Who's responsible for security leaks?

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Someone at the White House is responsible for leaks that have damaged U.S. security, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks," Ms. Feinstein told the World Affairs Council. "I don't know specifically where, but there -- I think they have to begin to understand that and do something about it."

In a remarkable display of bipartisan unity, the Democrat and Republican leaders of the intelligence committees in the House and Senate held a joint news conference June 7 to express alarm about the leaks.

They were spurred to act by a story in The New York Times on June 1 about how the StuxNet computer worm has hampered the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The lawmakers also expressed concern about stories on how the U.S. is using drones to track and kill terrorists; that a plot by an al-Qaida cell in Yemen to blow up airliners had been foiled by a double agent who infiltrated the terror group; and the leak of the identity of the Pakistani physician who helped us locate Osama bin Laden's hideout.

"It is very, very disturbing," Ms. Feinstein said then. "It's dismayed our allies. It puts American lives in jeopardy. It puts our nation's security in jeopardy."

The leaks are "one of the most serious of breaches" he's seen during 10 years of service on the House Intelligence Committee, said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., the ranking Democrat.

The Intelligence Committee chieftains didn't speculate then about who the leaker or leakers might be. But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, pointed his finger at the White House because "the only conceivable motive for such damaging and compromising leaks of classified information is that it makes the president look good."

The news conference generated a brief flurry of stories. In response to them, the director of national intelligence announced an investigation -- that wouldn't extend to the White House. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed two U.S. attorneys -- one an Obama contributor -- to conduct a probe.

Then the story disappeared from the news. Ms. Feinstein's remark, and Mitt Romney's quotation of it in his call for a special prosecutor revived it.

But probably not for long. "No controversy has the potential to do as much long-term damage to the Obama presidency as the White House leaks investigation," said Jonathan Tobin of Commentary magazine. Which, I suspect, is why there has been so little reporting of it.

After being hammered by fellow Democrats and liberal journalists, Ms. Feinstein walked back her remark the next day: "I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information," she said. "I shouldn't have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don't know the source of the leaks."

She knows -- but didn't say -- the list of suspects is very short. One leak recipient said his info came from senior officials. The leak didn't come from the Department of Defense, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said July 19.

"These are leaks obviously leaked by high administration officials in the White House who were in the Situation Room," said columnist Charles Krauthammer. A Romney foreign policy adviser thinks the leaker is national security adviser Thomas Donilon. So does Democratic pollster Pat Caddell.

"It is very obvious the White House is leaking classified information," MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said to David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's chief political strategist.

Mr. Axelrod danced, but didn't deny: "Well, Joe, I can tell you, that the president of the United States did not leak classified information ... didn't authorize the leak of classified information," he said. This was a shift from June, when Mr. Axelrod flatly denied White House involvement.

No one thinks the president called The New York Times himself. Whether he knew what was being done on his behalf is less important than that the leaks be stopped and the leaker(s) punished. But Mr. Obama seems interested only in burying the scandal until the election is safely past.

So, alas, do most in the "mainstream" media, who seem more upset that Mr. Romney would make an issue of the leaks than by the leaks themselves.


Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412 263-1476. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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