Kerry adamant White House not involved in intelligence leaks
By Ted Barrett
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he is “really upset” about recent leaks of classified information because it “endangers our long-term security” and it “begs retaliation.” But Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was adamant that no one at the White House or in Democratic politics was involved in the leaks.
“I know that people at the White House were not involved,” he said.
Asked about suggestions from Sen. John McCain of Arizona and other Republicans that the leaks came from someone trying to boost the president’s political standing, Kerry said they are wrong.
“McCain needs to know, before people make that kind of accusation, the reporters themselves have said it did not come from anybody on the Obama team or on the Democratic side or anything like that,” Kerry said. “I take that at face value.”
On the leaks themselves, Kerry said they don’t make sense to him.
“I don’t understand the mentality of an American citizen who thinks they’re advancing anything by leaking classified information of any kind but which puts the country potentially at risk,” Kerry said.
Asked by CNN if the New York Times should have declined to publish recent articles about U.S.-led cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities and other intelligence activities, Kerry said he’s not sure the information met a “need to know” standard that might justify the publication.
“I personally think there is a serious question about whether or not that served our interest and whether the public had to know and it was of that kind of interest. To me it was such a nitty-gritty, fundamental national security issue and I don’t see how the public interest is served by it. I do see how other interests outside of the United States are served by it. So, I think there is a very serious question about that,” he said.
Moments after making those remarks, Kerry returned to a Capitol hallway to clarify to CNN one important point about his views on the publication of classified documents, related to his personal history with the Vietnam War.
“I would apply a need-to-know standard,” he said. “In the Pentagon papers, the country was being lied to. You understand the need to know. On this, I don’t know that a need-to-know standard gets met.”
The Pentagon Papers were a Defense Department study critical of the government’s handling of the Vietnam War. The New York Times published stories based on the leaked documents in 1971. Kerry, who served in Vietnam, was a vocal opponent of the war.