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New York Times journalist defends national security leaks

June 10, 2012|By Morgan Little

Two stories published by the New York Times, which exposed the extent of U.S. involvement in cyber attacks against Iran and the White House’s secret 'Kill List,' have sparked scrutiny over the last week amid allegations that administration officials had leaked classified information for political gain.

The debate continued Sunday as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reiterated calls for a special prosecutor to take charge of leak investigations and as a reporter who wrote one of the stories said he doubted that any politically motivated leaks were involved.

David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” to defend his reporting on U.S. involvement in deploying the Stuxnet computer virus against Iran.

Sanger said that during 18 months of reporting for his book “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,” he obtained information from the ground up. He said he had serious doubts as to whether there were any political motivations behind the leaks.

“Did I talk to a lot of people in the administration? Of course,” he said, as would be expected when writing a book about national security.

Sanger contended that how Obama conducts himself in the theater of international military action is key for the public to know, and is a necessary story for the media to report on, regardless of the secrecy associated with national security issues.

“Can we debate them out in the open? Of course,” he said.

McCain dismissed Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder’s appointment of two federal prosecutors to oversee the investigation.

“Mr. Holder’s credibility with Congress, there is none. We continue to have this problem with him withholding information on Fast and Furious, which resulted in the killing of a border patrol agent in Arizona. He is close to being held in contempt,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House committee investigating the Fast and Furious operation – an effort to track gun purchases by Mexican drug cartels that lost track of many of the weapons – has proposed holding Holder in contempt. Democrats have dismissed the effort as political grandstanding.

“This information had to have come from the administration. It couldn’t have come from anywhere else,” McCain said, referring to details in Sanger’s book. “The president may not have done it himself, but he’s certainly responsible as commander in chief.”

morgan.little@latimes.com

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