The White House ordered tighter security yesterday to prevent leaks like the release of more than 250,000 State Department cables that have embarrassed the U.S. government and some of its allies.

The new procedures would ensure “that users do not have broader access than is necessary to do their jobs effectively” and would put restrictions on the handling of classified material, according to a directive from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Sunday’s release of documents obtained by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks exposed the inner workings of U.S. diplomacy in recent years, including candid assessments of world leaders and disclosures on issues such as Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Attorney General Eric Holder said there is an active criminal investigation into the leak and that anyone found responsible will be prosecuted.

“To the extent that we can find anybody who was involved in the breaking of American law and who has put at risk the assets and the people that I have described, they will be held responsible, they will be held accountable,” Holder said.

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Washington organized the leak to pursue political objectives.

Feds say sorry for the lapse

The United States deeply regrets any disclosure of classified information, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday in her first comment on the release of State Department cables by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.

While she would not comment directly on the cables, which were described Sunday by five news organizations who had advance access to some data obtained by WikiLeaks, Clinton said the United States would take aggressive steps to hold responsible those who “stole” them.

No sweat for PM?of Italy

ROME – Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi defended himself against U.S. State Department classified cables which said the 74-year-old is “feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader” and his “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest.”?

“Unfortunately, I have never in my life taken part in any ‘wild party.’ They may be interesting,” he told reporters in Italy.

Silent partner to the US?

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the U.S. to attack Iran’s nuclear program, according to WikiLeaks documents. “Cut off the head of the snake,” the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, quotes the king as saying during a meeting with General David Petraeus in April 2008.