Updated at 5:33pm ET In the growing election-year furor over leaks of U.S. intelligence information, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, distanced herself Tuesday from attacks on President Obama made by Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney.
Earlier Tuesday in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention in Reno, Nev., Romney accused Obama’s White House staff of revealing “classified material for political gain,” citing recent comments by Feinstein that appeared to support the attack.
This prompted Feinstein to say in a written statement that she was “disappointed” by Romney’s inclusion of her remarks in the speech.
Mitt Romney took aim at President Obama, calling for an investigation into leaks of classified information and criticizing him for military spending cuts at the VFW convnetion in Reno. Watch the entire speech
The leaking of intelligence information “betrays our national interest,” Romney told the VFW. “It compromises our men and women in the field… Exactly who in the White House betrayed these secrets? Did a superior authorize it? These are things that Americans are entitled to know – and they are entitled to know right now.”
Romney added that “These events make the decision we face in November all the more important. What kind of White House would reveal classified material for political gain?”
At a World Affairs Council event on Monday in Washington, Feinstein said people in the White House appeared to be responsible for some leaks of classified information.
"I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks," Feinstein said.
In seeking to clarify her remarks, the California Democrat explained in her statement Tuesday following Romney’s speech that “I was asked whether the White House might be responsible for recent national security leaks. I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information. I shouldn’t have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don’t know the source of the leaks.”
She added that, “I regret my remarks are being used to impugn President Obama or his commitment to protecting national security secrets. I know for a fact the president is extremely troubled by these leaks. His administration has moved aggressively to appoint two independent U.S. attorneys. There is an investigation under way, and it is moving forward quickly.”
But Republican senators, led by Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, have said that Attorney General Eric Holder's appointment of the two U.S. attorneys to investigate the leaks is inadequate and have called for the appointment of an independent counsel.
Cornyn has said that the fact one of the prosecutors whom Holder appointed, Ronald Machen, contributed to the 2008 Obama campaign and worked on the vetting of Obama's vice presidential choices compromises his independence. Holder defended Machen saying he “has the capacity to investigate this case in a non-partisan, independent, thorough and aggressive way.”
At issue are stories such as a recent New York Times page one feature on Obama’s weighing of which al Qaida operatives to order to be killed in drone strikes in Yemen and elsewhere, and a book by New York Times reporter David Sanger, Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, which is based on interviews with national security officials in the White House.