FBI Looks Into Possible White House Leaks

By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz
By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz

(CNN) -- The FBI has launched an investigation into apparent leaks of classified information involving a U.S. cyberwarfare program against Iran, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson had no comment on the reported investigation.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was informed that an FBI inquiry is under way.

The senator from Georgia and other leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees issued a joint statement Tuesday deploring the apparent leaks.

"In recent weeks, we have become increasingly concerned at the continued leaks regarding sensitive intelligence programs and activities, including specific details of sources and methods," said Chambliss; Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-California; Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan; and Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, in the statement.

"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 worldwide."

The House and Senate Intelligence Committee leaders said they intended "to review potential legislation to strengthen authorities and procedures with respect to access to classified information and disclosure of it, as well as to ensure that criminal and administrative measures are taken each time sensitive information is improperly disclosed."

"We also intend to press for the executive branch to take tangible and demonstrable steps to detect and deter intelligence leaks, and to fully, fairly, and impartially investigate the disclosures that have already taken place."

The White House pushed back against suggestions it could be leaking classified information for political purposes.

"This administration takes all appropriate and necessary steps to prevent leaks of classified information or sensitive information that could risk ongoing counterterrorism or intelligence operations," Carney said Wednesday aboard Air Force One as the president traveled to campaign events on the West Coast.

"Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible."

A report in The New York Times on Friday provided classified details of what it described as a U.S cyberattack targeting Iran's nuclear centrifuge program.

Since shortly after he became president, Barack Obama has ordered cyberattacks targeting computers that run Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities, the report said, attributing the information to participants in the program.

The White House has said it did not authorize any leak of such information.

Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, also was among those expressing concerns.

"Let me be clear: I am fully in favor of transparency in government. I have spent my entire career in Congress furthering that principle," McCain, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday.

"But what separates these sorts of leaks from, say, the whistle-blowing that fosters open government or a free press is that these leaks expose no violations of law, abuses of authority, or threats to public health or safety. They are merely gratuitous and utterly self-serving."

McCain said Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin has agreed to hold a hearing on the matter.

Some Republicans, including McCain, have called for a special prosecutor to investigate.

But Deputy Attorney General James Cole, in response to a question from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Wednesday that he does not believe a special prosecutor is needed in this case.

Chambliss said he expects the FBI to conduct a "full and fair investigation, including a review of administration officials who have been quoted anonymously or directly."

Feinstein said she had discussed the possibility of a joint hearing with Levin.

McCain, ranking Republican on the committee, said the alleged leaks are detrimental to U.S. security. He accused the White House of releasing the information to boost the president's political standing ahead of the November election.

"With the leaks that these articles were based on, our enemies now know much more than they even did the day before they came out about important aspects of the nation's unconventional offensive capabilities and how we use them," McCain said on the Senate floor.

"Such disclosures can only undermine similar ongoing or future operations and, in this sense, compromise national security. For this reason, regardless of how politically useful these leaks may be to the president, they have to stop."

On Tuesday, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration believes that classified information should remain secret for a reason, and "publicizing it would pose a threat to our national security."

McCain and Chambliss cited other recent leaks as well, including information on the administration's efforts to expand its drone program and the president's involvement in "kill lists" against militants in Yemen and Pakistan.

Also, the public airing of details surrounding a recently disrupted bomb plot in Yemen by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula angered intelligence and national security officials.

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