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Attorney General Eric Holder appointed two federal prosecutors to take over separate FBI investigations into leaks of national security data. The move announced late on Friday came hours after President Barack Obama vehemently denied accusations that the White House was leaking the information as part of his re-election campaign, calling the claims “offensive,” reports the Associated Press.
Holder said that U.S. Attorneys Ronald Machen, Jr. from Washington, D.C. and Rod Rosenstein of Maryland have the authority to “prosecute criminal violations discovered as a result of their investigation.”
Lawmakers have expressed concern about the recent surge in media stories that have revealed national security secrets, including “reports on U.S. cyber warfare against Iran, procedures for targeting militants with drones and the existence of a double agent who penetrated a militant group in Yemen,” notes Reuters. Holder didn’t specify which leaks formed part of the investigation, a usual practice, according to Politico, because it could be seen as confirmation that the information was accurate.
While members of Congress from both parties have criticized the leaks, some Republicans have gone as far as to call for a special prosecutor to investigate. Holder’s move seems to be a way of finding a middle ground by giving more importance to the investigations while also making sure the prosecutors don’t have any unique powers, points out the New York Times.
“Since I’ve been in office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation,” Obama said Friday.
The controversy over the leaks has become a real problem for Obama in his bid for reelection, says the Hill. The issue has become an “unwanted” distraction for the White House at a time when the administration is trying to maintain its focus on the economy.