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US trying to plug leaks

WASHINGTON — Defence Secretary Leon Panetta ordered senior Pentagon officials yesterday to begin monitoring major US news media for disclosures of classified information in an effort to stop the release of government secrets after a series of high-profile leaks.

The announcement came hours after Panetta and other senior defence officials appeared before a closed-door hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee to discuss recent disclosures of classified security information.

Reports about US cyber warfare against Iran, procedures for targeting militants with drones and a double agent who penetrated a militant group in Yemen have angered US lawmakers. Some have charged the leaks were timed to benefit President Barack Obama’s re-election bid.

Representative Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House panel, told a news conference later that he did not believe the Pentagon was behind the leaks and that Panetta and the other officials were taking the issue seriously.

“Both the chairman and I were very convinced that Secretary Panetta and all of the folks at the Pentagon are taking it seriously, are trying to mitigate the damages and prevent it in the future,” said Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the panel.

Panetta, Army General Martin Dempsey, the top uniformed military officer, and chief Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson appeared before the committee to answer questions. McKeon said they agreed the recent leaks had caused damage, but did not elaborate. (Reuters)

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