An influential U.S. senator has added his voice to a growing chorus urging an independent probe of national security leaks to the news media.The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Joseph Lieberman, appeared on U.S. television Sunday.
Last week saw Democratic senators block a Republican motion calling for a special prosecutor to investigate recent disclosures of classified information pertaining to alleged U.S. activities regarding Iran, use of drone aircraft and the war on terror.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Independent who nevertheless is part of the chamber’s Democratic majority, is now siding with Republicans on the matter.
"The recent series of leaks are the worst in a long time. I think we are on a slippery slope where people think there is no accountability if you leak. And we have got to change that. We do need a special counsel," he said.
Lieberman appeared on Fox News Sunday. He said the leaks have harmed U.S. national security.
"An enormous amount of damage has been done to our national security," he said. "In the case of the cyber attack on Iran, if the articles are true, this is the first confirmation of that. Some methods of how it was carried out were telegraphed to the Iranians. I think there is a danger that it may legitimize an Iranian or terrorist counter-cyber attack on us."
Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed federal prosecutors to probe the matter. Echoing many Republican lawmakers, Senator Lieberman said, in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the investigation should be removed from the control of the Obama administration's Justice Department.
A top White House adviser, David Plouffe, disagreed.
"What you have here is a situation where an investigation has been announced by two United States attorneys, including an appointee of [former] President Bush," he said. "We ought to let that investigation proceed rather than turning this into some game of distraction. Let us let that investigation happen. Let the facts come out."
Some White House critics have suggested sensitive material was leaked to bolster public awareness and approval of President Barack Obama’s national security record as he runs for re-election. Plouffe dismissed the allegation, saying the president’s record on foreign affairs, from the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to ending the Iraq war, needs no embellishment.