[Congressional Record Volume 158, Number 83 (Tuesday, June 5, 2012)]
[Pages S3717-S3720]

                             Security Leaks

  Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, over the past few months there has been 
a disturbing stream of articles in the media and common among them, they 
cite elite, classified, or highly sensitive information in what appears 
to be a broader effort by the administration to paint a portrait of the 
President of the United States as a strong leader on national security 
issues--information for which there is no legitimate reason whatsoever 
to believe should be in the public domain. Indeed, the release of this 
information in these articles harms our national security and puts in 
danger the lives of the men and women who are sworn to protect it.
  What price did the administration apparently pay to proliferate such 
a Presidential persona--highly valued in an election year? Access. 
Access to senior administration officials who appear to have served as 
anonymous sources divulging extremely sensitive military and 
intelligence information and operations.
  With the leaks that these articles were based on, our enemies now 
know much more than they did the day before they came out about 
important aspects of our Nation's unconventional offensive capabilities 
and how we use them. Such disclosures can only undermine similar 
ongoing or future operations and, in this sense, compromise our 
national security. For this reason, regardless of how politically 
useful these leaks may have been to the President, they have to stop. 
These leaks have to stop.
  The fact that this administration would aggressively pursue leaks 
perpetrated by a 22-year-old Army private in the Wikileaks matter and 
former CIA employees in other leaks cases but apparently sanction leaks 
made by senior administration officials for political purposes is 
simply unacceptable. It also calls for the need for a special counsel 
to investigate what happened.
  I am also pleased to report that Chairman Carl Levin has agreed, at 
my request, to hold a hearing on these leaks in the Senate Armed 
Services Committee. The Senate Armed Services Committee has a 
responsibility here, and I am grateful that Chairman Levin has agreed 
to hold a hearing.
  In the latest of the recently published articles--published on June 
1, 2012, just a few days ago--the New York Times documented in rich 
detail the President's secret decision to accelerate cyber attacks on 
Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities with a computer virus that came to 
be known as Stuxnet. The author of the article, Mr. David Sanger, 
clearly states that former and current American officials spoke to him 
but refused to do so on the record because the program is both highly 
classified and parts of it are ongoing. I repeat, the administration 
officials discussed a most highly classified operation that is both 
highly classified and still ongoing, an operation that was clearly one 
of the most tightly held national security secrets in our country until 
now. And I might point out to my colleagues that this is all about the 
Iranian effort to acquire nuclear weapons, which is one of the most 
difficult national security challenges this Nation faces.
  Other recent articles divulged critical and classified information 
regarding U.S. plans to expand the secret drone campaign against 
terrorists in Yemen and the Horn of Africa. One of these pieces was a 
sorry excuse for journalism that the New York Times published on May 
29, 2012, which Charles Krauthammer rightly observed should have been 
entitled ``Barack Obama--Drone Warrior.''
  Finally, there was a recent so-called article about the so-called 
``kill list''--the highly classified list of counterterrorism targets 
against whom the President has authorized lethal action--in other 
words, to kill. It was reported in that article on May 29, 2012, in the 
New York Times that David Axelrod, the President's chief political 
adviser--who is running the reelection campaign as we speak--began 
attending the meetings in which this list was discussed. I repeat, the 
President's campaign manager was present and attending the meetings 
where lists of possible people to be eliminated through drone strikes 
was discussed and decisions were made. The only conceivable motive for 
such damaging and compromising leaks of classified information is that 
it makes the President look good.
  These are not the only times I have been frustrated about national 
security-related leaks coming from this administration. The 
administration similarly helped journalists publish some of the highly 
sensitive tactics, techniques, and procedures that enabled our special 
operations forces--including the classified name of the unit involved--
to carry out the operation to kill Osama bin Laden last year. It is 
entirely possible that this flurry of anonymous boasting was 
responsible for divulging the identity of Dr. Shakil Afridi, the 
Pakistani doctor who assisted us in our search for Osama bin Laden and 
whose public exposure led to his detention and a 33-year prison 
sentence in Pakistan. His name was divulged by members of the 
administration, and he has been basically given a death sentence, a 33-
year sentence in prison in Pakistan. Our friends are not the only ones 
who read the New York Times; our enemies do, too.
  Let me be clear. I am fully in favor of transparency in government. I 
have spent my entire career in Congress furthering that principle. But 
what separates these sorts of leaks from, say, the whistleblowing that 
fosters open government or a free press is that these leaks expose no 
violations of law, abuses of authority, or threats to public health or 
safety. They are gratuitous and utterly self-serving.
  These leaks may inhibit the Nation's ability to employ the same or 
similar measures in its own defense in the future. How effectively the 
United States can conduct unmanned drone strikes against belligerents, 
cyber attacks against Iran's nuclear program, or military operations 
against terrorists in the future depends on the secrecy with which 
these programs are conducted. Such activities are classified or 
enormously sensitive for good reason--in many cases, for reasons 
related to operational security or diplomacy. Their public disclosure 
should have no place in how this or any other administration conducts 
itself. These are the kinds of operations and intelligence matters no 
one should discuss publicly, not even the President.

