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Attorney General Holder names 2 prosecutors to investigate possible leaks

Charles Dharapak / AP

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday appointed two United States attorneys to investigate possible unauthorized disclosures of classified information from the White House and Congress.

The appointment came the day President Barack Obama at a news conference rebutted accusations that his administration leaked information about a terrorist “kill list” and cyber warfare to make himself look tough in an election year.

Holder issued a statement saying Ronald C. Machen Jr., the attorney for the District of Columbia, and Rod J. Rosenstein, from the District of Maryland, will lead separate criminal investigations already under way by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“The unauthorized disclosure of classified information can compromise the security of this country and all Americans, and it will not be tolerated,” Holder said in the statement.

“Machen and Rosenstein are fully authorized to prosecute criminal violations discovered as a result of their investigations and matters related to those violations, consult with members of the Intelligence Community and follow all appropriate investigative leads within the Executive and Legislative branches of government,” Holder said.

The accusations about the Obama leaks surfaced in two articles in The New York Times last week.

Obama on Friday said that such leaks dealt with the safety of the American people, its military and its allies.

"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive," he said. "It's wrong and people I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office."

On Capitol Hill, a lawmaker said there were indications a high-level individual was involved in the media disclosures.

"Someone from a very senior clearance level has provided information, that's very clear in the preliminary review," Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Reuters.

Rogers did not speculate on who the leaker might be.

The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, said he did not believe anyone had been targeted in early investigations into the leaks.

The recent spate of disclosures included the revelation that a plot by the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda to bomb an airliner had been foiled because of penetration by a double agent, details about the joint American-Israeli computer virus called Stuxnet that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, and an account of Mr. Obama’s role in approving a “kill list” of terrorism suspects for drone strikes, The New York Times reported.

For the first time, Israel has admitted to engaging in cyber warfare "consistently and relentlessly" according to a Sunday report from the Israel Defense forces. But the IDF stopped short of admitting it participated in creating or using the Stuxnet computer virus against Iran. Amb. Michael Oren discusses.

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