A prominent House lawmaker is ratcheting up pressure on the Obama administration to take action against Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange.
In a letter delivered this week, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to add Assange to the department’s Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List, or SDN List, a move that would prohibit U.S. businesses and individuals from doing business with the whistleblower site or anyone associated with it.
The SDN List is a registry maintained by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control that seeks to impose sanctions against individuals and companies associated with targeted foreign countries, or independent entities that have been identified as criminal operations, such as terrorists or drug traffickers.
King and other lawmakers have warned that Wikileaks’ publication of a cache of secret State Department documents, many relating to confidential conversations between diplomats and local informants, puts the lives of U.S. operatives and their sources in danger.
“The U.S. government simply cannot continue its ineffective piecemeal approach of responding in the aftermath of Wikileaks’ damage,” King wrote. “The administration must act to disrupt the Wikileaks enterprise. The U.S. government should be making every effort to strangle the viability of Assange’s organization.”
The move comes after several U.S. businesses, including Amazon and PayPal, cut off commercial ties with Wikileaks amid pressure from the federal government.
Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, recently aired criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder for failing to articulate a legal strategy through which the Justice Department would take action against Wikileaks.
But the DoJ has been working to build a case against Assange and Wikileaks. Earlier this month, microblogging site Twitter won a judge’s approval to unseal a court order the department had obtained directing it to turn over records about Assange and several other individuals associated with Wikileaks, including Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of leaking the documents.
In his letter to Geithner, King warned that Assange appears to be retrenching, citing recent comments about releasing more documents, and the $1 million book deal Assange signed with Alfred A. Knopf in December.
“The U.S. government should be doing all it can to sink Wikileaks,” he said. “By adding Assange and Wikileaks to the SDN List, the United States can finally take action to dismantle his organization.”
In December, King introduced a companion bill to Senate legislation that would make it a crime to publish the names of protected individuals providing information to U.S. intelligence or military operatives.