[Congressional Record Volume 158, Number 93 (Tuesday, June 19, 2012)]
[Pages S4261-S4262]

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, over the last 2 weeks several Members of 
this body and I have raised serious concerns about a series of leaks 
that recently appeared in several publications concerning certain 
military and intelligence activities--activities the authors themselves 
cite as among the Nation's most highly classified and sensitive. These 
enormously troubling leaks have raised concerns amongst both Democrats 
and Republicans in Congress, including leaders of our Intelligence, 
Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Homeland Security Committees.
  According to Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Select 
Committee on Intelligence:

       These disclosures have seriously interfered with ongoing 
     intelligence programs and have put at jeopardy our 
     intelligence capability to act in the future. Each disclosure 
     puts American lives at risk, makes it more difficult to 
     recruit assets, strains the trust of our partners, and 
     threatens imminent and irreparable damage to our national 
     security in the face of urgent and rapidly adapting threats 

  For these reasons and more, 26 other Members and I filed a resolution 
that conveys the sense of the Senate that the Attorney General should 
appoint an outside special counsel to investigate these leaks.
  I have been around for quite some time. I think there is no doubt 
that these leaks are almost unprecedented in that they are ongoing 
covert operations that are directly involved with the greatest threats 
to our Nation's security. I certainly understand that robust public 
debate about the Nation's offensive use of cyber-related and unmanned-
strike capabilities is valuable and warranted, that debate and 
discussion is valuable and warranted. The use of these kinds of 
military capabilities is new, and how these secretive warfighting 
capabilities should be deployed by a modern democracy deserves careful 
and thoughtful discussion, and we will have discussions in the future 
about these new aspects of warfare and counterterrorism.

  But the detail with which these articles lay out particular 
counterterrorism activities--and as one commentator recently described, 
the ``triumphalist tone of the leaks--the Tarzan-like chest-beating of 
[the] various leakers,'' greatly exceeded what is necessary or 
appropriate for that discussion. Something else--something very 
different--is going on.
  Considering how closely in time these items were published and how 
favorable of an impression they left upon the President's approach to 
national security, it is not unreasonable to ask whether these leaks 
were part of a broader effort to paint President Obama, in the midst of 
an election year, as a strong leader on national security issues. That 
is the strong impression that is given.
  The most compelling evidence is the obvious participation of some of 
the administration's senior-most officials. Among the sources that New 
York Times journalist David Sanger cited in the passage of his recent 
book pertaining to U.S. cyber attacks on Iran are ``administration 
officials'' and ``senior officials,'' ``senior aides'' to the 
President, ``members of the President's national security team who were 
in the [White House Situation Room] during key discussions,'' an 
official ``who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a 
classified program,''; ``current . . . American officials . . . [who 
would not] allow their names to be used because the effort remains 
highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day,'' and several 
sources who would be ``fired'' for what they divulged--presumably 
because what they divulged was classified or otherwise very sensitive.
  Some of the sources in recent publications specifically refused to be 
identified because what they were talking about related to classified 
or ongoing programs.
  In his book, which describes the administration's use of drones in 
Yemen, Newsweek journalist Daniel Klaidman writes:

       [W]hen I quote President Obama or other key characters, I 
     do so only if that quote was relayed to me by a source who 
     personally heard it.

  That certainly narrows down the number of people who could be guilty 
of these leaks.
  On Sunday, a reviewer of both Mr. Sanger's and Mr. Klaidman's books 
for the Washington Post found--as I did--that ``[both authors] were 
clearly given extraordinary access to key players in the administration 
to write their books . . . [i]n some cases, they appear to have talked 
to the same sources: 
[s]everal of their stories track nearly word for word.''
  Perhaps most illuminating in all of the articles and books is how, 
taken together, they describe an overall perspective within the Obama 

[[Page S4262]]

House that has viewed U.S. counterterrorism and other sensitive 
activities in extraordinarily political terms and taken on a related 
approach about how classified information should be handled. Both 
approaches would have predisposed the administration to the most 
recent, egregious national security leaks.
  There are plenty of examples of how the administration apparently 
viewed these highly sensitive matters through a political prism. In his 
book, Mr. Klaidman observed that then-White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm 
Emanuel, ``pushed the CIA to publicize'' successes associated with a 
covert drone program because ``the muscular attacks could have a huge 
political upside for Obama, insulating him from charges that he was 
weak on terror.'' Mr. Klaidman noted, that ``[as to the killing of a 
particular drone target,] [CIA] public affairs officers anonymously 
trumpeted their triumph, leaking colorful tidbits to trusted reporters 
on the intelligence beat, [with] [n]ewspapers describ[ing] the hit in 
cinematic detail.''
  A recent article in The New York Times similarly noted:

       David Axelrod, the president's closest political adviser, 
     began showing up at the `Terror Tuesday' meetings [by the 
     way, during which drone targeting was discussed], his 
     unspeaking presence a visible reminder of what everyone 
     understood: a successful attack would overwhelm the 
     president's other aspirations and achievements.

  And, in his recent book, Mr. Sanger notes:

       [O]ver the course of 2009, more and more people inside the 
     Obama White House were being `read into' the cyber program, 
     even those not directly involved. As the reports from the 
     latest iteration of the [cyber-]bug arrived, meetings were 
     held to assess what kind of damage had been done, and the 
     room got more and more crowded.

