President Barack Obama is upset over a rash of intelligence leaks in Washington, the U.S. intelligence chief said Wednesday, excoriating officials who "get their jollies" from talking to reporters.
The comments by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, follow days of nonstop coverage about U.S. intelligence on a European terrorism threat, even though much of the details of the threat are still secret.
The State Department issued an alert Sunday acknowledging an increased risk of terrorist attack in Europe.
"I was at a meeting yesterday with the president and I was ashamed to have to sit there to have to listen to the president express his great angst about the leaking that's going on here in this town," Clapper told a conference on intelligence matters in Washington.
"And particularly when it's widely quoted, amorphous, anonymous senior intelligence officials, who for whatever reason get their jollies from blabbing to the media."
Clapper, who took the top U.S. intelligence post in August, did not explain which specific leaks, if any, the president complained about.
"I'm not criticizing the media at all -- you're doing your jobs," Clapper said, addressing a conference by the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center,
"But I am criticizing people who are allegedly government officials in responsible positions who have supposedly taken an oath to protect this country."
U.S. officials have warned that public revelations about intelligence information can have unpredictable consequences, potentially undermining law enforcement efforts here at home to monitor and disrupt militants plotting attacks.
"And as the president remarked, the irony here is people engaged in intelligence who turn around talk about it publicly," Clapper said.
Leaks of classified information extend well beyond traditional media. Clapper separately pointed to the fallout from website WikiLeaks' release of more than 70,000 secret military files on the Afghan war in July, one of the biggest security breaches in U.S. history.
WikiLeaks has threatened to publish thousands more documents, and Clapper predicted that the group's actions would have a "chilling effect" on intelligence sharing within the U.S. intelligence community.
"I would observe that the WikiLeaks episode of course represents what I would consider a big yellow flag. I think it's going to have a very chilling effect on the need to share," Clapper said.
Clapper is spearheading efforts to promote greater sharing of information within the U.S. intelligence community, a task given greater urgency after a failed car bombing in New York's Times Square in May and a botched attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day last year.
"We're working on information-sharing initiatives across the board. But the classic dilemma of need to share, versus need to know, is still with us," Clapper said. (Editing by Philip Barbara)
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