Appearing on MSNBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a “high-tech terrorist” and should be prosecuted.
“He’s done an enormous damage to our country, and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Sen. McConnell said. “And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law. I think it’s done enormous damage to our country and to our relationships with our allies around the world.”
Newt Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the House and a paid pundit at Fox News, also called Assange a terrorist Sunday.
On Thursday, Republican Senators John Ensign and Scott Brown, along with Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, introduced legislation to make it easier to target whistleblowing websites such as WikiLeaks.
Known as the SHIELD Act, the legislation would make publishing the names of military and intelligence informants illegal.
“The reckless behavior of WikiLeaks has compromised our national security and threatens 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,” Sen. 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.”
The bill would amend the US Espionage Act and was created in response to WikiLeaks release of 250,000 State Department cables last week.
The Obama administration already knows who leaked the diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, Sen. McConnell said on Meet the Press.
“That individual also should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” according to Sen. McConnell. “And they need to be looking at how we can avoid this in the future.”
On Monday, WikiLeaks released a secret list of infrastructure sites around the world considered vital to US national security.
“This is further evidence that they have been generally irresponsible, bordering on criminal,” Malcolm Rifkind, a former British defense and foreign secretary, said in response. “This is the kind of information terrorists are interested in knowing.”
Despite calls for Assange to be prosecuted for publishing confidential information, the American Civil Liberties Union and the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation argue that the website is protected by the First Amendment.
“No government actor can nix WikiLeaks’ right to publish content any more than the government could stop the New York Times and Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers, which were also stolen secret government documents,” the EFF said in a blog post.