After the whistleblower website WikiLeaks began leaking hundreds of diplomatic cables sent by U.S. embassies and diplomatic staff across the world, a number of politicians and pundits have called for extraordinary measures to silence WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. For instance, conservative bloggers and Fox News personality Mike Huckabee have called for Assange to be killed.
The political assault against WikiLeaks has increasingly focused on efforts to chill the freedom of the press. Last week, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) raised the stakes by suggesting that the New York Times should be investigated by the Justice Department for reporting on the WikiLeak cables. On a right-wing Internet radio station last week, Rep.-elect Allen West (R-FL) condemned Assange, and said that he thought the government “should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to do this.” He added that American media outlets which “supported him and applaud[ed]” the WikiLeaks release should also be censored:
WEST: There are different means by which you can be attacked. I mean it doesnt have to be a bomb or an airplane flying into a building. It doesn’t have to be a shooting. It can be through cyber attacks, it could be through leaking of very sensitive classified information. Regardless of whether you think it causes any harm, the fact that here is an individual that is not an American citizen first and foremost, for whatever reason gotten his hands on classified American material and put it out there in the public domain. And I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to do this and also supported him and applauding him for the efforts. So that’s kind of aiding and abetting of a serious crime.
Newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post, news wires like the Associated Press, as well as thousands of blogs have reported on the WikiLeaks cables. According to West, all of these outlets could be guilty of “aiding and abetting of a serious crime.” West campaigned for office as a “Tea Party” Republican, but he does not share the Founding Father’s view of the Constitution or the First Amendment. Emphasizing the necessity of a free press enshrined in the Bill of Rights, Thomas Jefferson said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Not all members of Congress agree with West’s belief in censorship. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) has praised WikiLeaks, arguing recently that the American people have a “right to know what’s going on.” Similarly, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) have opposed efforts to criminalize WikiLeaks and other whistleblower organizations.