By Meghashyam Mali - 07/25/12 11:29 AM EDT
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) is cautioning against a rush to judgment over the investigation into a series of national-security leaks.
“I was a former prosecutor, and in investigations one of the things you have to do is get the facts and follow the facts, and in this country we do not find somebody guilty because issues are in the media,” Ruppersberger said on CNN’s “Starting Point” on Tuesday.
“I think it’s very important that we move forward with the investigation. You have some of the best FBI agents, investigators working on it. You have two prosecutors — one Republican, one Democrat — focusing on the leaks. And I can say this, Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein [D-Calif.], Sen. [Saxby] Chambliss [R-Ga.], Rep. Mike Rogers [R-Mich.] and I are focusing on this investigation and we need to find the leaks,” he added.
The Maryland lawmaker’s comments come a day after Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, backtracked from public remarks she'd made that the White House was responsible for some of the leaks and after GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney jumped on the issue and called for a special counsel to investigate the matter.
“I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information,” Feinstein said Tuesday. “I shouldn’t have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don’t know the source of the leaks.”
On Monday, Feinstein had said, "I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks."
The White House has denied that it was the source of the leaks and has called such charges “offensive.”
Romney cited Feinstein’s remarks in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention, where he accused Obama of hoping to delay the investigation’s findings until after the election.
Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two U.S. attorneys to probe the mater; however, many Republican lawmakers have pressed for a special counsel, arguing that the DOJ investigation will not be independent, a call now joined by Romney. Democrats have rejected the push for an independent counsel.
On Wednesday, Ruppersberger evaded questions about Feinstein’s comments, but insisted lawmakers were taking the matter seriously and urged that the probe be allowed to conclude. “We are focusing in our oversight capacity to make sure we make a determination where these leaks are coming from. It seems to have started from — the leaks have gotten more aggressive since 9/11. But these leaks can cost lives; they hurt us internationally.
“We are going to aggressively pursue it, believe me,” he added.
Ruppersberger said the intelligence community faced a larger problem than just the most recent disclosures of national-security secrets, criticizing what he called a “culture of leaks.”
“We need to make sure we focus on all of our intelligence agencies and make sure that we can stop these leaks because they are hurting our country and our national security,” he said.