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White House on defense over recent surge of security leaks

Published: Thursday, June 14 2012 9:31 a.m. MDT

After a closed-door meeting with National Intelligence Director James Clapper, the four leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees hold a news conference, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 7, 2012, to discuss the recent spate of classified national security information leaks. From left are Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee; House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

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White House security leaks continue to fester as critics react to a flow of leaks from the White House that some believe are calculated to burnish the president's national security credentials at the expense of national security.

Last week, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said that Senate investigations would go forward, though she held back on calling for a special prosecutor, fearing, she said, that such investigations can spin out of control.

On Sunday, Rep. Peter King, R-New York, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, condemned the leaks on Fox News, insisting they could only have come directly from the White House.

"This is the most shameful cascade of leaks I've ever heard or seen in government," King said. "It's clear from those stories this came right from the White House, came right from the National Security Council, came right from the Situation Room. ... It has to lead to people very high up in the administration in his White House."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., went on CNN on Sunday and called for a special prosecutor, arguing that Attorney General Eric Holder has no credibility with Congress.

McCain described the leaks as the "most egregious breach of intelligence in anybody's memory." Pointing to ongoing congressional frustration with Holder's lack of coopertion on the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, McCain insisted that Holder's low credibility with Congress prevented him from leading the leaks investigation. "This needs a special counsel, someone entirely independent of the Justice Department," McCain said.

Meanwhile, presidential adviser David Alexrod was on ABC, insisting that the leaks did not come from the White House. This followed an emphatic denial on Friday by the president, who insisted the White House was not involved.

"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive, it's wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office," Obama said.

Critics are reacting to a series of leaks of seemingly classified information, all of which, they say, appears calculated to bolster the president's foreign policy image. These included a June 1 article in the New York Times revealing details on a cybersecurity attack on Iran.

"At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s 'escape,' Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised," the Times reported.

“ ‘Should we shut this thing down?' Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room," the Times story continued.

"It's obvious on its face that this information came from individuals who are in the administration," McCain said. "The president may not have done it himself, but the president certainly is responsible as commander in chief," McCain said in his CNN appearance.

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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