By Luke Vargas
A cohort of Senate Republicans stepped forward Tuesday to call for the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to investigate a series of high profile national security leaks.
To date, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two U.S. attorneys to pursue details in the release of information about a thwarted terrorist attack by a Yemeni “underwear bomber” and Iran’s nuclear program, but Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the scope of leaks extends further than those two instances.
Chambliss claimed that the Justice Department and the White House have failed to probe leaks of information pertaining to the Navy Seal raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the outing of a Yemeni double-agent, predator drone protocols, and undercover operations in Africa, among others.
“Where is there any indication that within the Obama administration that officials are outraged at the criminal leaks of classified information that put our agents and our friends at risk?” Chambliss asked.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) repeatedly used the reporting of The New York Times’ David Sanger from his book “Confront and Conceal” against the Obama administration to highlight what the senator alleged were attempts on the part of senior intelligence staff “to make the President of the United States look like a brave, strong leader on national security.”
McCain and his colleagues directed their criticism at the Attorney General’s choice of attorneys, including Ron Machen, who has donated to and volunteered for President Obama’s presidential campaign. “This administration cannot be trusted to investigate itself,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
“An Attorney General has to make a basic decision at the beginning of an administration if they’re going to be the chief law enforcement officer of the country, or whether they’re going to be a political arm of the White House,” Cornyn remarked, repeating one of his longstanding criticisms of Eric Holder. “And time and time again, given the opportunity to make that choice, the Attorney General has made the political choice.”
Holder faces a contempt of Congress vote in the House of Representatives on Thursday, an occasion that, should it pass, McCain characterized as “a serious blow to that individual’s credibility” that may compel Holder to cede to Republican demands.
Should Holder or the White House fail to address Republican concerns about the impartiality of the leak investigation, Cornyn hinted that Congress would be willing to step in and launch an investigation of its own. He said he’s held discussions with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) regarding potential steps the Senate Homeland Security Committee may take to probe the matter.