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That’s precisely what happened recently when The Post reported on its front page that senior Obama administration officials were being investigated by the FBI and Justice Department for the leak last summer that the president had personally ordered cyberattacks on the Iranian nuclear program using a computer virus developed with Israel called Stuxnet.
The Post quotes a source who says that FBI agents and prosecutors are pursuing “everybody — at pretty high levels.” The paper further reports that investigators “have conducted extensive analysis of the e-mail accounts and phone records of current and former government officials” and that some have been confronted “with evidence of contact with journalists.”
This is big. And former senior government lawyers I spoke with recently explained why it could get a whole lot bigger: [...]
Possibility No. 1: A senior administration or White House official disclosed the information to the press without the president’s personal approval.
That would be a potential crime and certainly a violation of the official’s oath of office — and in the case of a White House official, a violation of their contractual commitment to the Executive Office of the President. As one former senior Justice Department official told me, “It would be grounds for firing and likely prosecution, and it would definitely call into question the competency and security of the president’s supervision of his White House staff.”
Possibility No. 2: The president personally authorized a senior official to disclose classified and sensitive national security information regarding ongoing intelligence or counterterrorism operations.
This is potentially an even bigger scandal. Since the president has ultimate declassification authority, this would mean no crime was likely committed. But it is hard to imagine a credible argument that such a disclosure was made to advance the national security interests of the United States.
Quite the opposite, the Stuxnet leak was incredibly damaging. It exposed intelligence sources and methods, including the top secret codename for the program (“Olympic Games”). [...]
If the president authorized the disclosure of national security secrets that exposed a covert action and undermined a U.S. ally in an effort to gain a political advantage in his reelection campaign, that would be a scandal of gigantic proportions. As one former top Justice Department official told me “if done for political gain, rather than for a bona fide purpose advancing the public interests of the United States, it could be grounds for impeachment.” [...]
CONTINUED HERE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/marc-thiessen-are-obamaleaks-an-impeachable-offense/2013/02/04/14a89aca-6ee5-11e2-ac36-3d8d9dcaa2e2_story.html