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Leaks have caused 'damage' to US security: lawmaker

20 july 2012, 17:34
Top US military officials believe recent high-profile leaks of classified information have caused "damage" to national security operations, AFP reports as US lawmakers said Thursday after a closed-door hearing.

Buck McKeon, chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, emerged from a classified session with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who assured them steps were being taken to limit the leaks.

"They didn't go into specific details, but I think they agreed that damage has been caused," McKeon told reporters.

"They assured us that they have taken steps to put in procedures to try to limit those leaks, because they do... have the potential of causing serious harm to people that may be involved in operations or people trying to help us achieve our objectives around the world."

The Justice Department launched two criminal investigations last month after a congressional outcry over unauthorized disclosures.

The series of leaks led to several explosive stories in US media, including one describing President Barack Obama's alleged push for cyber-attacks on computers that run Iran's nuclear facilities.

Another reported on an apparent "kill list" of counterterrorism targets against whom Obama has authorized lethal action, and a third exposed a secret drone campaign against terrorists in Yemen.

Some Republicans have suggested the information was leaked to boost Obama's image as a tough commander-in-chief in an election year.

Asked if he believed the leaks were coming from the Pentagon, McKeon said: "I feel pretty secure that they're not."

But when questioned on how he thought the bulk of the classified information was seeping into the public domain, he said reporters might have better knowledge than him on that score.

McKeon and Adam Smith, the committee's ranking Democrat, said more than four million people have classified security clearance, and imposing an air-tight seal on sensitive data was virtually impossible in the digital age.

"Information is flowing more freely because of technology," Smith said.

"I don't know that there's anything that has really shifted. It's the same old same old, there's just a lot more tools out there to disseminate information and a lot more people who know about it."

McKeon added that "when you think about how much has been leaked, based on how many people have information, actually we're doing pretty good."

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