  With this in mind, I call on the President to take immediate and 
decisive action, including the appointment of a special counsel, to 
aggressively investigate the leak of any classified information on 
which the recent stories were based and, where appropriate, to 
prosecute those responsible. A special counsel will be needed because 
the articles on the U.S. cyber attacks on Iran and expanded plans by 
the United States to use drones in Yemen were sourced to--and I quote 
from the articles--``participants in the [cyber-attack] program'' and 
``members of the [P]resident's national security team.'' In the cyber 
attacks article, in particular, the author stated that ``current and 
former American officials'' spoke to him anonymously about the program 
because ``the effort remains highly classified and parts of it continue 
to this day.''
  What could be worse?
  The suggestion that misconduct occurred within the executive branch 
is right there in black and white and is why a special counsel is 
  As part of this investigation, this special counsel should also 
scrutinize the book from which the New York Times cyber attacks article 
was adapted, which was just released yesterday, for other improper or 
illegal disclosures.
  Where classified information regarding cyber operations was leaked, 
the President should assess any damage that those leaks may have caused 
to national security and how that damage can be mitigated.
  In my view, the administration should be taking these leaks, 
apparently perpetrated by senior administration officials, as seriously 
as it pursued those made by relatively low government personnel such as 
the Army private in the WikiLeaks matter or the former CIA employee who 
provided the New York Times with classified information about U.S. 
attempts to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program. The failure of the 
administration to do so would confirm what today is only an inference--
that these leaks were, in fact, sanctioned by the administration to 
serve a pure political purpose.
  As I continue to closely monitor developments in this matter, I hope 
to be proved wrong.
  There is a Wall Street Journal article, ``FBI Probes Leaks about 
Cyberattacks by U.S.'' I am glad the FBI is going to probe that. It 
says Mr. Sanger, in an appearance on CBS News ``Face the Nation,'' 
suggested that deliberate White House leaking ``wasn't my experience.''

[[Page S3719]]

  He added:

       I spent a year working on the story from the bottom up and 
     then went to the administration and told them what I had. 
     Then they had to make some decisions about how much they 
     wanted to talk about . . . I'm sure the political side of the 
     White House probably likes reading about the President acting 
     with drones and cyber and so forth. National security side 
     has got very mixed emotions about it because these are 
     classified programs.

