Citing an “avalanche” of national security leaks, 31 Republican senators have requested Attorney General Eric Holder appoint an outside special counsel to investigate the incidents.
The lawmakers say numerous leaks originating in the executive branch recently have been “stunning” and and an outside special counsel with “bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust” is necessary to avoid conflicts of interest and political gamesmanship. Holder recently appointed two U.S. Attorneys to coordinate the investigation: Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein and District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen.
“We are not talking about a single, isolated instance of a leak; rather, we are looking at ‘an avalanche of leaks’ on national security matters,” the letter contends. ”On a matter of this seriousness, there is clear precedent to appoint an outside special counsel when there is the potential for a conflict of interest, the specter of political influence, or other extraordinary circumstances.”
The Obama administration has come under fire recently for a series of classified information leaks. The New York Times filed reports on an alleged “kill list,” the administration’s cyber attacks against Iran and details on drone strikes earlier this month.
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has lead the charge in pushing for an outside investigator, hammering Holder two weeks ago at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about his decision to appoint department officials rather than outside counsel.
“There is no doubt in my mind that if the shoe was on the other foot you would be screaming for an independent prosecutor,” Graham said at the hearing. ”This cries out for corrective action.”
Holder reassured the committee, however, that the investigators will follow the leads “wherever they takes us.”
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said at the hearing an outside counsel is necessary to avoid political influence and because the department has a history of failing to investigate itself. He cited the department’s decision in 2011 to drop the prosecution of attorney Thomas Tamm, who admitted to leaking classified information to the press.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a news release that the appointment of Machen and Rosenstein is a decision with which she “strongly agrees,” asserting Holder’s decision is “the best way for the investigation to move quickly and with appropriate independence.”