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King Op-ed: Leaks endanger national security (USA Today)

USA Today — by Peter T. King

White House leaks of classified information put the lives of U.S. service members, intelligence officers and civilians at risk. That's why I support a measure passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee to crack down on such leaks.

Last year, leaks about the Osama bin Laden raid disclosed the most sensitive operational details, imperiling future missions. This spring, a series of leaks resulted in reports of highly classified information about an intelligence penetration of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, cyber operations against Iran's nuclear program and details of drone strikes.

This summer, more leaks indicated that the president has signed a secret order authorizing support for Syrian rebels and revealed the supposed location of a U.S.-supported "secret command center."

Ongoing FBI investigations have failed to deter further leaks. This is because White House staff is not currently subject to the same scrutiny that intelligence professionals are, such as polygraphs and monitoring of access to classified information. Also, the president can retroactively claim to have declassified information leaked by his staff.

The measure, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would close loopholes in security procedures that are being abused for political purposes. The news media are afraid these changes will make leakers clam up. I hope they do.

The president has a right to discuss his national security policies with the public. But that should be done in the light of day without endangering our sources or methods.

The public has no need to know details about intelligence assets or special operations units. Such disclosures endanger those who protect us.

The White House points to other possible leakers. But the leaks clearly come from the Oval Office and Situation Room. Their obvious intent is to aid the president's re-election. As Sen. Feinstein said, "The White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks."

The White House says leaks are a "problem" worthy of "serious conversation." Wrong. They are crimes that must be stopped and prosecuted.

The Senate's measure will help do just that.

Rep. Peter T. King, R-NY, is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and sits on the House intelligence committee.