WASHINGTON: US Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed prosecutors to lead two criminal investigations of high-profile leaks of classified national security information to the media.

The “highly-respected and experienced prosecutors will be directing separate investigations currently being conducted by the FBI,” Holder said in a statement on Friday.

“I have notified members of Congress and plan to provide more information, as appropriate, to members of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees,” Holder said.

“The unauthorised disclosure of classified information can compromise the security of this country and all Americans, and it will not be tolerated,” he added.

The prosecutors were identified as US Attorneys Ronald Machen of the District of Columbia and Rod Rosenstein of Maryland.

Holder expressed confidence in their ability to “doggedly follow the facts and the evidence in the pursuit of justice wherever it leads”.

The announcement followed several explosive stories in US media: describing President Barack Obama's alleged push for cyber attacks on computers that run Iran's nuclear facilities; an apparent “kill list” of counterterrorism targets against whom Obama has authorised lethal action; and a secret drone campaign against terrorists in Yemen.

The New York Times reported that sources for their articles on the covert programs included former or current administration officials.

Some Republicans have suggested the information was leaked to boost Obama's image as a tough commander-in-chief in an election year.

Senator John McCain, who lost the 2008 presidential race to Obama, has been leading the accusations. He received backing Thursday from Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

“It has to be for reelection,” King told Politico about the leaks. “They can deny it all they want. But it would require a suspension of belief to believe it's not being done for political purposes.”

Obama hit back Friday, labelling the allegations “offensive”.

“The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive,” Obama said.—AFP

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