Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain reiterated his stance that the recent spate of security breaches originated from the White House and charged that President Barack Obama is ultimately responsible as commander in chief.
Obama lashed out at McCain’s insinuation during a Friday press conference, calling it “offensive.”
“I think it’s offensive what has happened,” McCain responded Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s offensive to those who are doing the incredibly difficult work of intelligence. It’s offensive to our allies who are terribly upset. It’s offensive to the chairpersons . . . of our intelligence committees.”
Meanwhile, two U.S. attorneys are taking over separate FBI investigations into the leaks of national security information that critics have accused the White House of orchestrating to improve President Barack Obama's re-election chances, a claim Obama calls "wrong."
Recent news articles contained details of U.S. involvement in a partially successful computer virus attack on Iran's nuclear program and on the selection of targets for counterterrorism assassination plots.
The leaked information generally painted Obama as a decisive and hands-on commander in chief.
“It’s very clear that this information had to come from the administration,” McCain told host Candy Crowley on Sunday. “It couldn’t have come from anywhere else. Americans should be deeply disturbed about this betrayal of two of our most important, highly classified operations.
"The president may not have done it himself, but the president certainly is responsible as commander-in-chief.”
McCain said the investigation into the matter by two federal lawyers is not sufficient because Attorney General Eric Holder has “no credibility” with Congress. The senator wants a special counsel to be appointed and name-dropped Bob Bennett.
Obama strongly denied that his White House “would purposely release classified national security information” at a Friday news conference. "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.”
On the topic of the upheaval in Syria, McCain said it “cries out for American leadership” and that Obama is “missing in action.”
Syrian government forces pounded parts of central Homs province Sunday in a renewed push to regain control of rebel-held territories, and activists said at least 38 people were killed by shelling there over the past 24 hours.
The main opposition group in exile, the Syrian National Council, elected a Kurdish dissident as its new leader in hopes of overcoming the disorganization and infighting that has hobbled the opposition since the popular revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
The government assault focused on the town of Qusair, near the border with Lebanon, where activists reported at least six people died on Sunday. Three others were killed in shelling of the town of Talbiseh, north of the city of Homs, according to the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Did you hear the president yesterday in his press conference ever mention Syria?” McCain asked. “These people ought to be able to defend themselves. “It is an abrogation of our leadership and, frankly, shameful that we’re not helping them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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