Transcript of Leaks Press Conference
Leaks of Classified National Security Information
Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 12:59 p.m. EDT
Location: 216 Hart Alcove, Washington, D.C.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chair, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence;
Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Ranking Member;
Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chair, House Select Committee on Intelligence;
Representative C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D-MD), Ranking Member
SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Are we ready?
The Senate Intelligence Committee has just had a meeting with the director of national intelligence, James Clapper. We invited the House chairman, Mike Rogers, and the vice chairman, Dutch Ruppersberger, to attend the session, and we were very pleased that they did.
Senator Chambliss and I work very closely together, and we've expanded that group now to include the four of us. We will be working together to try to produce some changes in the Senate authorization bill, which has not been completed. The House has completed their bill, but we have not. And so we will work with the House membership on language that can be acceptable to both side to codify a certain process which we hope will be more efficient in retarding leaking and also being able to stop it, and also being able to evolve more tools to control it and, where it cannot be controlled, to be able to take additional actions.
This, obviously because of the timing, will have to be done in the next month or so, I would think. And so we will be working together in that direction.
So I'd now like to ask Senator Chambliss, my distinguished ranking -- distinguished vice chairman, to make some comments.
SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Well, thanks, Chairman Feinstein. And let me just say that thanks to the leadership of Chairman Feinstein as well as Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Ruppersberger, the four of us have worked very closely on any number of issues. There is no more important issue that we have to work on than this issue.
I think it goes without saying that all of us are extremely upset about the fact that not only have leaks occurred, but there's been just a cascade of leaks coming out of the intelligence community over the last several weeks and months. And it's our clear intention to put a stop to this in the best way that we can.
Leaks are part of the nature of this town. We understand that. But the fact of the matter is, when you have the kind of leaks that have been coming out in the last few weeks, it put lives in danger and it infringes upon the ability of the intelligence community to do their job.
Suffice it to say that in our meeting with General Clapper, we knew before we engaged him this morning that he was extremely upset about this issue. He is, as well as every member of the leadership team in the intelligence community. And we have a pledge from them to continue to work with them on all of our issues, but particularly on this issue as we move forward to try to make sure that they have all the tools to work with internally on the issue of trying to make sure that we put a stop to this kind of leakage.
Now I'd like to call on Chairman Rogers.
REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS (R-MI): Well, thank you very much. Well, thank you very much, Senators.
We have worked on some things in bipartisan ways. And I want to thank Senator Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss. Through that process, we think we have done a lot of important things for our national security -- and Dutch Ruppersberger -- working in a spirit of bipartisanship.
To have all four of us come forward today and talk about the severity of these leaks, I hope, sends a very clear message about how dangerous this has become.
And it's not just an isolated incident, and that's what has brought us together. It seems to be a pattern that is growing worse and more frequent.
And the severity of the leaks are serious. I had a meeting just yesterday with a series of officers from the agency and other agencies who do important work around the world on very difficult assignments. And to the person -- and these are the line officers, these are the folks who we ask to leave their families and go to dangerous places to do really hard things -- the frustration and their inability to get a handle on this -- their inability to keep a secret, not just in this town and what it means here, but what it means for their ability to conduct their work overseas, is incredibly damaging.
This has been as serious a problem as I have seen. I, just a few weeks ago, launched an independent review of a very specific leak that turned into something a little bigger. And I just want to tell you, through views with IC officers, review materials, public sources, there is a clear need for a formal investigation. The committee has material suggesting that the agencies were directed to expand the scope of classified information they gave to the press. We know in some cases someone from a segment of the media was present in a classified setting. Recently a group of intelligence officers, I've said before, has disclosed directly how many of the leaks over a period of years have made their jobs more difficult in their liaison relationships and their ability to interact with sources and assets around the world who are doing great things for their own countries and the United States as well.
Just today the CIA informed the HPSCI that it cannot respond to our requests for information regarding the leaks, a very troubling event indeed.
The DOJ's National Security Division has recused itself from at least one element of the investigation, suggesting some of these leaks could have come from the sources within the DOJ or the FBI. And from publicly available comments, it appears that the sources of these leaks could be in a position to influence the investigations.
So the investigation must do this, and we agree on this. We're still trying to work out where this may be the best place for this to happen. It must be complete. It must be empowered to examine any office or department of the United States government. It must be free of influence from those who conducted or reviewed the programs at issue. And it must be fair, and it must be nonpartisan.
