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Senators go after WikiLeaks with legislation

Se. John Ensign (R-NV)

Three U.S. senators have introduced legislation aimed at blocking WikiLeaks’ ability to publish the names of intelligence sources by closing a gap in espionage law.

In a statement issued Dec. 1, Sens. John Ensign (R-NV) Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Scott Brown (R-MA) said the proposed the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination (SHIELD) Act would give the administration increased flexibility to go after WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, by making it illegal to publish the names of human intelligence informants (HUMINT) to the United States military and intelligence community.

Specifically, the proposed legislation extends legal protections that already exist for communications intelligence and cryptography to HUMINT under the Espionage Act, said the senators. “By preventing these names from being aired in the public domain, the lives of these sources and their families would be protected, and so too, would our national security interests,” they said.

The senators also said Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, had put HUMINT informants in grave danger. The bill’s introduction came a day after Lieberman, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, pressured Amazon.com to push Wikileaks off of its US server facilities. Wikileaks has since moved to a server offshore.

“Julian Assange and his cronies, in their effort to hinder our war efforts, are creating a hit list for our enemies by publishing the names of our human intelligence sources,” said Ensign.  “Our sources are bravely risking their lives when they stand up against the tyranny of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and murderous regimes, and I simply will not stand idly by as they become death targets because of Julian Assange. Let me be very clear, WikiLeaks is not a whistleblower website and Assange is not a journalist.”

“The recent dissemination by Wikileaks of thousands of State Department cables and other documents is just the latest example of how our national security interests, the interests of our allies, and the safety of government employees and countless other individuals are jeopardized by the illegal release of classified and sensitive information,” said Lieberman. “Our foreign representatives, allies, and intelligence sources must have the clear assurance that their lives will not be endangered by those with opposing agendas, whether they are Americans or not, and our government must make it clear that revealing the identities of these individuals will not be tolerated. This legislation will help hold people criminally accountable who endanger these sources of information that are vital to protecting our national security interests,”  he said.

“The reckless behavior of Wikileaks has compromised our national security and threatened the safety of our troops overseas, and this bipartisan legislation gives the Department of Justice a tool to prevent something like this from happening again,” Brown said. “While I strongly support government transparency, certain information must be kept classified in order to protect innocent American lives during this time of war and global terrorism.”


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