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Politicians have pushed for an investigation into how New York Times reporters got information for stories about the Obama administration’s aggressive policies on cyber warfare and drone strikes. The Senate Armed Services Committee will investigate, Michael Shear reported Tuesday, and the FBI is reportedly looking into the leaks, too. The issue? Whether the administration turned a blind eye to leaks that made President Obama look like a terrorist-hunting, Iranian-nuclear-plant-destroying badass in an election year.
After the cyber warfare story, in which David Sanger outlined how a U.S.- and Israeli-designed computer virus destroyed machinery at an Iranian nuclear facility, ran this past Friday, former White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer tweeted the following:
Wow. Amazing story in NYT today about cyberwar vs Iran. Amazing details. But whoever the sources were, they should be fired.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) June 1, 2012
Michael Calderone rounds up some more recent reaction: Sen. John McCain said, “curiously, to this date, the Administration has never complained about the irresponsibility of the leaks in these articles, which could obviously harm our national security and those sworn to protect it.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein appeared on CNN Wednesday and condemned the “avalanche of leaks.” The Senate Intelligence Committee planned to discuss the issue this morning with National Intelligence Director James Clapper, Politico’s Josh Gerstein reported.
The Obama administration has prosecuted leaks vigorously before, Gerstein noted in a tweet:
Obama admin has brought six leak-related prosecutions, roughly double the number in the entire prior history of the U.S.
— Josh Gerstein (@joshgerstein) June 7, 2012
Gerstein has covered the case of James Risen, a New York Times reporter fighting a Justice Department subpoena to testify in the case of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information about U.S. attempts to disrupt Iran’s nuclear activities to journalists.
Despite that ugly bit of apparent hypocrisy, the outrage about the administration’s coziness with The Times may be a little selective.
Speaking on KCRW’s “To the Point” Tuesday, Richard Clarke, who was a special adviser to President Bush in the 2000s, was asked about Sanger’s revelations: “Well with all due respect to David, I actually wrote this in my book, which came out quite a bit earlier,” he said. “I don’t have the benefit of having my book immediately on the front page of the New York Times but I’ve been saying for a long time that the United States did this; I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody.”
Clarke also talked freely about the United States’ cyber warfare against Iran in the April issue of Smithsonian magazine: “But I think that the U.S. government did the attack and I think that the attack proved what I was saying in the book [which came out before the attack was known], which is that you can cause real devices—real hardware in the world, in real space, not cyberspace—to blow up.”