Senate Intelligence Chair Feinstein: Underwear-Bomb Leaker ‘Has to Be Prosecuted’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | May 14, 2012 | 1:07 PM EDT

Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein and Leon Panetta at the time of Panetta's confirmation hearing to be CIA director, Feb. 6, 2009. (AP Photo)

( - Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein said on Fox News Sunday that the government must prosecute those responsible for leaking to reporters information about an intelligence operation that thwarted a plot by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to place a suicide bomber wearing explosive underwear on a U.S.-bound airliner.

Feinstein was responding to Shannon Bream of Fox News, who asked: “What kind of investigation, if any, do you think should be launched in to how the information was released?”

“A big one,” Feinstein said.

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“This leak was serious. This leak essentially--well, first of all, the operation was closely held,” said Feinstein. “It was CIA, FBI, Homeland Security and TSA. So a limited number of people knew about it. General procedure would have the chairman and the vice chairman of each of the intelligence committees briefed during the attack or prior to it. This was not the case. There was no briefing.

"Apparently, the leak came to an AP reporter, the government called and asked that the story be held and the story was held until Monday and then was released,” said Feinstein. “What this does, it certainly jeopardizes the asset,” she said. “It certainly jeopardizes our ability to relate to other countries and for other countries to help us, and it gives a tip off to AQAP to be more careful about who they use as their couriers, as their bombers.

“So, the leak did endanger sources and methods, and the leak I think has to be prosecuted,” Feinstein said.

“So, the investigation is being done, hopefully concluded and criminal charges will go to the Department of Justice,” she said.

Landmark Legal Foundation President Mark Levin, who hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, made an issue about the propriety of the leak on his program last week.

On Fox News Sunday, Bream introduced her discussion of the leak with Feinstein by showing a clip of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discussing it. Panetta formerly served as CIA director.

“You have to protect these people and you have to protect the confidence and the classification and the covert nature of this kind of work,” said Panetta. “When these leaks take place, I can't tell you how much they damage our ability to be able to pursue out intelligence efforts.”