the intelligence community’s inspector general will lead an independent investigation of certain unauthorized disclosures if the Justice Department decides not to prosecute.
Senate intelligence committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, says she wants to wait until the Justice Department investigation is completed and doesn’t think a congressional investigation is necessary.