Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

By The Situation Room - June 6, 2012

BLITZER: Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Democratic senator from California, Dianne Feinstein.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

Are you with Senator McCain when it comes to urging the president to name a special counsel to investigate these leaks?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we're -- we're take -- going to take our own action. The Intelligence Committee is meeting tomorrow morning with General Clapper. This is certainly a consideration, the appointment of a special counsel. I am waiting for some information that I've asked for before I make a decision.

BLITZER: So you're not ready to go as far as Senator McCain and Senator Saxby Chambliss, because a special counsel, obviously, that would be a huge deal. Once that door opens, you never know where it's going to -- where it's going to close.

Is that your concern?

FEINSTEIN: Well, and it can go on for five years. I mean we don't know. I have some other thoughts. I don't want to discuss them here. I'll discuss them with the committee tomorrow morning.

I think what we're seeing, Wolf, is an Anschluss, an avalanche of leaks. And it's very, very disturbing. You know, it -- it's dismayed our allies. It puts American lives in jeopardy. It puts our nation's security in jeopardy.

And if you look at terrorism, intelligence is fundamental to knowing what's going to happen and prevent it from happening in the first place.

So I think the FBI should continue its investigation. We're going to do ours. I think Armed Services has announced an investigation.

I think this should take place.

BLITZER: So will there be joint... FEINSTEIN: Let me...

BLITZER: -- joint hearings between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee?

Are you in favor of that?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I -- I am in favor of it. I suggested this to Senator Levin, the chairman, last evening. And it's -- it's up to him. So we will see what comes of that.

BLITZER: When you said in your statement -- and I read it very carefully, a joint statement with your Republican colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, on the Intelligence Committees, one thing you said -- and you just repeated it -- "each disclosure puts American lives at risk."

Explain how, in these particular instances, American lives are now at risk as a result of what was published.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'll tell you, because people don't know the whole story. And they inadvertently release something that appears to be harmless, that, in their judgment, is harmless, but I don't know, puts them in the know or something like that. And you can piece it together and you can figure out where the individual is or who that individual is or where that individual works.

And it creates a problem. Therefore, people say, we don't want to give information to the United States. They're not going to protect us. They're not going to help us.

And this is beginning to happen now.

So people are placed in danger and American lives are lost because of it. And people just talk too much. And this didn't used to be the case, but suddenly, it's -- it's like it's a spreadable disease. It's just happening.

BLITZER: Well, with a...

FEINSTEIN: Another thing are books that are written. People that live their life serving in an intelligence capacity that then get and write a book and release all kinds of things.

BLITZER: I guess the question is -- and you don't have to go into specific details, I would assume they would be classified, but do you know of a specific incident -- incent -- incident where someone's life has been threatened or endangered, an actual incident, as a result of these leaks?

FEINSTEIN: Yes. I can tell you where lives have been endangered.

BLITZER: Has anyone been killed as a result?

FEINSTEIN: Not to my knowledge. BLITZER: Do you want to go into specifics?

FEINSTEIN: No, I do not.

BLITZER: All right. Well, you don't have to. I -- I suspect that this is sensitive...

FEINSTEIN: And I'm not going to.

BLITZER: -- information. But it looks like the Republicans, at least, are accusing the White House, the Obama administration, of deliberately leaking some of this information to score political points in the reelection campaign.

I assume you're not willing to go that far?

FEINSTEIN: Well, that's correct. I don't believe any of this came directly out of the top ranks of the White House. I think one of the problems is information is not closely held sufficiently.

Point two, we -- we had a hearing yesterday. What came out of that hearing, to me, is that a lot of the policies with respect to leaks are archaic. They need to be revamped. We will talk about that tomorrow.

We are preparing an intelligence authorization bill. I met last evening with Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Committee. We have agreed to work together to put into law some new procedures with respect to leaks and preventing these leaks.

BLITZER: Should -- if there is a special counsel, if there's prosecution, should the individuals who leaked the information, in other words, government employees, government officials, should they be prosecuted?

And I assume you -- you would say the answer would be yes.

FEINSTEIN: Of course.

BLITZER: But what about the journalists and the news organizations who published this information?

FEINSTEIN: Well, this is a big problem, because what you have are very sophisticated journalists. David Sanger is one of the best. I spoke -- he came into my office. He saw me. You know, we've worked together at the Aspen Strategy Institute. He assured me that what he was publishing, he had worked out with various agencies and he didn't believe that anything was revealed that wasn't known already.

Well, I read "The New York Times" article and my heart dropped, because he wove a tapestry which has an impact that's beyond any single one thing. And he's very good at what he does. And he spent a year figuring it all out. And he's just one. And this is a problem.

It's also a problem that we have people consulting. They live their life with classified information. They then get a consultancy with your show or cer -- your station or some other station and they're talking, inadvertently, I think, about information that should not be talked about.

We have to take a look at all of this. We have to take a look at the oath of non-disclosure that people take. We have to strengthen that.

We have to strengthen the investigation within the departments.

I think the processes are sloppy. I think they're haphazard. I think they need tightening and we've received testimony to that effect.

And we're going to be discussing it, and, I hope, taking some very vigorous with the House Committee in our authorization bill.

BLITZER: We're -- we're out of time, Senator, but I have to follow-up.

Are you saying you're not ruling out the possibility that journalists like David Sanger, of "The New York Times," who was here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday, that they should be prosecuted as a result of...

FEINSTEIN: Well, we'll...

BLITZER: -- of this classified information...

FEINSTEIN: -- don't...

BLITZER: -- being released?

FEINSTEIN: Don't -- don't put words in my mouth.

BLITZER: No, I'm just -- I want to just clarify that.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I didn't say that. What I said is that this is an issue that we need to deal with, and that is the fact that we have an enormously smart constituency of journalists who follow this, who piece things together, who get one little piece somewhere and a second little piece another place and a third and a fourth and put it all together.

And this is what we've got to now begin to pay some attention to, because it's going to result in the inability of the United States to be able to have an intelligence profile, an intelligence apparatus that's able to protect this country.

BLITZER: I've got to tell you, we're going to leave it on this note, Senator. I've been hearing these allegations for 30 plus years that I've been in Washington, going back to the Frank Church committee, one of your predecessors on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and, yes, occasionally these leaks do cause some serious problems for the U.S. National security apparatus. But the business continues and the U.S. Manages to go along the way. I'm not denying that some of these leaks cause major, major problems for the US. But this is not a new phenomenon. I've been hearing about these problems for many, many years.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I've been on the Intelligence Committee for 11 years and I have never seen it worse, I can tell you that.

BLITZER: All right. That's fair enough.

All right, Senator, good for you to come in.

We'll stay in close touch on this issue.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: I fully appreciate how sensitive it is.

FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. 

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