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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, appeared to have second thoughts Tuesday about joining the chorus of Republicans accusing the Obama White House of leaking classified national security information.
After Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday cited in a speech to the VFW comments Feinstein made a day earlier — in which she suggested White House officials were the source of some leaks — Feinstein tried to defuse her earlier words.
In a statement, she said:
"I am disappointed by the statements made by Mr. Romney today regarding a question I was asked yesterday at the World Affairs Council."
"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."
"I'm on record as being disturbed by these leaks, and 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."
"I know we are in a campaign season, but I hope the investigation proceeds without political accusation or interference from anyone."
The comment Feinstein was backing away Tuesday was the following:
"I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks. I don't know specifically where. But I think they have to begin to understand that and do something about it. ...
"... He gets a briefing intelligence. I don't believe for a moment he goes out and talks about it. I don't believe the briefers go out and talk about it. But who knows who else? But I think the importance of this has to be set by the president himself."
The Romney campaign likened Feinstein's reversal to that of Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker earlier this year.
The mayor criticized the president's re-election campaign for populist attacks on Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney once headed. After furious attacks from fellow Democrats, Booker definitely eased off those criticisms.
Ryan Adams, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign, linked Feinstein and Booker in the following statement:
"It looks like President Obama has given Dianne Feinstein the Cory Booker treatment. Yesterday she was speaking candidly about the leaks originating from this White House. Today, she was forced to walk it back. As Governor Romney said today, we need a leader who will take responsibility and immediately halt these security breaches before more American lives are put in danger."