Two senators leading the charge for an independent investigation into a flurry of recent intelligence leaks said that two U.S. Attorneys hand-picked by Attorney General Eric Holder aren’t independent enough to lead the probes.
“There has been appropriate, bipartisan criticism regarding the devastating and orchestrated leaks of classified information involving some of our most sensitive counter-terrorism operations,” Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement late Friday night. “These breaches of national security have compromised operations, strained relationships with allies, and put lives at risk. It is imperative that an independent investigation be conducted where the results could be accepted with a high degree of confidence and without a hint of political considerations.”
McCain (R-Ariz.) said this week that disclosure of information on classified intelligence operations has “now been leaked by the administration at the highest levels at the White House and that’s not acceptable,” adding that the administration was likely doing so in an effort to boost President Obama’s foreign policy credentials. This sparked outcry from Obama himself, who called the suggestion “offensive.”
Holder announced late Friday that U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. and U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein had been appointed by Holder to investigate “recent instances of possible unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”
“We are confident the two U.S. Attorneys hand-picked by Attorney General Holder are fine men,” said Graham and McCain. “However, if there was ever a situation where we needed an outside special counsel that would enjoy bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust, it is now.”
“There are many capable attorneys who have earned respect from the public and both parties,” the senators continue. “We strongly believe a special counsel should be appointed outside Justice Department control and influence. Someone in the mold of a Bob Bennett who is extremely competent and enjoys bipartisan respect.”
Former Utah Sen. Bennett has been think-tanking at the Bipartisan Policy Center and the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs since his defeat by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).
Holder said the two attorneys, who will be directing separate investigations currently being conducted by the FBI, “are fully authorized to prosecute criminal violations discovered as a result of their investigations and matters related to those violations, consult with members of the Intelligence Community and follow all appropriate investigative leads within the executive and legislative branches of government.”
“This investigation involves some of the most serious breaches of national security in recent memory and any investigation must be done in a manner free and clear of political considerations,” Graham and McCain said. “The recent decision of the Attorney General falls far short of what is needed and is not an adequate substitute for an outside special counsel.”
Other Republican lawmakers close to the scandal had guarded reactions to Holder’s move, though McCain and Graham stood apart in outright panning the appointments.
“I hope the Justice Department will bring the full force of the law against these criminals,” House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said. “We need to send a clear message to anyone who considers leaking sensitive information and putting Americans at risk: if you leak classified information, you will face jail time.”
“The investigation must be complete, fair and balanced,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said. “These US attorneys will need to have the ability to follow the investigation wherever it may lead. I look forward to hearing how they will be independent from the chain of command.”