McCain and Kerry disagree over publishing of Iran cyberattack story

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) are both infuriated over leaks to the press about a U.S. cyberattack against Iran, but the two senior senators disagree over whether the New York Times should have published the information.

McCain, who has called for a special counsel to investigate the leaks, said he does not fault the Times for publishing the story.

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“I don’t blame the New York Times,” McCain told reporters Thursday. “There’s no reason — a reporter’s job is to get information and give it to the public. I can’t blame them.”

McCain’s position is at odds with Kerry, who on Wednesday evening questioned the decision to publish the Iran cyberattack story and other recent pieces involving classified leaks.

“I personally think there’s a serious question about whether or not that served our interest and whether the public had to know,” Kerry told reporters. “To me it was such a nitty-gritty, fundamental national security issue, and I don’t see how the public interest is well served by it. I do see how other interests outside the U.S. are served by it.”

McCain and Kerry, the last two losing presidential candidates, have also taken opposing views about the motivation behind the leaks, as McCain has charged that the White House was leaking to boost Obama’s image before the election.

Kerry has denied that’s the case.

“I know the White House was not involved,” he said. “The Obama people I know are upset about it as anybody because these are things that are important to the security of our country.”

McCain said Thursday that the book from reporter David Sanger, who wrote the Iran cyberattack story, has information that had to have come from the White House because of the events that were depicted.

But McCain said he thought there may be “room for debate” in the public about the story, though he said he was concerned that “selective leaking” could provide a distorted picture.

The Times published a news analysis Thursday about the leaks that offered a defense for publishing the stories.

“The protest focused on the dangers of leaks that the Congressional leaders said would alert adversaries to American military and intelligence tactics,” reporter Scott Shane wrote.

“But secrecy, too, has a cost — one that is particularly striking in the case of drones and cyberattacks,” the story said. “Both weapons raise pressing legal, moral and strategic questions of the kind that, in a democracy, appear to deserve serious public scrutiny. Because of classification rules, however, neither has been the subject of open debate in Congress, even as the Obama administration has moved aggressively ahead with both programs.”