U.S. District Attorney Eric Holder announced Friday he is appointing two special prosecutors to look into possible unauthorized disclosures of classified intelligence and security information by government employees.
"The unauthorized disclosure of classified information can compromise the security of this country and all Americans, and it will not be tolerated," Holder said in a statement released Friday.
"The Justice Department takes seriously cases in which government employees and contractors entrusted with classified information are suspected of willfully disclosing such classified information to those not entitled to it, and we will do so in these cases as well."
U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. and U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein will both lead separate FBI investigations into the leaks.
"I have every confidence in their abilities to doggedly follow the facts and the evidence in the pursuit of justice wherever it leads," the Holder statement added.
The names of intended American counterterrorism targets for assassination and the U.S.'s involvement in a cyberattack on Iran's nuclear program were two pieces of vital intelligence information leaked to media sources such as the New York Times.
Some accused White House sources of intentionally leaking the information for political reasons, saying the data would paint Obama as decisive and a strong commander-in-chief during an election year.
In response to these accusations, President Barack Obama told reporters assembled in the White House briefing room, "the notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong."
He added the White House and he himself have "zero tolerance" for such leaks, which make U.S. soldiers' and his own job more difficult. "And people I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me here approach this office."
Calls for an investigation into the leaks have been coming from multiple sources in recent days, most notably from leaders on both sides of the isle in Congress, who say the information must have some from government sources.
"The accelerating pace of such disclosures, the sensitivity of the matters in question, and the harm caused to our national security interests is alarming and unacceptable," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein said in a joint statement released with fellow Republican and Democrat committee members this week.
Former Obama presidential contender John McCain (R-Ariz.) also weighed in Friday, saying, "At today's press conference, the President sought to distance his Administration from the leaks of highly sensitive and classified national security information recently published in the media."
"However, the journalists themselves identify some of the sources for their articles as 'administration officials'...What the President did not unequivocally say today is that none of the classified or highly sensitive information recently leaked to the media came from the White House."
McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham in a joint statement released Saturday welcomed the announcement of the special prosecutor appointments, but added a non-Justice Department entity should be present.
"We are confident the two U.S. Attorneys hand-picked by Attorney General Holder are fine men," the McCain/Graham statement said.
"However, if there was ever a situation where we needed an outside special counsel that would enjoy bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust, it is now...We strongly believe a special counsel should be appointed outside Justice Department control and influence."
The Justice Department has not responded yet to these requests.
by RTT Staff Writer
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