The Senate’s top Republican on Sunday said the founder of the website WikiLeaks and the person who gave him sensitive government documents should be “prosecuted to the full extent of the law” despite an effort by the Obama administration to downplay the leaks.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, railed against WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange, saying he greatly harmed U.S. diplomatic efforts overseas.
“I think the man is a high tech terrorist,” he said. “He has done enormous damage to our country and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law.”
McConnell’s comments echo those made by other Republican lawmakers who have called for an investigation into how thousands of sensitive, classified cables were made public by the whistle-blower website.
Some of the documents held personal identification numbers, information about weapons, and potentially ego-bruising correspondence about the leaders of some of the nation’s closest allies.
In the meantime, administration officials last week worked to frame the lasting effect of the document dump.
“I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game changer and so on,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. “I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought.”
Gates continued, "The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they believe we can keep secrets."
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., however, disagreed.
“I think there is damage, and maybe a little bit more profound than (Gates),” he said on Meet the Press. “I don’t think it goes to the extent that some people have been saying, but yes, there is real damage.”
Kerry would not say whether or not some U.S. ambassadors would be removed from their posts, but admitted that the more personal information included in the WikiLeaks documents have strained relationships.
The senator, however, downplayed the lasting historical significance of Assange and WikiLeaks. “This is voyeurism,” he said. “This is the sort of anarchical kind of act by someone who wants attention.”