In a press conference today, President Obama denied charges that his administration had purposefully leaked classified national security information regarding cyberattacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. Last week, The New York Times published a bombshell story by veteran Washington reporter David Sanger that disclosed startling new insights into how the Obama Administration ordered wave after wave of experimental cyber attacks that destroyed machinery and seriously set back the Iranian nuclear project.
On tonight's Hardball, NBC's Andrea Mitchell and MSNBC analyst David Corn discussed exactly how, and why, such extensive amounts of information could have been leaked. Corn speculated that the administration might have had a political motive for releasing the information.
"There's a reason to leak this stuff," Corn said, suggesting that it could be aimed at discrediting right-wing Obama critics in both the American and Israeli governments. The leaks, Corn said, "makes it much harder for the neocons to say nothing is happening [regarding Iran]."
During today's press conference, the president strongly rejected such speculation.
"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong. We are dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people, our families, or our military personnel, or our allies. So we don't play with that."
Obama's record regarding classified national security materials is characterized by secrecy and aggressive whistleblower prosecution. Conservative political scientist Gabriel Schoenfeld, who was quoted by Jane Meyer in a New Yorker story about government whistleblowers, has written that, "Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”
Shortly after the Hardball segment, it was announced that Attorney General Eric Holder had appointed two prosecutors to investigate these latest leaks.
For an in-depth interview with Sanger about the leaks and his reporting on Iran and cyberwarfare, check his appearance on Charlie Rose on Tuesday, June 5.