(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General Eric Holder ordered two federal prosecutors Friday night to open criminal investigations into a series of national security leaks to the news media.
Holder appointed Ron Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Colombia, and Rod Rosenstein to lead the criminal investigations into recent leaks concerning a disrupted bomb plot by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a New York Times story about President Obama ordering cyber-attacks against Iran with the Stuxnet computer worm.
“These two highly-respected and experienced prosecutors will be directing separate investigations currently being conducted by the FBI,” Holder said in a statement. “I have every confidence in their abilities to doggedly follow the facts and the evidence in the pursuit of justice, wherever it leads.”
The appointment of the prosecutors comes days after the chairmen and ranking members of the Congressional Intelligence Committees and other members of Congress expressed outrage over the recent leaks. Some members were calling for Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the leaks, but Holder’s move may neutralize those calls.
Earlier this week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took to the Senate floor and implied the leaks were released by the White House for political purposes.
“A really disturbing aspect of this is that one could draw the conclusion from reading these articles that it is an attempt to further the president’s political ambitions for the sake of his re-election at the expense of our national security,” McCain said on the Senate floor late Tuesday.
“The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive. It’s wrong,” the president told reporters at the White House on Friday.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney bristled that McCain had alleged the leaks were coming from the White House.
“Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible,” Carney said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Marilia Brocchetto, Flora Charner, Joshua Berlinger and Angela Dewan, CNN
Judson Jones, CNN
Lisa Respers France, CNN
Amy La Porte, CNN