What was billed as a major foreign policy speech today by Mitt Romney contained few new initiatives as the presumptive GOP nominee slammed President Obama on his handling of national security leaks in his administration, looming defense cuts and his "shabby" treatment of Israel.
"This isn't a partisan issue; it's a national security crisis," Romney said of the leaks at a speech to the VFW convention here on the eve of his week-long trip abroad. "This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence. Obama appointees, who are accountable to President Obama's attorney general, should not be responsible for investigating the leaks coming from the Obama White House."
"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," Romney added.
The Romney campaign has cited a report in which Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who serves as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, pointed to the Obama administration as the potential source of the leaks.
"I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks," Feinstein reportedly told a World Affairs Council forum.
"Exactly who in the White House betrayed these secrets? Did a superior authorize it? These are things that Americans are entitled to know – and they are entitled to know now. If the president believes – as he said last week – that the buck stops with him, then he owes all Americans a full and prompt accounting of the facts," Romney said. "And let me make this very clear: These events make the decision we face in November all the more important. What kind of White House would reveal classified material for political gain? I'll tell you right now: Mine will not."
In a statement, Feinstein said she does not know the source of the leaks and expressed disappointment and regret for the way the Romney camp is using her comments on leaks against the president.
"I am disappointed by the statements made by Mr. Romney today regarding a question I was asked yesterday at the World Affairs Council. I was asked whether the White House might be responsible for recent national security leaks. 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," Feinstein said. "I'm on record as being disturbed by these leaks, and I regret my remarks are being used to impugn President Obama or his commitment to protecting national security secrets."
In a gaggle with reporters on Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president has made clear he has no tolerance for leaks and that two experienced prosecutors have been tasked with investigating them, a situation the president takes very seriously.