  Mr. Sanger again is authenticating that senior members of the White 
House and our intelligence community decided to talk to him about 
classified programs. Their motivation for doing so--perhaps we don't 
know particularly at this time, but I don't think one could argue that 
these articles have all conveyed the impression that the President is a 
very strong warrior in carrying out his responsibilities as Commander 
in Chief, something I have disputed as far as Iraq, Afghanistan, and 
other national security issues, which I will discuss on another day.
  I don't know how one could draw any conclusion but that senior 
members of this administration in the national security arena have 
either leaked or confirmed information of the most highly classified 
and sensitive nature. Some of these leaks have concerned ongoing 
operations. Since they were highly classified and sensitive 
information, that classification was there for a reason--the reason 
being that if that information was classified, it could harm our 
national security.
  These are very serious actions on their part. They are very serious 
actions when ongoing operations in the war against terror and the issue 
of Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons could trigger attacks either 
by Israel or the United States to prevent such an eventuality. We now 
find leaks which have exposed, not only to the American people but to 
the Iranians as well, exactly what American activity is of the most 
sensitive nature. This is not a proud day for the United States of 
  I ask unanimous consent that following the remarks of Senator 
Chambliss, he and I be permitted to engage in a colloquy.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Casey). Without objection, it is so 
  (Disturbance in the Visitors' Galleries)
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia.
  Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I wish to thank my friend from Arizona 
for his very direct comments on this very sensitive issue. As vice 
chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I can say 
without a doubt that these ongoing leaks of classified information are 
extraordinarily harmful to our intelligence operations.
  Every day we ask our intelligence officers and agents to be out there 
on the frontlines, putting their life in harm's way, gathering 
information, meeting sources, and using a variety of highly sensitive 
collection techniques. Depending on where these officers are around the 
world, the operating environment can be both dangerous and downright 
hostile. This means they have to be as much or more on guard to ensure 
that operations don't get blown and their own lives and the lives of 
our sources are not jeopardized.
  But each time classified information shows up in the media, the 
intelligence community's ability to do these dangerous assignments 
becomes that much more difficult. Not only do these leaks tell our 
enemies how we do our jobs and therefore how they can block or impede 
our efforts, but with each leak our friends and allies are left to 
wonder how much they can trust us with their own secrets.
  These are not hypothetical concerns. Senator McCain alluded to a 
couple of anecdotes. Also, a few weeks ago, in the middle of an ongoing 
operation, we all--friends and enemies alike--learned the details of 
efforts to disrupt an al-Qaida plot to bomb a civilian aircraft. Up to 
that point, most Members of Congress knew nothing about this operation. 
That is how sensitive we were told it was. Unfortunately, rather than 
quietly recognize our--and, frankly, our partners'--successes and move 
on with the business of protecting the American people, some in the 
administration apparently decided that scoring political points in an 
election year outweighed protecting our intelligence operations as well 
as our liaison relationship with our intelligence partners around the 

  Whether we could have learned more from an operation that was cut 
short by this leak will now never be known, but we have been warned by 
some of our allies they will think twice before they share highly 
classified information with us.
  Unfortunately, the leak of the airline plot was no isolated incident. 
From kill lists and bin Laden movies to cyber warfare, it appears 
nothing is off-limits, nothing is too secret, no operation is too 
sensitive, and no source is too valuable to be used as a prop in this 
election year posturing. The doctor associated with the bin Laden 
operation appears to be paying the price for this posturing. Following 
public disclosures of his involvement, he has been sentenced to 33 
years in prison--a true life sentence of 33 years in prison in 
Pakistan. This hardly provides incentive for anyone else to help us.
  These disclosures--whether quietly sanctioned or not--are simply 
unacceptable, and they are against the law. This administration reminds 
us repeatedly that they are prosecuting more people for leaking 
classified information than ever before, and I support that effort. But 
just as we hold ordinary government employees accountable for violating 
their oaths to protect our Nation's secrets, we must also hold the most 
senior administration officials accountable. Recently, the FBI began an 
investigation into the scenario surrounding this latest bomb plot, and 
I applaud the FBI's efforts. Following the public disclosure in the 
press reports on comments made by senior administration officials, I 
sent a letter to Director Mueller and asked him to please include this 
aspect of these leaks in his investigation. I received a letter back 
today that he is indeed going to do that, and I applaud that. I don't 
know whether the reports are true. I have no idea. But if they are, 
they are serious violations of the law having been conducted by senior 
administration officials.
  Beyond that, we still have to do more. So today I join with my good 
friend Senator McCain from Arizona in calling for the appointment of a 
special counsel to investigate this pattern of recent leaks. Leaks 
should never be tolerated, but leaking for political advantage is 
especially troubling. There must be swift and clear accountability for 
those responsible for playing this dangerous game with our national 
  The Senator from Arizona has been around here a lot longer than me. 
He has been involved in the world of national security for many years, 
both on the frontline himself as well as a Member of this body.
  Has the Senator from Arizona ever seen anything as egregious as the 
purported leaks that are coming from this administration on these 
highly classified and sensitive number of programs that we have seen in 
the last few days and weeks?
  Mr. McCAIN. As my colleague well knows, the leaks are part of the way 
the environment exists in our Nation's capital, and leaks will always 
be part of the relationship between media and both elected and 
appointed officials. I understand that. I think my colleague would 
agree there have been times where abuses have been uncovered and 
exposed because of leaks so this information was made public, and we 
have always applauded that.
  There has also continuously been a problem of overclassification of 
information so government officials don't have to--be it Republican or 
Democratic administrations--discuss what is going on publicly.
  But I have to tell my friend, I do not know a greater challenge that 
the United States faces in the short term than this entire issue of 
Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. The President of the United States said 
it would be ``unacceptable.'' We all know the Israelis are going 
through an agonizing decisionmaking process as to whether they need to 
attack Iran before they reach ``breakout,'' which means they have 
enough parts and equipment to assemble a nuclear weapon in a short 
period of time.
  Here we are exposing something that, frankly, I was never told about. 
I was never informed of Stuxnet, and it is ongoing, at least according 
to the media reports. So aren't the Iranians going to

