Leak Furor Persists in Senate

08.02.12 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In a floor statement yesterday, Sen. John McCain reiterated his criticism of the Obama White House for allegedly leaking classified information that endangered national security, and he repeated his call for appointment of a special counsel to independently investigate the claims.

Sen. McCain cited a particular incident in 2009 described by David Sanger of the New York Times in which a senior National Security Council official arranged a special briefing for Sanger in the Presidential suite at a Pittsburgh hotel about a secret nuclear site in Iran.

“I wonder how many people have the key to the Presidential suite in that Pittsburgh, PA hotel? We might want to start there” in the search for the leakers, Sen. McCain said.

But it turns out that the resulting news story that appeared in the Times did not include classified information, and the discovery of the Iranian nuclear site was the subject of a public briefing the very next day.  See “John McCain swings at White House over 2009 Iran leak to David Sanger,” by Josh Gerstein, Politico, August 1.

An ongoing FBI investigation into leaks of classified information is “casting a distinct chill over press coverage of national security issues as agencies decline routine interview requests and refuse to provide background briefings,” writes Scott Shane in the New York Times.

The congressional response to leaks of classified information is disingenuous or hypocritical, wrote Walter Pincus in “Lawmakers, media are duplicitous on leaks,” Washington Post, August 1.

“While the Pentagon insists it’s not doing anything that should alarm reporters, it has yet to offer a direct response as to exactly what it means when it says it’s going to monitor news reports for unauthorized disclosures.”  See “Defense vague on plan to plug press leaks” by Austin Wright and Leigh Munsil, Politico, August 1.

A correction:  Secrecy News stated yesterday that “the Senate Intelligence Committee bill would not apply to White House officials.”  That’s not quite right.  While most of the proposed anti-leak measures apply only to “elements of the intelligence community,” a few provisions such as Section 501 (requiring notification of authorized release of classified information) would apply to the entire executive branch, including the White House.