John McCain
John McCainReuters

U.S. senator John McCain on the weekend accused President Barack Obama's administration of leaking the report of Obama's approval of cyber-attacks against Iran in a bid for pre-election glory.

AFP quoted McCain as having told reporters in Singapore, where he was attending a conference on Asian security, “Again we see these leaks to the media about ongoing operations, which is incredibly disturbing. Doesn't this give some benefit to our adversaries?”

McCain also pointed to previous leaks that revealed details of last year's U.S. raid that led to the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

He was responding to a New York Times report from Friday which said that Obama ordered the Stuxnet virus attack on Iran in 2010, as part of a wave of cyber sabotage and espionage against the would-be nuclear power.

The report was based on a new book, citing senior Washington sources, which chronicles secret wars under the Obama administration. The book, “Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power”, was written by David Sanger.

The Stuxnet virus, aimed at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was designed to damage centrifuges by making covert adjustments to the machines controlling them.

It was part of a “wave” of digital attacks on Iran, codenamed “Olympic Games” and was created with the assistance of a secret Israeli intelligence unit, the book says.

McCain, who is the most senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in response to the report, “We know the leaks have to come from the administration. And so we're at the point where perhaps we need an investigation. So this is kind of a pattern in order to hype the national security credentials of the president, and every administration does it. But I think this administration has taken it to a new level.”

While he admitted that the president has the authority to carry out such operations, McCain said most presidents would discuss them with a “select few leaders of Congress.” He added that the White House did not brief U.S. lawmakers about the cyber-attacks.

The report on Obama’s role in the Stuxnet attack came several days after Iranian security experts reported that Flame, a virus far more dangerous than the Stuxnet worm, struck the country's computer systems.

The virus, described by the Kaspersky Internet security firm as the “most sophisticated cyber-weapon yet unleashed”, struck at least 600 specific computersystems in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority.

Iran later admitted that its oil industry was briefly affected by Flame, but claimed that Iranian experts had detected and defeated the virus.