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Florida Congressmen Attack WikiLeaks for Posting Classified Documents

November 29, 2010 - 6:00pm

Members of Floridas congressional delegation are up in arms over the latest round of classified documents released by WikiLeaks, maintaining that the leaked information undermines American security and even calling for federal prosecution of WikiLeaks.

Members of the Florida congressional delegation attacked WikiLeaks for posting the documents on its website.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is set to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee when Republicans take over the U.S. House in January, said on Sunday when thousands of pages of classified documents were posted:This latest release of classified and other sensitive U.S. documents by WikiLeaks is extremely irresponsible. Those who leak and publish such information are doing great harm to our nation, and are potentially putting American lives in danger.

This newest batch of documents appears to contain troves of classified reports related to our nations conduct of diplomacy and foreign policy, including reports of critical discussions with our allies, added Ros-Lehtinen. This is the everyday work-product of our officials all over the globe. This critical and highly sensitive information must be managed carefully.

It is deeply disturbing that a few individuals seem to have deemed themselves worthy of deciding that scores of classified and sensitive material should be paraded about for our enemies to review and use against us, continued Ros-Lehtinen. These leaks come at the expense of U.S. security and, potentially, American lives.

On Tuesday, Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan called for prosecution of WikiLeaks for releasing the classified documents.

Buchanan sent U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder a letter on Tuesday, arguing that WikiLeaks violated the Espionage Act of 1917 by publishing thousands of documents online. Buchanan called for Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute WikiLeaks.

It is vitally necessary that these leaks be plugged, and further, that those guilty of this harmful act are severely punished to avoid future leaks jeopardizing national security, wrote Buchanan.

I stand in full support of the Obama administrations future efforts to hold the individual(s) leaking classified government documents accountable for their actions, and hope you will use all tools at your disposal in this endeavor, added Buchanan.

Other congressmen from Florida joined in the criticism on Tuesday.

The disclosure of documents by Wikileaks has nothing to do with whistle-blowing or transparency, as the website would claim, and everything to do with undermining our national security and damaging foreign relations, said Republican U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw. I strongly support the investigation by the Department of Justice to determine whether the Wikileaks founder violated criminal law in providing these documents to news outlets. Moreover, the Office of the Director on National Intelligence (ODNI) must move quickly to assess the fallout in this case and to establish security protocols, including audit capabilities for classified networks. Congress should act quickly and schedule hearings to ensure the ODNI, the military, and the FBI have necessary counterintelligence authorities to ensure a destructive leak of this nature does not happen again.

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. George LeMieux said on Tuesday, Senator LeMieux believes the reckless dissemination of stolen classified documents hurts our countrys credibility, diplomatic efforts, and endangers those who have helped keep America safe from terrorists. He feels these leaks must stop, violators must be prosecuted, and the administration must take steps to tighten security."

The Obama administration attacked WikiLeaks for releasing the documents, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offering harsh words for the organization on Monday.

But WikiLeaks also had its defenders, including free-speech advocates and noninterventionist groups.

The WikiLeaks phenomenon -- the existence of an organization devoted to obtaining and publicly releasing large troves of information the U.S. government would prefer to keep secret -- illustrates just how broken our secrecy classification system is, noted Hina Shamshi of the ACLU. While the Obama administration has made some modest improvements to the rules governing classification of government information, both it and the Bush administration have overclassified and kept secret information that should be subject to public scrutiny and debate. As a result, the American public has had to depend on leaks to the news media and whistle-blowers to know what the government is up to.

There is certainly a narrow category of information that the government should be able to keep secret in order to protect national security and for other purposes, continued Shamshi. But the reality is that much more information has been classified by the U.S. government than should be, and information is often classified not for legitimate security reasons, but for political reasons -- to protect the government from embarrassment, to manipulate public opinion, or even to conceal evidence of criminal activity. When too much information is classified, it becomes more and more difficult to separate the information that should be made public from the information that is legitimately classified.

This is not endangering anybodys lives but it is endangering a lot of peoples livelihoods, said Eric Garris, the founder and managing editor of Antiwar.com which is published by the Randolph Bourne Institute. Garris noted that some of the revelations included the U.S. government authorizing stealing credit card information and passwords of other nations political leaders and diplomats. People should be fired, he added.

Former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat who served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Sunshine State News on Tuesday that the leaks could have serious global consequences.

Its a wake-up call to governments all around the world, said Wexler who is now serving as president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace in Washington.

Wexler agreed with Clinton that WikiLeaks compromised Americas and other nations security by releasing the documents.

It remains to be determined the degree of the harm, said Wexler, who noted that some of the documents released relate to the continuing tensions in the Middle East.

The revealed correspondence highlights the urgent opportunity the U.S. and Israel have with respect to creating a viable coalition between the U.S. and Israel and moderate Arab nations, insisted Wexler.

Jason Ditz, news editor of Antiwar.com, who supports the release of the classified documents, insisted that they revealed that the U.S. was marching into war with Iran.

As WikiLeaks continues to steadily release its vast cache of State Department cables, a number of hawks are seeing the opportunity to spin official communiqu, insisted Ditz. References to conversations with Israeli officials and Saudi royalty calling for an American attack on Iran are somehow being treated as vindication for those calls.

Yet the cables are clearly painting a picture of U.S. diplomats uninterested in having any conversation on Iran that doesnt end with an outspoken endorsement of a U.S. invasion, continued Ditz, who added that the documents showed that there was no proof that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. These cables represent a sort of echo chamber of the usual shills for war and the fact that the people quoted support such a war should surprise no one, nor should it convince anyone of the wisdom of such a war.

The WikiLeaks releases will undoubtedly continue to unveil a number of overt criminal actions by officials, as indeed they already have, but we must not lose sight of this casual march toward war, lest we wake up some day to discover that President Obama has indeed started a calamitous war with Iran, added Ditz.

What this really is about is embarrassed U.S. officials who did things they should be embarrassed about and that the American people should know about, said Garris.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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