The Republicans plan to hold a congressional inquiry into WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, following the organisation’s release of thousands of classified United States diplomatic cables.
The party, which will wrest control of house committees from the Democrats, has included WikiLeaks in a list of priorities for investigation.
The move is partly political, aimed at the attorney general, Eric Holder, whom the Republicans claim has been too slow and too weak in reacting.
He said last month that the justice department was looking at what action can be taken against Assange but that lawyers are struggling to find legislation under which the Australian national can be prosecuted.
Darrell Issa, who will take over as chair of the House of Representatives oversight committee and is calling for Holder’s resignation, said of Assange in a television interview on Sunday: “If the president says, ‘I can’t deal with this guy as a terrorist’ then he has to be able to deal with him as a criminal, otherwise the world is laughing at this paper tiger we’ve become.”
The Politico website published an extensive list of areas Issa’s committee intends to investigate, including WikiLeaks. The committee, which has a broad remit covering fraud and waste, has the power to subpoena witnesses from the highest reaches of Washington political life. Hearings could begin later this month.
Issa said his committee would investigate WikiLeaks because it wanted “to get that right so the diplomats can do their job with confidence and people can talk to our government with confidence”.
He suggested the new congress would have to pass legislation to try to prevent similar acts of whistle-blowing.
Doug Schoen, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, cautioned Issa, telling Fox News that there was a grand jury in place looking at Assange and these investigators should be left to complete their work.
Guardian News & Media 2011