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Romney campaign, David Axelrod spar over national security leaks

July 25, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod.
Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod. (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- In the nation's capital, fighting about leaking information to the media is a bit like fighting about talking on cellphones in public. Everybody says they don't like it, but everybody does it.

Tuesday's volley over alleged leaks of classified information from the Obama administration was a classic example.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney used a major foreign policy speech to suggest that the White House leaked classified information about covert operations for political gain. His campaign tried to punch up the point by putting out a statement from an advisor who is a former George W. Bush administration aide.

Eric Edelman, the former deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy, declared Romney's speech "Reaganesque" and noted that a top Democrat had weighed in on the White House leaks.

"The suggestion by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that the White House was behind recent leaks of highly classified secrets highlights the urgent need for change," Edelman's statement said. (Feinstein later said she should not have speculated on the source of the leaks.)

As Buzzfeed reported, Edelman may not have been the best messenger.

As the former principal deputy to then-vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Edelman was involved in the last major investigation of classified leaking. Edelman is referenced in the Justice Department indictment of Libby, who was convicted of perjury and other crimes in the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson scandal. Edelman is identified as the "principal deputy" who suggested to Libby that he call a reporter, exposing Plame as a covert CIA officer.

Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod happily noted the connection in an interview Wednesday morning, which included the observation that "there are leaks out of every administration."

Axelrod said President Obama did not leak or authorize leaks of classified information.

"I don't think there’s a person on this planet who is more concerned about the security of our troops, the security of the people who working around the world to protect us," Axelrod said on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."

Axelrod noted Justice Department investigations of the matter, but when asked if an internal White House investigation was underway, he said the president had made it clear he would not tolerate leaks.

"You stop it by sending strong signals. Strong signals have been sent," he said.

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