Will Security Leaks Have a Major Effect on Obama's White House?
Recent leaks have infuriated the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. (Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla)
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The pattern: an initial investigation launched to relieve mounting political pressure snowballs into a much larger scandal, leaving a trail of broken careers in its wake.
And the beginnings of that pattern are in place: Attorney General Eric Holder Friday appointed two federal prosecutors to oversee multiple FBI investigations into leaks involving stories in recently published books and articles in the New York Times, AP, and Newsweek. The move deflected, but didn't end, a rising, bipartisan tide of Congressional criticism of the leaks. Republican senators Tuesday called for a vote in Congress to recommend that an independent counsel look into national security secrets that have appeared in the media.
"It's going to be trouble, " says Steve Clemons, an influential policy analyst who has close ties to the administration. "It's going to be like the search for who leaked Valerie Plame's name. If the truth does come out, I suspect it will be a major player. Of course the White House is very nervous."
Those major players are some of the most powerful figures in Obama's Washington.
The scandal has the potential to drag in a cadre of senior administration officials, both former and current, who have extensive contacts with the press.
The short list could include Leon Panetta, Ben Rhodes, Tom Donilon, Gen. David Petraeus, John Brennan, Jim Jones, and General Doug Lute, among other heavy hitters.
All of them have been prominently featured in stories of the Obama administration's foreign policy exploits, including the New York Times "Kill List" story as well as David Sanger's narrative about Stuxnet, the secret cyber-war program against Iran.
"Depending on how these investigations go, they can end up being very time
consuming and debilitating for the White House and for other senior officials," said Matthew Waxman, a former Bush administration official who currently co-chairs Columbia University Law School's national security program. "These can be extremely time consuming for senior staff around them, and they can amount to a significant distraction."
Source: BuzzFeed | Michael Hastings
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