“The special counsel was created so that there should be a measure of independence in investigations like this where the natural tendency of the administration, when it’s the subject of the investigation, the natural tendency is to circle the wagons,” said Cornyn on CNN’s "Starting Point." “I don’t believe that Attorney General Holder or his deputy are going to be able to do a truly independent investigation.
Last week, leaks detailing a U.S. cyberattack against Iran’s nuclear program and President Obama’s “kill list” targeting al Qaeda operatives formed the basis for stories in The New York Times.
Congressional anger over the leaks grew Wednesday, as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) charged they came from the “highest levels” of the administration and were intended to bolster the president politically.
Obama press secretary Jay Carney blasted that claim, saying that it was “grossly irresponsible” to accuse White House officials of using the leaks for political gain.
Democrats, while expressing disappointment in the leaks and calling for greater scrutiny, have dismissed suggestions that political considerations were behind the disclosures.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will meet with House and Senate Intelligence committee heads on Thursday to discuss new measures to prevent the future leaking of national-security secrets.
“The accelerating pace of such disclosures, the sensitivity of the matters in question and the harm caused to our national-security interests is alarming and unacceptable,” the Intelligence committees said in a joint statement Wednesday afternoon.
In his comments Thursday, Cornyn joined Sens. McCain and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who have also called for a special counsel investigation. Both senators on the Armed Services Committee also say they will hold hearings on the leaks.
Cornyn rebuffed claims from administration officials including Deputy Attorney General James Cole that an independent investigation would lead to more secrets being released.
"An investigation into the leaks is not classified,” said Cornyn. “Maybe the subject matter of that leak, but right now we’ve seen both of those displayed on the pages of The New York Times. One story on the president’s kill list on al Qaeda with the drone program documents that David Axelrod, one of his closest political advisers, was sitting in on meetings where those lists, where those kill lists were compiled.
“This is not a partisan issue — as you know, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein [D-Calif.], said that this was the worst leaking she’s seen in her time here in Congress,” Cornyn said, claiming the issue troubled lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“This is threatening not only the methods but also the sources, the cooperation of our allies when it comes to two of the most sensitive areas of our national security: stopping the Iranian nuclear threat and finding and taking out al Qaeda with the drone program,” the Texas senator said.