The chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee said Sunday that the press leak on the covert operation to disrupt an Al Qaeda affiliate's sophisticated bomb plot "has to be prosecuted," calling the leak "serious" and harmful to the government's "sources and methods."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told "Fox News Sunday" that the leak is "a big one."
The story about the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula bomb plot was first reported by the Associated Press. As has been previously reported, Feinstein said the government asked that the story be held -- the AP held the story until Monday.
But the publication, the senator said, still "jeopardizes" the mission and the ability of the United States to work with other countries. To boot, she said it gave "a tip-off" to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to be more careful about who they use as couriers and bombers. Reportedly, the supposed bomber in this plot was an informant for the operation being led by the U.S. and its partners.
'Kill this bomb maker.'
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein
"The leak really did endanger sources and methods," Feinstein said. "And the leak, I think, has to be prosecuted."
She said an investigation is being conducted and expressed hope that "criminal charges will go to the Department of Justice."
Feinstein's counterpart on the House side -- House intelligence committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich. -- has also voiced concern about the leak, claiming it prevented the operation from being completed.
Feinstein questioned how the information on the plot could have been leaked, saying the operation was "closely held" and that a "limited number of people knew about it."
Rogers earlier in the week suggested the leak could have been politically motivated.
But a U.S. official who spoke condition of anonymity rejected the idea that the leak was in any way coordinated.
"This is just totally wrong. First of all, the notion that this was an intentional leak is ludicrous. We actually fought to prevent this information from coming out, and then we fought to delay the AP's publication of it for operational reasons," the official told Fox News earlier in the week. "No one is more upset than us about this disclosure."
As for the bomb itself, which is now in U.S. custody, Feinstein said she's not confident that it would have been detected by traditional screening methods at airports.
Feinstein said the U.S. needs to "kill this bomb maker" and his associates.
"There is a very dangerous process in play at the present time," Feinstein said, calling Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula the "number one threat to our country."