President Obama speaks to reporters at the White House on Friday. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)
WASHINGTON -- President Obama says he has "zero tolerance" for leaks of classified information and that his administration investigates every such instance.
He stopped short of saying there is a specific investigation underway into the source of recent news stories about U.S. drone strikes against terrorists and cyber-attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
But Obama said that leaks of classified information about national security matters make life harder for him and put American civilians and military in harm's way, and that his administration tries to make sure that sources of such leaks "suffer consequences" for their actions.
"We don’t play with that," Obama told reporters in a short news conference in the White House briefing room.
In the wake of the stories, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called for a special prosecutor to investigate leaks, which he says are designed to portray Obama as a strong leader on national security matters.
Democrats have also expressed concern. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that the recent spate of leaks could endanger American lives and "undermine America’s national security."
In one recent story in the New York Times, unnamed officials discussed how the president reportedly directed the cyber attacks on the Iranian nuclear program. Other news reports have delved into the administration’s program of secret drone attacks, including Obama’s role in ordering them.
In the briefing room Friday morning, Obama dismissed the suggestions from Capitol Hill that the leaks were authorized, calling them "offensive" and "wrong."
When those reports "surface on the front page of a newspaper," he said, that "makes my job tougher."
Worse, they "touch on critical issues of war and peace," he said, and people involved in the covert operations "may be in danger" as a result of those leaks.