Would proposed law affect news media’s ability to report?
WASHINGTON — Amid calls in the US Congress to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a group of senators on Thursday unveiled a bill to make it easier to target the self-described whistleblowing website.
The legislation, crafted by Republican Senators John Ensign and Scott Brown as well as Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, would make it illegal to publish the names of informants serving the US military and intelligence community.
It was not immediately clear whether the new rule would also apply to traditional US media.
Ensign accused Assange of “creating a hit list for our enemies” by making public the names of intelligence assets in a bid “to hinder our war efforts” and stressed: “WikiLeaks is not a whistleblower website and Assange is not a journalist.”
“Our government must make it clear that revealing the identities of these individuals will not be tolerated,” said Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
“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,” he added.
WikiLeaks threw US diplomacy into chaos on Sunday as it published the first batch of more than 250,000 US classified diplomatic cables the website is believed to have obtained from a disaffected US soldier.
Lawmakers expressed outrage in July when WikiLeaks released a batch of some 90,000 logs about the Afghanistan war, charging the site had exposed US troops’ Afghan informants to potentially deadly retaliation by releasing their names.
US officials have yet to document any fatalities linked to the disclosures.
Brown said the legislation, which would amend the US Espionage Act aimed at punishing the disclosure of secret information, would give US authorities “a tool to prevent something like this from happening again.”