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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. I thank my colleague from South Dakota and appreciate very much his leadership on this issue and my colleague from New Hampshire, Senator Ayotte, who has done a preliminary study on the effect of these sequestrations on our defense industries and jobs and employment in States across America.

In fact, she has been asked by the Conference of Mayors to give them assessments. One of the problems we have is not only sequestration itself, as my colleague from South Dakota mentioned, but the American people don't fully understand the impact--not only from a national security standpoint but from an economic standpoint.

I appreciate and admire our Secretary of Defense who continues to say that sequestration would be devastating to our national security, the effects would be Draconian in nature. He has described it in the most graphic and, I think, accurate terms. But we don't know exactly what those impacts would be and, unfortunately, the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Department have not given us information as to what those impacts would be. The American people need to know and they deserve to know what these impacts would be.

That is why we put in the Defense authorization bill a requirement that the Secretary of Defense send to the Congress and the American people the exact effects of this sequestration, which he has refused to do, up until now.

Since we have not taken the bill to the floor--and it may not be signed until the end of this year--that is why I have an amendment pending on the farm bill, to seek that same reporting, because Members of Congress, elected representatives, and the American people deserve to know the effects of sequestration.

One, they need to know from the interest of our national security, but I would argue to my friend they also need to know from the impact on an already faltering economy. I want to thank the Senator from New Hampshire, who has done more on this issue. In fact, she has given every member of our conference a rough readout as to exactly what the impact would be in our States. But obviously, the Senator from New Hampshire and I don't have access to the same database the Secretary of Defense has as to these Draconian effects.

So in summary, I would say we are facing what is now known as the fiscal cliff: the debt limit, which needs to be raised; the sequestration issue; the expiration of the Bush tax cuts; and several other issues, which we are all going to now address in a lameduck session. That is a Utopian vision for a lameduck session that, frankly, is not justified by history.

One of the aspects of this sequestration, the reason we need to address it now, is because the Pentagon has to plan. They have to plan on a certain budget. They can't wait until the end of this year, or early next year when it kicks in, until January 2, I believe it is, of 2013, in order to adjust to it. So, one, we need the information.

And, two, Members of Congress need to know that the sequestration issue should be, and must be, addressed. I thank Senator Thune not only for his outstanding work on the farm bill but also for his leadership on this important issue.

I yield to my colleague from New Hampshire, who has done probably a more in-depth study of this issue and its impact on the defense industry in America and jobs and employment than any other Member.


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, Senator Graham and I know there are others who would like to come to the floor on the issue of the almost unprecedented release of information which directly affects our national security--in fact, the most important programs in which we are engaged, including the use of drones and our counterterrorism activities, and, of course, the highly classified cyber attacks that have been made on the Iranians in order to prevent them from achieving their goal of building nuclear weapons.

I can't think of any time that I have seen such breaches of ongoing national security programs as has been the case here. The damage to our national security has been articulated by many both inside and outside of the administration, including the most damaging that we have seen. Our Director of National Intelligence said that it is the worst he has seen in his 30 years of service in the area of intelligence. All of the ranking and chair members of the Intelligence Committee, Armed Services Committee, Foreign Relations Committee, and Homeland Security Committee have described in the strongest terms what damage has been done by these ``leaks.''

Among the sources that the authors of these publications list are ``administration officials'' and ``senior officials''; ``senior aides'' to the President; ``members of the President's national security team who were in the [White House Situation Room] during key discussions''; an official ``who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program''--I am quoting all of these from the public cases; ``current ..... American officials ..... [who would not] allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day''; several sources who would be ``fired'' for what they divulged--presumably because what they divulged was classified or otherwise very sensitive.

One author notes:

[O]ver the course of 2009, more and more people inside the Obama White House were being `read into' a [particular secret, compartmentalized] cyber program [previously known only by an extremely tight group of top intelligence, military and White House officials], even those not directly involved. As the reports from the latest iteration of the bug arrived--

Talking about the cyber attack on Iran--

meetings were held to assess what kind of damage had been done, and the room got more and more crowded.

Some of the sources in these publications specifically refused to be identified because what they were talking about related to classified programs or ongoing programs. One of the authors specifically observed that some of his sources would be horrified if their identities were revealed.

As always with this leaking, which goes on in this town, although not at the level I have ever seen, I think we need to ask ourselves first who benefits--certainly not our national security or our military intelligence professionals or our partners abroad who are more exposed as a result of these leaks. I think to answer the question of who benefits, we have to look at the totality of circumstances. In this case, the publications came out closely together in time. They involved the participation, according to those publications, of administration officials. The overall impression left by these publications is very favorable to the President of the United States.

So here we are with a very serious breach of national security--and in the view of some, the most serious in recent history--and it clearly cries out for the appointment of a special counsel.

I would remind my colleagues and my friend from South Carolina will remind our colleagues that when the Valerie Plame investigation was going on, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle argued strenuously for the appointment of a special counsel at that time. Later on, I will read some of their direct quotes.

It is obviously one of the highest breaches of security this country has ever seen because of ongoing operations that are taking place. By the way, our friends and allies, especially the Israelis, who have been compromised on the Stuxnet operation, the virus in the Iranian nuclear program, of course, feel betrayed.

Now, can I finally say that I understand our colleague and chairperson of the Intelligence Committee is going to come over to object to our motion for the appointment of a special counsel. It is the same special counsel who was appointed at other times in our history, and ahead of her appearance after the statements she made about how serious these breaches of intelligence were.

It is a bit puzzling why she should object to the appointment of a special counsel.

I ask my colleague from South Carolina--to place two outstanding individuals and prosecutors to investigate still places them under the authority of the Attorney General of the United States. The Attorney General of the United States is under severe scrutiny in the House of Representatives. The Attorney General of the United States may be cited for contempt of Congress over the Fast and Furious gunrunning-to-Mexico issue which also resulted, by the way, in the death of a brave young Border Patrolman, Brian Terry, in my own State, who was killed by one of these weapons. That is how serious it is.

I would think Mr. Holder, for his own benefit, would seek the appointment of a special counsel, and I ask that of my friend from South Carolina.


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, wouldn't my colleague agree that one of the most revealing aspects of this entire issue from program to program that leads to enormous suspicion would be that probably the most respected Member of the President's Cabinet who stayed over from the Bush administration, Secretary Gates, was so agitated by the revelation of information about the bin Laden raid that he came over to the White House and said to the President's National Security Adviser that he had a ``new communication strategy.'' He responded by saying to the National Security Adviser, ``Shut the F up.'' That is a devastating comment and leads one to the suspicion that things were done improperly in the revelation of these most important and sensitive programs that were being carried out and are ongoing to this day.

So I ask my colleague, what is the difference between the Biden-Schumer-Levin-Daschle letter to President Bush in 2003 where they called for the appointment of a special counsel--Vice President Biden--and how the White House should handle Libby? I think they should appoint a special prosecutor. In 2003, then-Senator Biden called for a special counsel with 34 Senators, and then-Senator Obama requested the appointment of a special counsel to lead the Abramoff case.

I was involved heavily initially with the Abramoff case, and I can tell my colleagues even though there was severe corruption, there was certainly nothing as far as a breach of national security is concerned. Yet they needed a special counsel, according to then-Senator Obama, to investigate Abramoff but not this serious consequence.

So I guess my unanimous consent request for this resolution will be objected to. But the fact is, we need a special counsel because the American people need to know. I do not believe anyone who has to report to the Attorney General of the United States would be considered as objective.

I ask unanimous consent for an additional 3 minutes.


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