McCain criticizes government crackdown on intel leaks

His comments come after specific details of several sensitive intelligence operations regarding U.S. cyberwarfare operations and ongoing counterterrorism missions against al Qaeda became public. 

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In response, Attorney General Eric Holder assigned two U.S. attorneys to begin looking into the origins of the intelligence leaks. 

However, McCain said the Department of Justice's focus on "the total universe of officials who had access to the leaked information" rather than honing in on the specific, high-level administration officials who were cited anonymously in news reports is having little to no effect on finding out how the information got out. 

"Conducting an investigation from the bottom-up instead of the top-down just doesn’t make sense to me," the Arizona Republican said on the Senate floor. 

“The investigations of all of the leaks must be done responsibly and credibly," McCain said, reiterating his call for Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special, independent counsel to look into administration leaks of sensitive or classified information. 

"We can’t expect the administration to investigate itself impartially in the midst of an election on a matter as highly sensitive and damaging as this leaks case," McCain said. 

If Holder or the White House fails to appoint a special investigator, McCain dredged up the notion of calling for a new, bipartisan congressional committee to "find out who leaked this information, why they did so and what should be done to prevent it from happening again.”

For his part, the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta instituted several new measures to ensure secret information pertaining to national security matters remains secret inside the Pentagon. 

Panetta directed the undersecretary of Defense for intelligence and the assistant secretary for Public Affairs to join together to “monitor all major, national-level media reporting for unauthorized disclosures of Defense Department classified information,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said on July 19.

The DOD chief also named assistant secretary for Public Affairs is the "sole release authority for all DOD information to news media in Washington," Little said at the time. 

As part of the new rules, the Pentagon also implemented new requirements governing the use of removable storage devices on department computers and new training on handling classified information.