U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has assigned two federal prosecutors to lead investigations into recent leaks of classified government information.
The two attorneys, Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland will be directing separate investigations currently being conducted by the FBI.
In a statement issued Friday, Holder said the unauthorized disclosure of classified information "will not be tolerated." He said the attorneys will be fully authorized to prosecute any criminal violations they discover.
U.S. lawmakers this week sharply criticized recent leaks to the media about secret U.S. intelligence operations. The information has included reports of U.S. efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear program through cyber attacks and details about the targeted killings of al-Qaida leaders. Some Republicans have suggested the White House purposely leaked the information to boost President Barack Obama's re-election bid.
Speaking to reporters Friday, President Obama said it was "offensive" to think his administration would deliberately release classified information.
"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong," Obama said. "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."
The president said he has "zero tolerance" for the leaking of sensitive information, and that his administration will conduct a thorough investigation, as it has in the past.
On Thursday, the four bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees said they were working on legislation aimed at stopping security leaks.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Republican Lamar Smith of Texas, said in a statement that he hopes the Justice Department brings "the full force of the law" against those responsible. He said officials need to send a clear message that "if you leak classified information, you will face jail time."