Two problems here. One is that we get to the bottom of what is a growing and serious problem and the nature of these leaks, and second, that we put together legislation quickly that moves to put -- give the tools to the intelligence community to prevent this from happening in the future. And I look forward to the opportunity to work with all of the members here to make sure that that happens.
And I turn it over to the ranking member, Mr. Ruppersberger.
REPRESENTATIVE C.A. "DUTCH" RUPPERSBERGER (D-MD): Thank you.
Well, good afternoon. And first thing, I do want to acknowledge the relationship that has developed between Senator Feinstein and Senator Chambliss and Congressman Mike Rogers and myself. The stakes that we deal with and the issue we deal with in the Intelligence Committee are so important. We have to work together as a team, bipartisan, so that we can come together, go to the administration and get issues resolved that are important to our national security.
I've been on this committee close to 10 years. This is one of the most serious of breaches in the last couple articles that have come out that I have seen. It puts us at risk. It puts lives at risk. It hurts our ability with our allies to get -- have them work with us and get information. And it hurts us in recruiting assets that give us intelligence information that will allow us to protect our citizens, to work through issues that are so important to the whole issue of peace throughout the world and how we protect our citizens throughout the world.
Now, we know how serious this is, and we have to deal with it. And we will deal with it. And we started today coming together, both the House and the -- and the Senate intelligence committees, deciding where we're going to go. But the issue has to be solutions.
What are those solutions? The first thing we have to do is we have to change the culture of anybody who works in the intelligence community, to educate them and let them know how serious these leaks are and the ramifications, which then means we need to put together a policy that we -- people know what the policy is. If you violate that policy, you're going to be held accountable. That's important. Sure, we would love to find out who did the leak here and how it occurred and how important and how dangerous it is. Whether that happens or not, there's your tough cases. But we need to use this as an example to change those policies. And that's where we are right now.
But it's got to be a partnership between the administration and between the Senate and the House. We are going to work forward and move forward on this case, this leak case. And we feel very strongly that we will -- we have to do this to protect our national security.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Would you address your questions to a specific person?
Q: Thank you. This is actually for you and for Congressman Ruppersberger. Obviously, this is an extraordinary show of bipartisanship here, but we are also five months before a presidential election. And do you have any concern that by making such a big deal out of leaks in the Obama administration -- maybe not the White House, but the Obama administration -- that this is going to be finger- pointing politically at the White House?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: This is not finger-pointing at anybody. What we're trying to do is say we have a problem, and we want to stop that problem. We're not finger-pointing. And the House will do its own investigation. We're doing a bill. We're going to put changes in the bill. But Dana (sp), this has to stop. When people say they don't want to work with the United States because they can't trust us to keep a secret, that's serious. When allies become concerned, when an asset's life is in jeopardy or the asset's family's life is in jeopardy, that's a problem. The point of intelligence is to be able to know what might happen to protect this country. And we can't do that if the intelligence is no longer kept, with strict scrutiny, within the number of people that need to have it.
And one of the problems is -- that we're learning is so many people know that it becomes very hard to make a prosecution. So what Representative Ruppersberger was saying about changing the culture really is correct, about limiting the numbers of people that know given things is correct. So we have some ideas. We've discussed them somewhat today. And you know, you will certainly know where we have points of agreement.
Q: Senator -- (off mic) --
Q: Could we follow up with the -- Chairman Rogers and with Senator Chambliss?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Yes.
Q: Do you believe, knowing what you know about the leaks, that they are politically motivated to try to help President Obama?
SEN. CHAMBLISS: I'm not going to prejudge what the FBI is charged with the responsibility of doing. And we're going to meet with Director Mueller this afternoon.
We know that investigation has already begun, and it's going to be done very thoroughly. And you know, we've been through this before in the Bush administration. Wherever the responsibility falls out, that's where it's going to be. And if it's in the administration, fine. If it's not in the administration, fine.
This is not meant to be a political exercise. This is too critical to the future of the intelligence community of the United States. And it's our intention just to get to the bottom of the issue of these leaks and, as we move forward, to try to make sure that we put measures in place that not only make it more difficult for future leaks to occur but the consequences of those future leaks be dealt with immediately and strongly.
Q: Senator Feinstein, obviously, because you are discussing legislation, you have come to the decision that current legislation and current statutes aren't strong enough. Already divulging classified information is a crime. There are investigations going on. What is it that you're looking to do legislatively to change this whole -- (inaudible)?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Yeah, I just can't go into it right now. This morning was actually the first time that I had a chance to outline some of my thoughts to the committee, and we need to discuss it. It's important that the House and the Senate work closely together, because we'll never get it done if we don't. And so the first people that will know are the three people here, and we need to go through that process.
