"Whether these officials are intentionally leaking classified information is not the main point," Coats said on the Senate floor. "If they put themselves in situations where they are discussing or confirming classified information, they must also be held accountable."
"We can be sure that any release before prior to the November presidential election will fuel a firestorm of accusations of political motives," he said.
Coats also outlined several other questions he has, including why the White House held a May 7 conference call with former national security officials, many of whom are "talking heads" on various television shows. He also asked why the identification of a key military officer was released to the bin Laden filmmakers, and why officials can talk to book authors.
Coats is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has said that it is working with the House committee on legislation aimed at curbing intelligence leaks. That effort is a reaction to bipartisan anger over recent leaks related to an Obama administration "kill list" of terrorists, as well as a story about a U.S. cyber attack against Iran. The committees have not yet said what steps they might recommend.
"We plan to move legislation quickly, to include possible action in this year's intelligence authorization act," the committees said last week. "We believe that significant changes are needed, in legislation, in the culture of the agencies that deal with classified information, in punishing leaks, and in the level of leadership across the government to make clear that these types of disclosures will not stand."
— This story was updated at 4:08 p.m.