All-Star Panel: Investigation of security leaks gaining traction

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 13, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R - SOUTH CAROLINA: We're talking about putting people's lives at risk, like the Pakistani doctor. We're talking about the double agent's family's being involved. We're talking about compromising programs with allies like Israel. We're talking about every detail of the bin Laden raid, SEAL team six and their families. This is exponentially worse. There is no way on God's green earth you're gonna to convince me that this scenario doesn't justify a special council when everybody on the Democratic side said you needed one for Valerie Plame and Jack Abramoff. We're not going to let this go.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't believe that's necessary. This administration takes the leaking of classified and sensitive information very seriously. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The investigation into the leaking of the national security information to several media reports continues. And it is intensifying on Capitol Hill with calls for a special prosecutor, and the administration is pushing back on that. We're back with the panel. Chuck, where does this go? It seems like it's starting small but may be gaining some momentum.  Is that a read of this? 

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, clearly, Republicans feel it's a good issue for them.  You just saw Lindsay Graham. He really chewed out Eric Holder on the Hill and made it plain to Eric Holder he didn't think this was good enough. 

But where it goes legally, I'm not sure. I may disappoint some people but I'm not sure laws were actually broken here. In the Valerie Plame case, remember, there was the very specific matter of outing an intelligence agent, which is a specific violation of law. There is a murkier legal situation here of whether this information was even classified or was declassified before it was leaked or whatever. What's at issue here --

BAIER: You mean at the president's direction? 

LANE: Or somebody's. But what's at issue here it seems to me clearly if anything, and I emphasize "if," is the political manipulation of classified information. I'm not sure that's a crime. It might the wrong thing to do, but I'm not sure that's a crime. 

BAIER: There is a Republican element to it. And you say it's a good issue for them. You do have Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Ruppersberger saying that they're very concerned about it as well. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, NEW YORK TIMES: Which is one of the reasons I think this is something that -- it is more than just your average, sort of controversy in Washington. This is going to last more than a week. It already has. This is going to go on throughout the summer and into the fall. And the White House is, I mean, I don't expect the White House spokesman to say anything else from the podium they don't think a special counsel is necessary. Of course they will say that. I don't think we have enough answers to questions yet if this -- how serious this is. The question is, is this going to be an issue in the campaign or not? I'd be a little bit surprised if it was because these things move very, very, very slowly. But it is of the utmost serious nature here, obviously. 

BAIER: But is there a point, do you think, that the pressure builds, that, in fact, a special prosecutor does get appointed? Can you foresee it judging by where the environment is now? 

ZELENY: It's certainly possible. I mean, I can't think of one recently. It's election year, even if it was not. It's combustible it's very hot. I could see that happening. Who knows if it will, but sure that could happen. 

BAIER: Charles? 

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think that all depends how well it's contained by the Department of Justice. Holder appoints two attorneys who work under him, Obama appointed.  I don't question their integrity. Perhaps they will be able to conduct independent inquiries into this that will be successful. 

But what this does do is it insulates the administration. They will answer – assume that you get Congress looking at it as a way to do a separate investigation. I can assure you everybody who goes before Congress will say "I cannot comment on a question that is already under Justice Department inquiry." So it will allow them an out. That's what always happens. 

I think what this will hinge on whether it's a political issue, because everybody agrees on the seriousness. It isn't only Graham who's saying that it's a real terrible injury to our national security and to, actually, American lives. Dianne Feinstein has said it threatens American lives and national security and it poisons our relations with the allies. And it makes it almost impossible that we can recruit anybody who work with us after looking at how we leak stuff. But the question is, nobody will doubt the seriousness. The question is, is there going to be pressure to speed up the investigation, because it could go really slow inside Justice until after Election Day, which is what Obama wants to do with everything is to punt everything into November. 

BAIER: You know, Chuck, you were saying that this might not even involve classified information. We are talking about the program, that people didn't know, the U.S. and Israel was working on going after Iran by a computer weapon. 

LANE: No. What I'm saying is it's possible some of it was declassified. 

BAIER: By the president. 

LANE: By the president or somebody else before it was leaked. We don't know that. I assume they're going to be investigating those kinds of things. 

But just to be clear here, I repeat, there is a difference between something that is bad, risky, dangerous, etc., and something that is a crime, right? That's -- I mean, the trap that you fall into with these independent counsels, these special counsels and everything is you get an investigation of you know, who broke what, you know, federal statute, then the ancillary things about perjury if it comes up and so forth. And the appropriate inquiry it seems to me is one like, you know, who ordered this bad stuff to be done and why did it happen in the first place, which isn't necessarily a criminal inquiry. Charles says Congress could do that. That would be a good role for Congress. But they have already played the special counsel card. 

KRAUTHAMMER: Which will stop anybody from giving evidence that will be new before Congress because they will say I can't speak about an ongoing investigation. It's insulation for them. 

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for the fallout from a win.

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