There's concern among some U.S. lawmakers that recent national security leaks that allegedly originated in the White House may have, among other consequences, jeopardized the security of Americans conducting the operations.
The leaks revealed President Barack Obama's kill list for terrorists, a double agent inside al Qaeda in Yemen who foiled a bomb plot, as well as the Obama administration's cyber attacks on Iran.
While information leaking in Washington isn't new, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., told Fox News Sunday that the recent successions of leaks are the worst. He chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. (Read the show's full transcript.)
The recent series of leaks are the worst in a long time, Lieberman said.
Two U.S. attorneys, one Bush appointee, have been appointed by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an investigation. However, Lieberman said that a special counsel is needed to shun any appearance of a conflict of interest.
Damage To National Security
It is not so much the appearance of a conflict of interest that bothers Lieberman as his believe that the leaks could comprise national security and put Americans' lives in danger.
In my opinion, an enormous amount has been done to our national security, he said. I mean, in the case of the cyber attack in Iraq, if the articles are true, this is the first confirmation of that. Some methods of how it was carried were telegraphed to the Iran. I think there's a danger that it may legitimize an Iranian or a terrorist counter cyber attack on us because we did it.
Similarly, Lieberman added that the in the case of the recent underwear bomb, a plot by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to blow up a U.S.-bound flight, the leaks have exposed that operation. He also said that the person who infiltrated the militant group, as well as his family, may potentially be at risk.
Lieberman worries that the unauthorized release of information could discourage other foreign intelligence from working on future covert operations with the U.S..
So, yes, these leaks compromise the security of every American, Lieberman said.
The president is the one who decides whether to pull the trigger on, or capture, those who are wanted in countries where the U.S. isn't at war. He gave the orders to raid Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, which led to the killing of a terrorist who eluded American forces for years.
The New York Times reported that Obama oversees his administration's selection of terrorists for its kill list. According to that report, weekly meetings are held where the suspects are reviewed on what's been described as terrorist baseball cards and decision is made to target them with drone attacks.
Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation magazine, in an op-ed in The Washington Post, wrote that over the last three years at least 239 drone attacks were carried out by the Obama administratio, compared to the 44 approved under President George W. Bush.
Leaks Give Away Sources, Methods
Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA director, told Fox News Sunday that he thinks the leaks give away some of the sources and methods of the U.S.
Earlier this month, The Times reported that Obama ordered a secret wave of cyber attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities during his first month in office. It was a computer worm known as Stuxnet, created by the U.S. and Israel, and at one point in times during the attack, America lost control of the virus.
The Times' Washington Correspondent David Sanger, who conducted the interviews for his book, said he interviewed several anonymous intelligences sources in order to get the information. Obama ordered that the attacks be accelerated after a programming error caused the worm to spread to the Internet, according to a piece based in the interviews for the book. The mishap worried Obama, who wondered if the operation was compromised and if they attacks should stop. However, he was given evidence that Stuxnet was still doing damage and that it was unclear how much the Iranians knew about that attack.
The Iranians may know now and Hayden said the leaks don't have to be truthful to be harmful.
That's taunting the Iranians, Hayden said. I mean, it sort of legitimates an Iranian response, whether the story is true or false.
The Public's Right To Know
Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, on Saturday warned that the White House policy threatens to rob the public of vital information. She was speaking at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Boston.
Abramson said some reporters who have covered national security told her that the environment in Washington has never been more hostile to reporting.
David Plouffe, senior advisor to the President, told Fox News Sunday, that Obama has zero tolerance for the recent kind of national security leak.
We take this seriously, as anything can be taken, Plouffe said. No one more than the president relies on this information to make good decisions and keep this country safe.
It is unclear whether investigators will ask Obama to provide testimony in the case, as Plouffe said he won't get into that right now.
Do you think the unauthorized revelation of the U.S. secret attacks compromise national security? Tell us in the comment box below.
Laura is a U.S. politics reporter for the International Business Times. She was always fascinated by the BBC World News each morning on the radio in Jamaica. That, and a love...