WASHINGTON -- A group of 31 senators signed a letter to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. Tuesday requesting the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation into the source of a series of national security leaks that were eventually published by the New York Times.
In a letter circulated by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the senators called the leaks “stunning” and said: “If there were ever a case requiring an outside special counsel with bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust, this is it.”
The scandal was prompted by two New York Times reports, which exposed U.S. cyber attacks against Iran and the White House’s secret “kill list.” Some, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have speculated the articles could have been the result of politically motivated leaks.
“We need a special counsel. We need someone who the American people can trust, and we need to stop the leaks that are endangering the lives of those men and women who are serving our country with valor our courage. And they deserve a lot better,” McCain said at a news conference with Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).
“Where is the outrage in this administration?” Wicker asked. “Where is there any indication that within the Obama administration officials are outraged at the criminal leaks of classified information that put our agents and our friends at risk?”
To bolster their claim that Holder’s appointment of two U.S. attorneys to lead the investigation was insufficient, the letter brings up President Obama’s and Vice President Joe Biden’s statements on past investigations, including those involving Jack Abramoff and Valerie Plame.
Citing then-Sen. Obama’s call for a special counsel to lead the investigation into Abramoff, which in Obama’s words involved a “systemic corruption within the highest levels of government,” the letter requests that the administration follow suit regarding the recent leaks.
Biden, in 2007, said of an investigation into the destruction of video showing CIA enhanced interrogation techniques that the “easiest, straightest thing to do is to take it out of the political realm, appoint a special prosecutor and let them decide.”
Holder, while announcing the appointment of U.S. Attys. Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Rod J. Rosenstein, promised that they would “doggedly follow the facts and the evidence in the pursuit of justice, wherever it leads.”
In addition, the FBI is conducting an independent investigation, and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper announced Monday that intelligence agencies will begin to more actively pursue non-criminal leaks and require that employees undergo polygraph testing about whether they’ve previously leaked information to the media.
Obama has strongly condemned the leaks, saying the administration would ensure that those found guilty would “suffer consequences.”
“We’re dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and the security of the American people, our families, or our military personnel or our allies,” he said during a news conference June 8. “We don’t play with that, and it is a source of consistent frustration, not just for my administration, but for previous administrations when this stuff happens.
But for the 31 senators, that’s not enough.
“We are not talking about a single, isolated instance of a leak; rather, we are looking at ‘an avalanche of leaks’ on national security matters,” they said, contending that the matter is too important to be open to “a conflict of interest, the specter of political influence or other extraordinary circumstances.”