Rubio renews intelligence leak debate, ties threat to Libya

In a letter to the White House on Friday, the Florida Republican and six other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned the administration's motives to "broadcast our intent to take action" against those responsible for a Sept. 11 raid on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. 

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"We are troubled that administration officials appear to be publicly discussing classified matters, thereby potentially impeding the success of any action that may be taken against those responsible" for the consulate assault. 

Rubio's letter was in response to recent reports claiming U.S. special operations forces were on the ground in North Africa, collecting intelligence on various terror targets who may be connected to the consulate strike in Benghazi. 

The attack ended with the deaths of four American citizens, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. 

The information being gathered by American special operations forces is part of a White House counterstrike plan to eliminate those responsible for the raid. 

The Pentagon's elite Joint Special Operations Command, in conjunction with the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies, are assembling "target packages" on suspected militants associated with the attack, should President Obama give the order for the strikes. 

"There are far too many disclosures of classified information appearing in the media," Rubio wrote. "Disclosures that not only compromise our intelligence sources and methods, but can significantly impact important liaison relationships." 

As a result, members of the Senate Intelligence panel want to know whether the information on counterstrike options for Libya was cleared for disclosure, according to the letter. 

If not, members want to know how the White House plans to identify how the information was leaked and what steps are being taken to prosecute the leakers. 

Earlier this year, the White House came under intense scrutiny by congressional Republicans for a string of intelligence leaks detailing covert drone strikes in the Mideast, U.S. cyber warfare operations and the disclosure of a British double agent who had infiltrated al Qaeda's Yemen cell. 

In August, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee approved legislation stripping intelligence officials of their clearances for leaking information to the press. 

It also would block national-security officials from making contact with the media even after they've left the government.

A month earlier, Defense Secretary Leon 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 at the time.