By David Jackson, USA TODAY
Attorney General Eric Holder Friday appointed two U.S. attorneys to lead a pair of criminal investigations into possible national security leaks of classified information.
He said Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, would direct separate probes that are currently being conducted by the FBI.
Earlier, President Obama angrily denied that his White House team is the source of leaks on alleged terrorist "kill lists" and cyber-attacks against Iran's nuclear program.
"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive," Obama said at a brief White House news conference. "It's wrong."
He said his policy is one of "zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation."
"If we can root out folks who have leaked, they will suffer consequences ... we will conduct thorough investigations as we have in the past," he said.
Obama noted that, in some cases, "these are criminal acts."
Democratic as well as Republican leaders of Congress' intelligence committees have decried the leaks, which Republican Sen. John McCain charged were an effort to build up Obama's national security credentials before November's election.
Republican lawmakers are incensed about recent published stories, including those having to do with U.S. cyber-attacks on Iran's nuclear program and a once-secret "kill list" that targets terrorist suspects.
The information for these reports is based on classified information. Obama suggested that not all of the details in the stories are true and that they may undermine U.S. security.
"When this information or reports -- whether true or false -- surface on the front page of newspapers, that makes the job of folks on the front line tougher," Obama said. "And it makes my job tougher. Which is why, since I've been in office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation."
Obama said, "We're dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people, our families or our military personnel or our allies, and so we don't play with that."
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, promised hearings on the leaks. The bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees have written Obama to complain about the disclosures.
McCain and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., top Republican on the intelligence panel, called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate.
McCain, who lost the 2008 election to Obama, challenged his remarks today, and said that "I continue to call on the president to immediately appoint a special counsel to fully investigate, and where necessary, prosecute these gravely serious breaches of our national security."