Pentagon: Leaks about intelligence ‘problematic’

The Pentagon on Thursday criticized leaks to the media about American surveillance flights over Syria, calling them “problematic.”

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A reporter asked Wednesday at the Pentagon press briefing whether the Defense Department could confirm the intelligence-gathering operation, which could lay the groundwork for airstrikes against Islamist fighters.

"Will you be able to confirm them or just wait until the White House leaks it?" a reporter asked.

"I have no intention of announcing that publicly, or confirming it, and I hope the White House doesn't leak that, or I hope nobody leaks that," Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren responded.

"This is intelligence operations, and I'm not going to confirm it," he said.

The Pentagon has a long-standing policy of not discussing its intelligence operations.

Earlier this week, two news outlets reported the military was preparing to conduct the flights over Syria to gather intelligence on Islamist targets. Senior U.S. and administration officials said President Obama authorized the operation.

The Pentagon did not point fingers, but called the leaks about the surveillance flights "problematic."

"I hope nobody leaks it. We talk often about leaks and we know that leaks are problematic. And information needs to move through official channels," said Warren.

"I hope no one here in the Defense Department or anywhere else leaks intelligence information. That goes without saying," he said.

The White House took some heat last week for disclosing a failed special operations rescue mission in July for American hostages in Syria. The captives included journalist James Foley, who was later beheaded by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

White House officials said they only revealed the mission happened after it was clear a number of media outlets had learned of it, and planned to report it.

The disclosure angered some Republican lawmakers, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) called for an inquiry into who had leaked the mission.