But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, appearing along with her House counterpart, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said that an investigation headed by U.S. Attorneys Ronald C. Machen Jr. of the District and Rod J. Rosenstein of Maryland must be “nonpartisan, it has to be vigorous and it’s got to move ahead rapidly.”
The situation presents combustible election-year elements: the delicacy of the administration investigating itself, the unexpected consequences that could come if an independent special counsel were named, and the difficulty of ferreting out leaks to the news media in a town built on the trading of information.
The controversy is over a flurry of stories that have revealed the Obama administration’s active role in clandestine operations against al-Qaeda and other adversaries.
They include the Associated Press’s reporting about a disrupted terrorist plot by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, stories in several publications about the expanded U.S. drone campaign in Yemen and articles in the New York Times that described Obama’s role in approving “kill lists” for CIA drones and the use of computer viruses and cyberweapons against Iran.
Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said that in the absence of a special prosecutor more independent of Holder than the two U.S. attorneys, it will be important to learn whether Machen and Rosenstein have freedom to “go in following your leads where you find them, wherever that takes you.”
He added: “So many asked the question — me included — can you have a U.S. attorney assigned through the attorney general investigate something that is clearly going to be at the most senior levels of all of the executive branch, DoD [Defense Department] and FBI, the attorney general’s office and even the president?”
The intelligence committees are exploring whether new laws are warranted to criminalize leaks of national security information. But Rogers and Feinstein presented an understated and bipartisan response to what has become increasingly hot rhetoric regarding the leaks.
President Obama said on Friday that it was “offensive” to suggest that “my White House would purposely release classified national security information.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Obama’s 2008 opponent and his most outspoken critic on the issue, replied that it was the situation that was “offensive” and repeated his call for a special counsel to investigate.