This week on Due Diligence, Mitt Romney's attacks on President Obama over leaks of classified information.
"I can tell you that the idea of leaking top secret information to the media from The White House for clear political advantage is something the America people are not gonna cotton to and that's why I've called for a special consul to look into this matter," Romney said in Las Vegas on Tuesday. "I think the idea of having a Presidential appointee who reports to the President's attorney general investigating The White House is not something which would give the American people the kind of confidence they should expect."
What's this all about? Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed alarm over leaks to the media of classified national security information, including revelations that the U.S. was behind cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear program.
Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two federal prosecutors to investigate the leaks, and the FBI is also investigating. But Romney and Republicans want a special prosecutor to look into this, arguing that Holder will be tainted by election year politics and try to protect his boss: the president. The president and his aides have denied leaking the info and say there is no need for a special prosecutor.
The Obama administration has reason to be wary. Investigations by special prosecutors can explode in unpredictable ways: The Whitewater investigation, for example, led to the Lewinsky scandal. The investigation into the Valerie Plame leak led to a top aide to Dick Cheney being convicted of perjury.
But when a possible transgression is serious enough, politicians in both parties acknowledge that a special prosecutor makes sense. So does this rise to that level? Both Romney and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein have suggested the leaks have put American lives at risk, which is debatable. It was long assumed, for example, that the cyberattack on Iran came from either the United States, Israel or a combination of the two. Iran's confirmation of that fact does not appear to have had repercussions.
In addition, intelligence experts say the leaks may not have actually been illegal - if they came from senior officials with the authority to declassify information. It's also worth noting that the Obama administration has been harder than any previous administration on alleged leaks, invoking the obscure 1917 Espionage Act six times to go after alleged leakers.
The Obama administration's zeal, however, would seem to reinforce Romney's point: If leaks are so potentially damaging, then you should do everything you can to get to the bottom of them - including appointing a special prosecutor, despite the inherent risks.
Thanks for watching.