Lawmakers vow to tighten leak laws

Lawmakers vowed Thursday to curb national security leaks from the intelligence community after meeting with the director of national intelligence, warning that the leaks “jeopardize American lives.”

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Thursday they will be writing legislation together to try and stem classified information from being disclosed.

The four Intelligence Committee heads did not provide many details at a press conference Thursday about specific proposals, but suggested they are interested in limiting the number of people who receive classified information and possibly giving authorities more power to question journalists.

“Leaks jeopardize American lives,” Feinstein said.

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The leaks of classified intelligence about a U.S. cyberattack on Iran, a terrorist “kill list” and other recent stories have dominated the conversation on Capitol Hill this week, with bipartisan outrage from lawmakers over the leaks and accusations from some Republicans — led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — that the leaks were politically motivated to boost President Obama’s image.

Appearing with their Democratic counterparts at Thursday’s press conference, Rogers and Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) downplayed the political accusations on Thursday, saying they were focused on finding the source of the current leaks and stopping future ones.

“I don’t think we ought to make that determination,” Rogers said when asked about the possibility of political motivations.

Rogers said that the Department of Justice’s national security division has recused itself from one part of the investigation into the leaks that the FBI launched on Tuesday. The Intelligence Committees were meeting later Thursday with FBI Director Robert Mueller.

He also said that it “appears sources of these leaks could be in position to influence these investigations.”

“Given that, it would only lead one to a conclusion that you should probably have someone outside the normal track of investigation on the leaks,” Rogers said, appearing open to McCain’s calls for a special counsel to investigate.

Feinstein said she wasn’t sure yet whether she supported the idea.

“A special prosecutor of course does not bring to ones attention the changes that need to be made,” Feinstein said.

Feinstein said that the intelligence committees were not trying to point fingers at the Obama administration or anyone else for leaking the information.

“What we’re trying to do is say we have a problem and try to stop that problem,” she said. “When people say they don’t want to work with the United States because they can’t trust us to keep a secret, that’s serious.”

House Intelligence ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said he did not believe the links were political, but said the recent stories were “one of the most serious breaches” of intelligence that he had seen.

“We need to use this as an example to change those policies,” he said.