WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, Tuesday backed off an assertion that the White House had leaked classified information.
The California Democrat told the World Affairs Council Monday "the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks." A day later, she said she did not know the source of the leaks, The Hill reported.
"I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information," Feinstein said in a statement on Tuesday. "I shouldn't have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don't know the source of the leaks."
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said in a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention Tuesday President Barack Obama is trying to squelch efforts to find the source of the leaks until after the election in November.
Feinstein said she regretted generating political fodder for Obama's opponent.
"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," Feinstein said. "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."
Romney's campaign staff compared Feinstein to Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, who was criticized by the Obama campaign after he described an Obama campaign ad criticizing Romney's private equity background as "nauseating."
"It looks like President Obama has given Dianne Feinstein the Cory Booker treatment," Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. "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."
Republicans say Attorney General Eric Holder's probe into the leaks is not independent and want him to appoint a special counsel, a move Feinstein opposes.
White House press secretary Jay Carney repeated administration denials of culpability for the leaks.
"As a general matter, the president has made abundantly clear that he has no tolerance for leaks and he thinks leaks are damaging to our national security interests," Carney said. "The kinds of decisions he has to make every day depend upon the ability to keep our secrets secret."