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Fox News "Hannity" - Transcript

Interview

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SEAN HANNITY, HOST OF "HANNITY": And tonight, a major scandal threatens the very future of the Obama administration as a senior United States senator is now accusing the White House of leaking classified information. Arizona Senator John McCain says that members of the president's own staff have leaked sensitive national security secrets to media outlets, now on numerous occasions. Now, what makes matters worse, he argues that the goal of these targeted leaks was to depict President Barack Obama as a strong commander-in-chief, ahead of the November election. Now, there are at least three specific examples of articles in which sensitive data was in fact discussed by unnamed administration officials, including the following -- information involving the use of drones in Yemen, classified details regarding the so-called Obama kill list and a highly secretive cyber warfare program that the U.S. is implementing against Iran's nuclear program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: The release of this information in these articles harms our national security and puts in danger the lives of the men and women who are sworn to protect it. Regardless of how politically useful these leaks may have been to the president, they have to stop. These leaks have to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Now, a number of Democrats happen to agree with the senator, including the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, who has agreed to open hearings on the matter and California liberal, Dianne Feinstein, has called this quote, "Avalanche of leaks very, very disturbing." Still, the White House is denying all these accusations and has called Senator McCain's comments, quote, "Grossly irresponsible." Here to respond to this growing controversy, the man himself, Senator John McCain from the great state of Arizona. Senator, welcome back. Good to see you.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: We're not talking about a small allegation here. We're talking about releasing highly sensitive information that could put people's lives in jeopardy and you're saying, for the benefit of the president's re-election? Tell us more?

MCCAIN: Well, what I'm saying is that these are leaks concerning two of the most highly classified, ongoing operations that are vital to our national security, the drones, which as you know are attacking targets of al-Qaeda over in Pakistan and Yemen and other parts of the Middle East. We're also talking about the cyber attacks, which are now public, that we went after the Iranian nuclear buildup, ongoing. And by the way, I've talked to some of our allies today. They are beside themselves with anger because of this exposure of these programs that are working with us. But you have to ask yourself, whenever these leaks take place, who benefits? Who benefits from it? And when you look at the book that they are excerpted from, they all go serve to make the president a steadfast, steely-eyed, sitting in the Oval Office deciding who lives and who dies with this kill list. So, you always have to ask yourself that question. Then, in the book, it's very clear that -- and the author says that some of the people that gave him information did so anonymously because they knew that they would be fired. So it's all very clear.

HANNITY: Well, the kill list in particular, we are going to go to that criterion, who benefits here? It was that the president on a weekly basis was informed of who specifically was on the list and quote, "He made the decision." So, where else could it possibly have come from, if in fact, it is true?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, the administration has not denied it. Second of all, they've been very strong in going after low-level officials that have leaked classified information, I mean, more than any other administration. We've asked for a special council. The Justice Department and the White House have rejected that out of hand.

HANNITY: Yes.

MCCAIN: The director of national intelligence says, this is the most egregious breach that he has seen in the 30 years that he has been involved in this kind of work. And he's right. This is egregious.

HANNITY: You know, and when you think back when we make a comparison, remember Valerie Plame and the issue, quote, "She was outed as a CIA operative," when in fact, she was not a covert operative. She, you know, was -- her job was well known within Washington ranks. There was no big surprise. And we know what happened as a result of that. That was great indignation expressed by the Democrats. In your estimation, is this a bigger scandal? And what do you think is going to come of this?

MCCAIN: Well, in all due respect to Valerie Plame, the situation was regrettable. But I still don't know of any National Security covert operations that were disclosed or compromised by that. Obviously, we don't want that to happen. But we are talking about two of the most important programs that this nation has been involved in. And if they think that they shouldn't be -- have been revealed or if it's OK if they were being revealed, then fine, the president can declassify them. Instead, they were selective leaks to the author of the book, which obviously paints those who did the leaking in a very favorable light. And look, that's why we need an investigation. Suppose nothing came out of the White House. Let's just suppose that. Why wouldn't the administration want a special counsel to investigate this because of the gravity and the size of this compromise of national security?

HANNITY: Yes, let's talk about this. How deeply does this harm national security? And explain in some detail how this specifically can affect the lives of brave men and women that are dedicated to serving?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, in the case of the cyber attack, of course, now the Iranians are much more aware. Also, by the way, doesn't this give our enemies license to respond in kind now that it has been disclosed? This is an ongoing operation in partnership according to the book, with the Israelis. How do you think the Israelis feel right now? And so, it's a very, very serious breach, as far as the drones are concerned, obviously, we know that these compromising of specific information concerning the drones is also a compromise. And if it wasn't, then why did they have it classified as the most secret and confidential basis?
HANNITY: All right. Let me ask you this, especially as we move forward in all of this. Hearings are one thing. A special prosecutor is another thing. Do you think that the Democrats will politicize this, if in fact, they are investigating it? Or they allow Congress to investigate this? Make the case for a special council.

MCCAIN: You will find out very soon because there are some of us who will be seeking a resolution, sense of the Senate calling for the appointment of a special council. So, you'll be able to find out. I hope maybe as early as Monday.

HANNITY: All right. One last question, as we move forward here. As it relates, do you really believe that the president and his campaign team would be willing to compromise the security and safety of brave men and women to make themselves look good ahead of the 2012 election campaign? Because that's really what we're talking about here, to make him look great and leak this information that we should never leak to our enemies, do you think they would do that to win? And what impact would that have on the political race?

MCCAIN: I don't want -- I don't know the impact. But let me just give you one anecdote that is written about in this book. As you know, a lot of information was given immediately to the American people after we took out Usama bin Laden, including the name of Seal Team Six and others. Now, in the book, it tells about then Secretary of Defense Gates going to the White House and saying to the president's national security adviser who had been involved, along with Mr. Brennan, our counter terrorism expert in the White House been giving out all of this information. He says I've got a new communication's strategy. Mr. Brennan said, what is that? And he said; shut the "f" up.

HANNITY: I think that pretty much sums it up. I think this has the potential to be a very big issue in the campaign. Senator, I am glad you're on it. There's a lot of people putting their lives on the line for us. And they need to be protected. And we cannot politicize national security. We'll going to continue to watch this very, very closely. Thank you for being with us.

MCCAIN: Thank you.


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