Q: Senator Feinstein --
Q: Senator Feinstein, can you clarify (something ?)? Do you -- would you support a special prosecutor looking into these intelligence leaks? Several of your Republican colleagues have said that they want to see a special prosecutor appointed to look into these leaks.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I understand that. I've had the discussions with Chairman Rogers about that. I've asked for a little more time to look at it.
Special prosecutor, of course, does not bring to one's attention changes that need to be made. Yesterday we had a hearing with the inspectors general of the various agencies, and one of the things that I am looking at is a possibility of giving these IGs, inspectors general, more investigatory authority. It's clear that the security aspects of the existing agencies haven't really done the job, and we need to find out why.
So I'm delaying that decision. A special prosecutor can take years. We don't have years. We need to legislate. We need to get some solutions before us very quickly.
Q: Senator Feinstein, would you refute Senator McCain's charge that it is in fact politically motivated, Chairman?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Oh, we are not politically motivated.
Q: (Off mic.)
SEN. FEINSTEIN: We've said in there --
Q: (Off mic) -- said he --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: -- in the -- I'll tell you one thing we said. Wherever the chips fall, they fall, but we want a fair investigation, we want to be able to see that we have the processes in place to deal with this. I do not believe that we do at the present time.
Q: Senator Feinstein, if --
Q: Senator Feinstein --
Q: Senator Feinstein, if -- do you believe that there should be more congressional oversight into what the administration's actually doing? I mean, if the administration conducted cyberwarfare against Iran, that could constitute an act of war. Do you believe that Congress should be involved in oversight on this?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Yeah, yeah, well, I'm not going to respond to that question. It was -- (chuckles) -- it was asked in a -- in a way that -- we're going to do our due diligence, and we're going to get this situation looked at carefully and hopefully changed.
Q: Senator Feinstein, would you favor -- Senator, would you favor changes in some guidelines for the FBI so that they will have an easier time questioning journalists in leak investigations? Which normally they do not do.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, that's certainly a possibility of looking in that -- in that direction. We haven't discussed it, but it's certainly a possibility.
Q: Senator Feinstein, could you discuss the most recent leak on the Yemeni underwear bomb plot and specifically the use of covert agents in that case? Does that jeopardize American lives --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: No, I'm not going to discuss it. I will say that leaks jeopardize American lives.
Q: Senator Feinstein, can you -- do you have any indication that the leaks are coming from Capitol Hill, including possibly from lawmakers themselves? Can you rule that out?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I have no knowledge at this time.
Q: Senator Chambliss, you said that this afternoon you're seeing Director Mueller. Did you mean all of you? And can you tell us more about the scope of that investigation that the FBI is doing and whether that is enough?
Do you think that scope is broad enough now to get into these leaks?
SEN. CHAMBLISS: I'm not -- I'm not going to comment on the scope of the investigation. That's a determination that the FBI has to make. That's a whole nother issue that's out of our realm.
The purpose of having Director Mueller in today is we do this on a fairly regular basis, but obviously when something like this happens, then it's important that we have Director Clapper in, as we did this morning; that we have Director Mueller in; and if there are other heads of agencies involved that we need to have in for discussion, they've always been willing to come in and dialogue with us. So we're going to have a sit-down in an informal way with Director Mueller this afternoon and be brought up to speed on where the investigation is.
Q: Senators Feinstein and Chambliss, one of the concerns of the 9/11 commission was there was too much secrecy. Do you feel like the pendulum has swung?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I beg your pardon. What is the question?
Q: Do you feel like it's come so far since the 9/11 commission said that there was too much secrecy? Is -- have the floodgates been opened?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I certainly don't think you can say that today.
Q: Congressmen Rogers and Ruppersberger, I wanted to ask, do you think this might be politically motivated? Could this go to the White House? What are -- what are your parameters here?
REP. ROGERS: I don't think we ought to make that determination. And I outlined some of the challenges that they have. You have the DOJ National Security Division has recused themselves from certain aspect of an investigation. The FBI was in receipt of some of the information along the way on a particular case that was released.
And so at some point you have to ask yourself a question -- and again, in our preliminary review we were just told this morning that the CIA was going to withhold information, at least at this time -- leads you to believe that if we're going to make this nonpartisan, if we're going to make it fair and complete -- which means it has to follow the leads of which they have -- that you're going to have to have at least some sort of an outside look because of the nature of the -- in -- at least in the public sources, of the media leaks clearly shows that someone who may have been in the chain to influence an investigation may in fact be a part of the investigation. Given that, it would only lead one to a conclusion that you should probably have someone outside the normal track of investigation on the particular leak case.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: First thing: I do not believe that this is politically motivated. The issue is about whether or not this was used politically.
