The White House insisted on Tuesday that President Barack Obama "has no tolerance for leaks" of national security secrets as Mitt Romney accused the Administration of disclosing sensitive information for political gain.
"There are two experienced federal prosecutors investigating the leaks in question," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama pursued a West-Coast campaign swing.
"I can't comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation," he said, but "as a general matter, the president has made abundantly clear that he has no tolerance for leaks, and he thinks leaks are damaging to our national security interests."
"The kinds of decisions he has to make every day depend upon the ability to keep our secrets secret, and he feels extremely strongly about this," Carney said. "No one depends more on that information to make extremely difficult and significant decisions on a regular basis than the president of the United States."
In the aftermath of news reports throwing back the curtain on major national security operations — including an unprecedented cyber-assault on Iran's nuclear program -- Attorney General Eric Holder appointed two U.S. attorneys to look into the potentially unlawful disclosure of national security secrets. It is unclear when the two prosecutors will report back — notably whether their probe will wrap before the November elections.
Asked whether he could shed light on the timetable, Carney replied: "I am not standing here as an employee of the Department of Justice, so no, I cannot. I'm not updated on the process of investigations, the progress of investigations."
Carney's comments came after Romney, speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) annual convention, sharply assailed Obama's handling of the issue. Romney pointed to recent remarks from Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggesting that the leaks came from the Administration.
"This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest," the Republican standard-bearer charged. "It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation, with explanation and consequence. Whoever provided classified information to the media, seeking political advantage for the administration, must be exposed, dismissed, and punished. The time for stonewalling is over."
Feinstein, asked about the leaks, told the World Affairs Forum on Monday that "I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks. I don't know specifically where, but I think they have to begin to understand that and do something about it."
Shortly after Romney spoke, however, she worked to roll back her remarks.
"I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information. I shouldn't have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don't know the source of the leaks," she said in a written statement.
"I regret my remarks are being used to impugn President Obama or his commitment to protecting national security secrets," she said. "I know we are in a campaign season, but I hope the investigation proceeds without political accusation or interference from anyone."