Senate Democrats blast national security leak about cyberattack against Iran

Senate Democrats blast national security leak about cyberattack against Iran

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blasted leaks to the press about a cyberattack against Iran and warned the disclosure of President Obama’s order could put the United States at risk of a retaliatory strike. 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats introduce Violence Against Women Act after bipartisan talks break down Harris shares video addressing staffers the night Trump was elected: 'This is some s---' Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said the leak about the attack on Iran’s nuclear program could “to some extent” provide justification for copycat attacks against the United States.

“This is like an avalanche. It is very detrimental and, candidly, I found it very concerning,” Feinstein said. “There’s no question that this kind of thing hurts our country.”

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The FBI opened its own probe Tuesday into who disclosed information on the Iranian attack, The Wall Street Journal reported. On Capitol Hill, the Senate Armed Service Committee promised hearings, while two Republican senators called for a special counsel investigation. 

 Several Democrats noted with alarm that the Iranian cyber leak is just the latest in a series of media reports that disclosed classified information about U.S. anti-terrorism activity.

“A number of those leaks, and others in the last months about drone activities and other activities, are frankly all against national-security interests,” said Sen. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Democrats debate how to defeat Trump: fight or heal GOP senators press State Department for Hunter Biden, Burisma records MORE (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “I think they’re dangerous, damaging, and whoever is doing that is not acting in the interest of the United States of America.”


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Feinstein and Kerry, however, rejected charges from Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Defending their honor as we hear their testimony MORE (R-Ariz.) that the leaks were made deliberately in an attempt to boost President Obama’s reelection bid.

 Kerry “categorically” rejected the accusations that the leaks were coming from the White House for political purposes, saying that was “not close to reality.”

 Feinstein also said she did not think the information about the Iran attack came from the White House.

“That’s hard for me to believe,” she said.

 A story in The New York Times last week revealed U.S. involvement with the Stuxnet worm, a computer virus that was used against an Iranian nuclear facility and caused centrifuges to explode. The story detailed joint U.S. and Israeli efforts to develop the virus as well as conversations Obama had with his advisers on whether to continue the program when the worm became public in 2010.

The story cited unnamed current and former U.S., Israeli and European officials. The White House has denied that it was an authorized leak.

McCain accused the White House of planting the story for political purposes, and on Tuesday joined with Intelligence Committee ranking member Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissThe Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Republicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback' MORE (R-Ga.) in calling for a special counsel to investigate and prosecute whoever is responsible for the national-security leaks.

“The only conceivable motive for such damaging and compromising leaks of classified information is that it makes the president look good,” said McCain, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. “They are merely gratuitous and utterly self-serving.”

McCain said Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinRemembering leaders who put country above party Strange bedfellows oppose the filibuster Listen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home MORE (D-Mich.) has agreed to hold congressional hearings on the leaks.

Other Republicans were more hesitant to attribute political motivations to the disclosures.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.C.), a McCain ally on the Armed Services Committee, said he didn’t know whether the leaks were campaign-related.

“I’m glad that we have a targeted assassination program against terrorists trying to kill us all, but I’m not sure we need to read blow by blow how it’s done,” Graham said. “I cannot imagine this can continue much longer without seriously undermining our national security.”

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (R-N.H.) said she hoped politics weren’t behind the leak, and that that was “a question that should be answered.”

The story on the Stuxnet virus last week follows other media accounts of classified information, including reports on a double agent who helped the United States and its allies track down al Qaeda members in Yemen, an expanded U.S. drone program in Yemen and the Obama administration’s “kill list.”

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of playing politics by granting two filmmakers access to CIA planners for a movie about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch released emails last month that showed U.S. officials offering Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal access to CIA facility planners. Pentagon officials say that the filmmakers did not receive access to any officials connected with the bin Laden raid.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) called for an independent investigation into the Iran leaks on Tuesday.

“It’s beginning to sound repetitive,” Lieberman said, referring to previous leaks of classified information.

Asked if he thought there was a political motive behind the latest incident, Lieberman told The Hill he couldn’t say. “The mere fact that people suspect it … means that it ought to be investigated,” he said.

Levin said he didn’t know where the leaks came from, and downplayed the charges of political meddling. He said he has serious concerns about the cyberattack story going public, but isn’t concerned about it being used as justification for a cyberattack against the United States.

“The nations that are going to attack us don’t need justification,” Levin said.

— Updated at 8:46 p.m.