Earlier in the day, Carney told reporters, "Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified info for political gain is grossly irresponsible," Carney said.
McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, fired back: "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 first called attention to the issue with aon the Senate floor Tuesday evening, pointing to a new book by New York Times journalist David Sanger that reveals U.S.-Israeli cybercampaigns used against Iran.
McCain charged members of the administration with leaking classified information and called for an investigation by a special counsel. He also called for people to be prosecuted if guilt is found. His Democratic counterpart on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., agreed to hold a hearing to investigate.
"It is difficult to escape the conclusion that these recent leaks of highly classified information, all of which have the effect of making the President look strong and decisive on national security in the middle of his re-election campaign, have a deeper political motivation," Mcain said.
McCain added: "Over the course of these congressional hearings and other investigations, I would hope that the motivations for these leaks is fully examined and discussed. These leaks clearly were not done in the interest of national security or to reveal corrupt or illegal actions about which the public has a right to know, as in the case of legitimate whistleblowers."
A bipartisan group of lawmakers that lead the House and Senate intelligence committees also expressed concern, calling possible leaks "unacceptable."
"In recent weeks, we have become increasingly concerned at the continued leaks regarding sensitive intelligence programs and activities, including specific details of sources and methods. The accelerating pace of such disclosures, the sensitivity of the matters in question, and the harm caused to our national security interests is alarming and unacceptable," Sens. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. and Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md.
The four members of the intelligence committees also called the leaks "damaging and intolerable." They plan to modify and strengthen legislation regarding leaks. "We believe that significant changes are needed, in legislation, in the culture of the agencies that deal with classified information, in punishing leaks, and in the level of leadership across the government to make clear that these types of disclosures will not stand," the lawmakers said in the statement.