Obama `angst` ridden over intelligence leaks: US spy chief

James Clapper said intelligence agencies would have to be more restrained.

Washington: US President Barack Obama is full of "angst" over a "haemorrhage" of leaks of sensitive intelligence from government officials, the director of national intelligence said on Wednesday.

James Clapper, the new chief of the country`s spy services, also said that intelligence agencies would have to be more restrained about sharing information with each other as a result of the leaks, citing the recent release of secret files on the Afghan war by the WikiLeaks website.

In comments only days after Western security sources said they had uncovered a terror plot against European cities, Clapper slammed US officials who he said were exposing classified information.

"I was in a meeting yesterday (Tuesday) with the President, and I was ashamed to have to sit there and listen to the President express his great angst about the leaking that`s going on here in this town," Clapper said at a Washington conference on intelligence reform.

"And particularly when it`s widely quoted amorphous, anonymous senior intelligence officials, who for whatever reason get their jollies from blabbing to the media," he said.

Clapper said he was not finding fault with reporters but with government officials "who have supposedly taken an oath to protect this country”.

In a rare public appearance, Clapper said government agencies have made progress in sharing intelligence information, which has been repeatedly identified as a problem plaguing spy and law enforcement services since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

But he said "the classic dilemma of need to share versus need to know is still with us," and that the spate of leaks meant spy agencies would need to exercise restraint when it comes to passing along information to other government services.

The July release of tens of thousands of secret military documents through WikiLeaks also was likely to discourage spy agencies from sharing information, calling the episode "a big yellow flag”, he said.

"I think it`s going to have a very chilling effect on the need to share," he said.

Clapper has previously scolded staff members over leaks to the media, issuing a memo in August warning that passing on classified information was a "serious matter”.

Yesterday’s conference was organised by the Bipartisan Policy Centre, led by two former lawmakers who carried out an inquiry into the 9/11 attacks and urged reforms of intelligence agencies.