Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. appointed two top federal prosecutors to “lead criminal investigations” into the recent leak of U.S. classified intelligence information that many are saying the White House orchestrated in order to improve Barack Obama’s re-election chances.
Holder, acting on a pledge from President Barack Obama that this administration will not permit the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive materials, appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald C. Machen Jr. and U.S. attorney for Maryland, Rod J. Rosenstein to lead the investigation.
The decision came just hours after Barack Obama said that he had “zero tolerance” for polically motivated leaks and national security breaches and that his administration investigates every such instance.
The prosecutors were tasked to open criminal probes into several recent disclosures after The New York Times printed detailed accounts of how the president reportedly directed the cyber attacks on the Iranian nuclear program. Other news reports have delved into the administration’s program of secret drone attacks, including Obama’s role in ordering them, the slaying of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, and alleged “Kill Lists” maintained for targeting foreign terrorists.
“These two highly-respected and experienced prosecutors will be directing separate investigations currently being conducted by the FBI,” Holder said. “I have every confidence in their abilities to doggedly follow the facts and the evidence in the pursuit of justice
wherever it leads.”
According to Holder, the two men were “fully authorized to prosecute criminal violations discovered as a result of their investigations and matters related to those violations, consult with members of the Intelligence Community and follow all appropriate investigative leads within the Executive and Legislative branches of government.”
Obama said that leaks of classified information about national security matters make life harder for him and put American civilians and the military in harm’s way, and that his administration tries to make sure that sources of such leaks “suffer consequences” for their actions. “We don’t play with that,” Obama told reporters.
In the wake of the stories, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has called for a special prosecutor to investigate leaks, which he says are designed to portray Obama as a strong leader on national security matters.
Democrats have also expressed concern. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the recent spate of leaks could endanger American
lives and “undermine America’s national security.”
Holder said he will advise the Judiciary and Intelligence committees “as appropriate” as the investigations get under way.
Will that be in the same “appropriate” way that he has supplied documents concerning “Fast and Furious” to the committee?