[[Page S3720]]

learn from this? I would ask my colleague, aren't the Iranians going to 
become more and more aware?
  Drone strikes are now one of the leading methods of going after al-
Qaida and those radical terrorists who are intent on destroying 
America. So now al-Qaida and our enemies, both real and others who plan 
to be, are very aware of the entire decisionmaking process in the White 
  I guess the most disturbing part--and I would ask my friend--it is 
one thing to have a private, in the WikiLeaks matter, who had access to 
it, low-level members of certain agencies, one in the CIA who I know 
was prosecuted, but this is, according to the articles that are 
written, the highest levels in the White House are confirming this 
classified information and maybe even volunteering it, for all we know.
  But there, obviously, has been a very serious breach of perhaps the 
two most important challenges we face: the Iranian nuclear process and, 
of course, the continued presence and efforts of al-Qaida to attack 
  I wonder if my friend from Georgia would agree that these are two of 
the most challenging national security issues America faces.
  Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I think my friend from Arizona is 
exactly right. There have been rumors of the drone program for actually 
a couple years now, maybe back almost into some period back into the 
Bush administration. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, we were 
always told--and rightfully so--this is a covert program and we simply 
cannot discuss it. So we never have. Now we pick up the newspaper, and 
over the last several weeks we have seen the President of the United 
States discussing the drone program. We have seen the Attorney General 
of the United States discussing the drone program. We have seen the 
National Security Adviser discussing the drone program. Yet, 
technically, we as Members of Congress--particularly members of the 
Intelligence Committee--cannot talk about this because they are covert 
  So there is simply no question but that our enemy is better prepared 
today because of these various leaks and public disclosures.
  Let me move to the other issue the Senator has talked about, though, 
the issue of the nuclear weaponization of Iran. There is no more 
important national security issue in the world today. It is a daily 
discussion at the United Nations, it is a daily discussion at the 
Pentagon, it is a daily discussion in Israel and in virtually every 
part of the Middle East that we cannot allow for the country of Iran to 
become nuclear weaponized. Here, all of a sudden, we see public 
disclosure, whether all of it is true or not, in a newspaper article on 
the front page of an American newspaper, detailing a purported program 
of attack against that Iranian program.
  What are our friends in the intelligence community to think? What are 
our friends in Israel to think? How much cooperation are they going to 
now give us from the standpoint of disclosing information to the U.S. 
Intelligence community on any program if they can expect that--if this 
is, in fact, true--what they tell us is going to be on the front page 
of the New York Times? Not only that, but it is not coming from some 
private who went on the Internet and found a bunch of classified 
documents. It is coming from statements made, supposedly, by high-level 
administration officials.
  It puts us in a real--not a quandary. This is not a quandary. It puts 
us in a position of having to defend ourselves with our allies over 
certain statements that purportedly are made by high senior 
administration officials. I simply can never remember a scenario of 
information being leaked where we have the level of administration 
officials that now supposedly have made these comments, and they are 
quoted by name in some instances.
  Mr. McCAIN. Could I finally add, the disturbing aspect of this is 
that one could draw the conclusion, from reading these articles, that 
it is an attempt to further the President's political ambitions for the 
sake of his election at the expense of our national security. That is 
what is disturbing about this entire situation.
  I see our friend from Oregon is waiting to illuminate us, so I yield 
the floor. I thank my friend from Oregon for his patience.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.