This is an event that had happened. It's very serious. This is about the United States of America.
Leadership is judged on how you deal with a problem. And that is a serious problem. And we need both the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees and the administration to work with us, not only to deal with the actual leak that has occurred now, but to deal with what we're going to do to change it, to make sure we change the culture of leaks generally, to make sure that sources of messages do not get out in the -- in the field.
And the issue that was raised about where we were with respect to the -- your question over there -- your question -- what was your question?
Q: My question?
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: No, no, no. Right there. That you raised.
Q: Oh. Sir, my question was that the 9/11 commission --
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: Right.
Q: -- one of the concerns was there was too much secrecy.
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: And that is a very important issue. You know, If you look at what happened before 9/11, it was stovepiped. We didn't share information and it cost us dearly.
So what we have to do when we look at the solutions, we have to make sure we put processes and procedures in place so that everyone involved in the intelligence community knows what those processes and procedures are, because we still cannot close down intelligence. We have to share it and get it to the right person, but it has to be pursuant to a process and procedure that only those who need to know are going to know. And that's part of what we're going to do and look at in this process.
Q: Congressman,, does it concern you, though, that conversations within the Situation Room are being described in the newspaper and how the president's reacting to things? And that's a question for all of you. Does that concern you that conversations inside the White House are being described in the paper, and you know, was there anything classified coming out?
REP. RUPPERSBERGER: We got the information. We looked at the leaks. That's what we're going to look at now and investigate. We have to make a determination. There are a lot of reasons why things occur, but you can't make predeterminations when you're evaluating and looking into changing the process and also how do these leaks occur. And we'll have to answer that as we move forward in the process.
STAFF: Last question.
REP. ROGERS: I mean, I agree with my ranking member. That's the whole point of having a complete, fair and impartial investigation. And it should take you where you go. And one of our challenges here amongst us is that even the DNI has only a small jurisdiction -- or smaller jurisdiction of investigative authority.
DOJ is obviously recusing themselves from aspects of it. So you can see where it gets a little messy. And our goal here is to determine what is the best course for a fair, impartial and complete investigation.
STAFF: Next question.
Q: (Off mic) -- Rogers?
Q: Senator, could I ask you --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Last question.
Q: Do each of you agree with the use of drones, with the use of cyberwarfare? Is that -- are those policies you agree with? And how much room should there be for --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I -- those are -- I'm not going to answer that question here. I don't believe it's an appropriate question right now. I respect your asking it. But that's not what this press -- this press conference is about.
Q: (Off mic) -- about these intelligence tools, should there be room for that, or should it just all be kept to just a tight group?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, there -- you know, if you deal with clandestine activity and if it's covert activity, which has a special place, it's all classified, and very few people have access to it, technically. You know, if you notice, I don't believe leaks are coming out of either one of these committees. They're coming from elsewhere. And as the chairman of the House committee was saying, so many people now have information which didn't exist -- (inaudible) -- that way. The stovepipes are down. Information is shared more broadly. Well, if this is critical, tactical, covert information, it put lives in risk, puts our allies at risk. And this is what we're concerned about.
REP. ROGERS: Let me -- I mean, let me just answer that as well. When it just comes to clandestine -- any clandestine activity, either real or unreal, as perceived in the media sometimes -- (chuckles) -- the scrutiny that covert action gets and the seriousness of -- on both committees is incredibly serious. We have regular covert action discussions, reviews. We make sure it's compliant with the law. And we have that ability to make sure that it's compliant with the law.
And so I wouldn't go into any notion that is has to be -- any particular action has to be on the front page of the paper in order to get scrutiny. Both of these committees, in a bipartisan way, take any covert or clandestine activity by the United States as serious as we take any issue. And we have staff dedicated to those programs. We have members who spend quite a bit of time in constant review of operations and make sure it's compliant with the law as we move forward.
So I would hope that the public would have some understanding -- that's the whole purpose of these committees, so that you can have those kinds of tough scrutiny in a classified setting. That is a huge responsibility. But I don't know any member of either the House or the Senate that doesn't take that responsibility very seriously.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much. Thanks, everybody. Thank you.
Q: Senator, one follow-up.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
Q: If the White House decides to talk about it, don't they, by that decision, declassify it?
(No audible reply.)