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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I wish to thank my friend from Arizona for his very direct comments on this very sensitive issue. As vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I can say without a doubt that these ongoing leaks of classified information are extraordinarily harmful to our intelligence operations.
Every day we ask our intelligence officers and agents to be out there on the frontlines, putting their life in harm's way, gathering information, meeting sources, and using a variety of highly sensitive collection techniques. Depending on where these officers are around the world, the operating environment can be both dangerous and downright hostile. This means they have to be as much or more on guard to ensure that operations don't get blown and their own lives and the lives of our sources are not jeopardized.
But each time classified information shows up in the media, the intelligence community's ability to do these dangerous assignments becomes that much more difficult. Not only do these leaks tell our enemies how we do our jobs and therefore how they can block or impede our efforts, but with each leak our friends and allies are left to wonder how much they can trust us with their own secrets.
These are not hypothetical concerns. Senator McCain alluded to a couple of anecdotes. Also, a few weeks ago, in the middle of an ongoing operation, we all--friends and enemies alike--learned the details of efforts to disrupt an al-Qaida plot to bomb a civilian aircraft. Up to that point, most Members of Congress knew nothing about this operation. That is how sensitive we were told it was.
Unfortunately, rather than quietly recognize our--and, frankly, our partners'--successes and move on with the business of protecting the American people, some in the administration apparently decided that scoring political points in an election year outweighed protecting our intelligence operations as well as our liaison relationship with our intelligence partners around the world.
Whether we could have learned more from an operation that was cut short by this leak will now never be known, but we have been warned by some of our allies they will think twice before they share highly classified information with us.
Unfortunately, the leak of the airline plot was no isolated incident. From kill lists and bin Laden movies to cyber warfare, it appears nothing is off-limits, nothing is too secret, no operation is too sensitive, and no source is too valuable to be used as a prop in this election year posturing. The doctor associated with the bin Laden operation appears to be paying the price for this posturing. Following public disclosures of his involvement, he has been sentenced to 33 years in prison--a true life sentence of 33 years in prison in Pakistan. This hardly provides incentive for anyone else to help us.
These disclosures--whether quietly sanctioned or not--are simply unacceptable, and they are against the law. This administration reminds us repeatedly that they are prosecuting more people for leaking classified information than ever before, and I support that effort. But just as we hold ordinary government employees accountable for violating their oaths to protect our Nation's secrets, we must also hold the most senior administration officials accountable. Recently, the FBI began an investigation into the scenario surrounding this latest bomb plot, and I applaud the FBI's efforts. Following the public disclosure in the press reports on comments made by senior administration officials, I sent a letter to Director Mueller and asked him to please include this aspect of these leaks in his investigation. I received a letter back today that he is indeed going to do that, and I applaud that. I don't know whether the reports are true. I have no idea. But if they are, they are serious violations of the law having been conducted by senior administration officials.
Beyond that, we still have to do more. So today I join with my good friend Senator McCain from Arizona in calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate this pattern of recent leaks. Leaks should never be tolerated, but leaking for political advantage is especially troubling. There must be swift and clear accountability for those responsible for playing this dangerous game with our national security.
The Senator from Arizona has been around here a lot longer than me. He has been involved in the world of national security for many years, both on the frontline himself as well as a Member of this body.
Has the Senator from Arizona ever seen anything as egregious as the purported leaks that are coming from this administration on these highly classified and sensitive number of programs that we have seen in the last few days and weeks?
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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I think my friend from Arizona is exactly right. There have been rumors of the drone program for actually a couple years now, maybe back almost into some period back into the Bush administration. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, we were always told--and rightfully so--this is a covert program and we simply cannot discuss it. So we never have. Now we pick up the newspaper, and over the last several weeks we have seen the President of the United States discussing the drone program. We have seen the Attorney General of the United States discussing the drone program. We have seen the National Security Adviser discussing the drone program. Yet, technically, we as Members of Congress--particularly members of the Intelligence Committee--cannot talk about this because they are covert programs.
So there is simply no question but that our enemy is better prepared today because of these various leaks and public disclosures.
Let me move to the other issue the Senator has talked about, though, the issue of the nuclear weaponization of Iran. There is no more important national security issue in the world today. It is a daily discussion at the United Nations, it is a daily discussion at the Pentagon, it is a daily discussion in Israel and in virtually every part of the Middle East that we cannot allow for the country of Iran to become nuclear weaponized. Here, all of a sudden, we see public disclosure, whether all of it is true or not, in a newspaper article on the front page of an American newspaper, detailing a purported program of attack against that Iranian program.
What are our friends in the intelligence community to think? What are our friends in Israel to think? How much cooperation are they going to now give us from the standpoint of disclosing information to the U.S. Intelligence community on any program if they can expect that--if this is, in fact, true--what they tell us is going to be on the front page of the New York Times? Not only that, but it is not coming from some private who went on the Internet and found a bunch of classified documents. It is coming from statements made, supposedly, by high-level administration officials.
It puts us in a real--not a quandary. This is not a quandary. It puts us in a position of having to defend ourselves with our allies over certain statements that purportedly are made by high senior administration officials. I simply can never remember a scenario of information being leaked where we have the level of administration officials that now supposedly have made these comments, and they are quoted by name in some instances.
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