WASHINGTON – Leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees said Thursday they were drafting legislation to further limit who can access highly classified information and possibly impose new penalties for revealing it.
The head of the House intelligence committee said he will investigate recent leaks, but the CIA and the Justice Department national security division said they would not cooperate.
The action comes after recent leaks of sensitive information about the covert drone and cyber wars against terrorism.
"There has been just a cascade of leaks coming out of the intelligence community in the last several weeks and months," the vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss told reporters. "It's our clear intention to put a stop to this."
The bipartisan news conference of the four top lawmakers was spurred by a series of media reports detailing everything from White House policy on the highly classified targeting of Al Qaeda militants by drones and raids, to the White House reportedly deploying the cyber weapon known as Stuxnet, a malicious computer code that knocked Iranian nuclear processing centrifuges offline.
The House Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, said his committee would formally investigate the leaks, though he said the process would be hampered because two critical government agencies said they would not participate.
"Just today the CIA informed the (committee) that it cannot respond to our request for information regarding the leaks, a very troubling event indeed," Rogers said.
The CIA has come under fire for allegedly sharing with Hollywood filmmakers classified details of last year's U.S. raid into Pakistan that killed Usama bin Laden.
Rogers said the Justice Department's National Security Division also withdrew itself "with respect to at least one investigation regarding disclosures."
Rogers initially said that indicated the leaks may have come from the FBI or Justice Department, but later clarified that it showed "the serious complications facing the department in investigating these matters."
There are at least three investigations ongoing into disclosures of classified information.
Leading Republicans like Sen. John McCain have accused the White House of spilling national security secrets to boost the president's reputation in an election year -- a charge the White House dismissed Thursday.
"The president feels very strongly that we must prevent leaks of classified or sensitive information" that could jeopardize intelligence or other operations, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "Any suggestion that the White House has leaked sensitive information for political purposes has no basis in fact."
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Democrat Dianne Feinstein said Congress wants the White House to notify lawmakers at least 48 hours in advance and explain when it chooses to disclose national secrets.