The two investigations focus on an Associated Press article about a disrupted terrorist bomb plot by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen and a New York Times report about the Obama administration’s role in authorizing cyberattacks against Iran, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. There have been reports that authorities were probing the leaking of information about CIA drone operations, but officials said such an investigation had not been requested.
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, officials said. But that slow pace is also butting up against increasing urgency on Capitol Hill, where Republican lawmakers are alleging that the White House has purposefully disclosed classified information to reporters to burnish President Obama’s national security credentials ahead of the November election.
Last week, Holder appointed a pair of veteran prosecutors to lead the investigations, which had been overseen by his national security division. Republican members of Congress swiftly accused Holder of a conflict of interest in his choice of U.S. attorneys Ronald C. Machen Jr. of the District and Rod J. Rosenstein of Maryland because they ultimately report to the Justice Department.
“This is a very big deal,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told Holder at a Senate hearing Tuesday. “You’re handling it in a way that creates suspicions. . . . And all I’m asking is for you to find a lawyer in this country that all of us could say, ‘That is the right person to do this job,’ rather than you picking two people and telling us about how great they are.”
Holder made it clear he was not changing course.
The two investigations follow a string of federal prosecutions involving leaks of classified material during the Obama administration. The administration has launched more such prosecutions than all previous administrations combined.
The cases have included ones against a former CIA officer charged with disclosing information about agency personnel; another former CIA official charged with leaking U.S. intelligence on Iran; and a contractor at the State Department indicted for providing a reporter with classified information on North Korea.
In April 2010, former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake was charged with willful retention of classified information, obstruction of justice and false statements in a case involving alleged waste and mismanagement. And in December 2009, Shamai Leibowitz, a former FBI contract linguist, pleaded guilty to providing classified FBI documents to an Internet blogger.