Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., fired back today after the White House called his criticism of the administration's involvement in leaks of classified and sensitive information "grossly irresponsible."
"No, what is grossly irresponsible is U.S. officials divulging some of the most highly classified programs involving the most important national security priorities facing our nation today," McCain said in a paper statement this afternoon.
On Tuesday McCain made a speech on the floor of the Senate in which he described the string of recent intelligence leaks from the White House to news outlets as "disturbing" and "simply unacceptable." He accused the White House of putting the president's ambitions for another term in the Oval Office ahead of national security.
"A really disturbing aspect of this is that one could draw the conclusion from reading these articles that it is an attempt to further the president's political ambitions for the sake of his re-election at the expense of our national security," McCain said on the Senate floor late Tuesday.
Aboard Air Force One today White House press secretary Jay Carney said there were no orchestrated leaks by the White House - and certainly not for political gain.
"This administration takes all appropriate and necessary steps to prevent leaks of classified information or sensitive information that could risk ongoing counterterrorism or intelligence operations," Carney said, "Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible."
The Senate Armed Service Committee will be holding hearings on the leaks sometime soon to examine the motivation for the leaks.
"This is not a game," McCain said today, noting that both Democratic and Republican Senators have spoken out against the leaks. "This is far more important than mere politics. Laws have apparently been broken. This leaking of classified information needs to be investigated, and those officials who are found to be responsible, where appropriate, should be prosecuted."