Sen. John McCain is pressing the case for a special outside counsel over recent White House security leaks, even as President Barack Obama says it is “offensive” and “wrong” to claim his White House would deliberately leak sensitive information for political gain.
The president says his administration has “zero tolerance” for the leaking of sensitive information. He says he has sought investigations of security leaks in the past and will continue to do so.
McCain, on Fox News’ Sean Hannity program, accused the Obama White House of leaking the information to bolster the president's standing on national security in an election year.
Lawmakers have raised alarms following media reports on White House policy on the highly classified targeting of al-Qaida militants by drones and raids and the deploying of a cyber weapon.
Speaking Thursday night on “Hannity,” McCain said he also plans to push for a sense of the Senate resolution, possibly as early as Monday, calling for the appointment of a special counsel.
“We have asked for a special counsel,” the Arizona Republican said. “The Justice Department and the White House have rejected that out of hand.”
He said a Senate resolution would force Democrats and Republicans alike to confront head-on the issue of recent leaks involving cyberattacks on the Iranian nuclear program and the kill targeting of al-Qaida leaders with U.S. drones.
A number of Democrats, including Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, have also labeled the leaks as disturbing.
Levin has agreed to hold hearings on the matter, and Feinstein said Thursday in a joint news conference with Republican members of her committee that the leaks “have to stop” because they “jeopardize American lives.”
The White House has called McCain’s charge that the leaks — in a series of articles and a new book by New York Times reporter David Sanger — may have been authorized by administration officials to enhance President Barack Obama’s election year image “grossly irresponsible.”
But McCain said in response on the Hannity show: “You have to ask yourself, whenever these leaks take place, who benefits? Who benefits from it? And when you look at the [Sanger] book that they are excerpted from, they all go to serve to make the president . . . steadfast, steely-eyed, sitting in the Oval Office deciding who lives and who dies with this kill list.”
McCain said the book, in his view, “obviously paints those who did the leaking in a very favorable light.”
“And look, that’s why we need an investigation,” he continued. “Suppose nothing came out of the White House? Let’s just suppose that. Why wouldn’t the administration want a special counsel to investigate this because of the gravity and the size of this compromise of National Security?”
McCain said concern over the leaks has also spread beyond both parties in Congress. He said he had spoken Thursday to several U.S. allies “who are beside themselves with anger because this exposure of these programs” may have jeopardized their own efforts as well.”
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