  Let's look at another anecdote in Mr. Sanger's book that provides 
another powerful example of what I am talking about. In this excerpt, 
Mr. Sanger depicts a curious meeting that occurred in the fall of 2009 
in Pittsburgh at the G 20 economic summit. He writes:

       As often happens when the president travels, there was a 
     dinner organized with a number of other reporters and several 
     of Obama's political aides, including David Axelrod and Rahm 
     Emanuel. The talk was mostly politics and the economic 
     downturn. But just as coffee was being served, a senior 
     official in the National Security Council tapped me on the 
     shoulder. After dinner, he said, I should take the elevator 
     to the floor of the hotel where the president had his suite. 
     `We'll talk about Iran,' he whispered.
       Obama was not back at the hotel when we gathered that 
     evening outside his suite. But most of the rest of the 
     national security staff was present and armed with the 
     intelligence that had been collected over many years about 
     Iran's secret site. As they laid it out on a coffee table in 
     the hotel suite, it was clear that this new site was 
     relatively small: it had enough room, they estimated, for 
     three thousand centrifuges . . .
       Via satellite photos, the United States had mapped the 
     construction of the building--useful if it ever had to hit 
     it. It was clear from the details that the United States had 
     interviewed scientists who had been inside the underground 
     facility . . . We spent an hour reviewing the evidence. I 
     probed them to reveal how the facility was discovered and 
     received evasive answers . . . Then I went down to my hotel 
     room and began writing the story.

  It absolutely eludes me under what circumstances it would be 
appropriate for a senior national security official to provide a 
reporter the opportunity to review for an hour what appears to have 
been raw intelligence supporting the government's recent discovery of 
secret nuclear sites in Iran. Yet, this vignette is indicative of what 
appears throughout the book as a pervasive administration perspective 
that viewed even the Nation's most secretive military and intelligence 
activities in starkly political terms and was overly lax on how related 
intelligence should be handled. These stories provide a revealing 
context for the most recent leaks--leaks that everyone has conceded 
have compromised our national security.
  I would like to believe that the Justice Department will get to the 
bottom of all this. But after watching senior White House advisor David 
Plouffe's appearance on Fox News on Sunday, I highly doubt that it 
will. I was particularly troubled by Mr. Plouffe's inability or refusal 
to answer whether the White House will cooperate fully with the 
investigation and whether President Obama would agree to be questioned 
by investigators as President Bush was during the Valerie Plame case. I 
was also discomforted by Mr. Plouffe's statement that the White House 
talked to Mr. Sanger for his book but did not leak classified 
information, which of course prejudges the outcome of the 
  As one commentator observed yesterday, Mr. Plouffe's answers:

     were so rehearsed, clumsy and full of forced distractions and 
     faux frustration that[,] if [his] interview [on Fox News] had 
     been conducted by law enforcement[,] Plouffe would have been 
     told he was going for a ride downtown to the police station 
     for further questioning.

  As this commentator noted, from these sorts of appearances, it's 
apparent that ``[t]he administration has something to hide. Plouffe 
could not have been more parsed, poorly prepared or unconvincing.''
  Moreover, just this past Friday, The Washington Post reported that 
Federal authorities have interviewed more than 100 people in the two 
ongoing leak investigations and, specifically citing ``officials 
familiar with the probes,'' described these interviews as ``the start 
of a process that could take months or even years.'' According to 
anonymous ``officials,'' the Post also noted that ``the pace of the 
investigations is partly driven by the large number of government 
officials who had access to the material that was disclosed and who now 
must be interviewed.'' The fact that details about these leak 
investigations are themselves being leaked does not inspire me with 
confidence that we are on the right track.
  Furthermore, according to the Post, citing ``officials who spoke on 
the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter,'' 
the two pending investigations focus on the Associated Press article 
about a disrupted terrorist bomb plot by al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen 
and The New York Times' report about the Obama administration's role in 
authorizing cyberattacks against Iran. In other words, there appears to 
be no probe of the leaks relating to U.S. drone operations. Apparently, 
``officials'' told the Post that such an investigation had not been 
  Why not?
  With the passage of time, the need for the Attorney General to 
appoint an outside special counsel to independently investigate and, 
where appropriate, hold accountable those found responsible for these 
egregious violations of our national security, becomes clearer and 
stronger. At the end of the day, can we really expect the 
administration to investigate itself impartially in the midst of an 
election on a matter as highly sensitive and damaging as this leaks 
case, especially when those responsible could themselves be members of 
the administration? Plus, we are not talking about an isolated instance 
of one leak. As my colleague, the chairperson of the Senate 
Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein rightly observed, we 
are talking about ``an avalanche of leaks'' on national security 
matters--the implications of which are severe.
  To date, I have seen no evidence that suggests that the American 
people should rely on the direction that the White House has chosen to 
provide a full and timely investigation of these leaks. For these 
reasons, I once again call on the appointment of an outside special 
counsel to do so today. Just as former Senator Biden and former Senator 
Obama called for a special counsel in the case of Valerie Plame, a case 
far less severe as far as the implications to our national security are 
  As I said at the beginning of my comments, I have been around this 
town for quite a while. I, like the rest of my colleagues, have never 
seen leaks of this nature at such a high level concerning ongoing 
covert operations. They deserve an investigation which will have 
credibility with the American people. So far that has not been 
forthcoming from this administration.
  I yield the floor.