Senate Intelligence Committee Tried to Say WikiLeaks Constituted — Not Just Resembled — A Spy

The bill report for the Intelligence Authorization is out. Among other things, it provides more details on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s efforts to get WikiLeaks treated as a non-state hostile intelligence service. It reveals that the original language of the bill

By voice vote, the Committee adopted a second-degree amendment by Senator King to an amendment by Senator Wyden that would have stricken Section 623 of the bill. Section 623 originally provided a Sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and its senior leadership constitute a non-state hostile intelligence service.

By a vote of 13 ayes to 2 noes, the Committee adopted the amendment by Senator Wyden that would have stricken Section 623 of the bill, as modified by the second-degree amendment by Senator King, to provide a Sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and its senior leadership resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service. The votes in person or by proxy were as follows: [my emphasis]

Chairman Burr–aye;

Senator Risch–aye;

Senator Rubio–aye;

Senator Collins–aye;

Senator Blunt–aye;

Senator Lankford–aye;

Senator Cotton–aye;

Senator Cornyn–aye;

Vice Chairman Warner–aye;

Senator Feinstein–aye;

Senator Wyden–no;

Senator Heinrich–aye;

Senator King–aye;

Senator Manchin–aye;

Senator Harris–no.

As you can see, Kamala Harris is the only one, besides Ron Wyden, who voted against this troubling amendment.

Here’s her statement from the report:

In particular, I have reservations about Section 623, which establishes a Sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service. The Committee’s bill offers no definition of “non-state hostile intelligence service” to clarify what this term is and is not. Section 623 also directs the United States to treat WikiLeaks as such a service, without offering further clarity.

To be clear, I am no supporter of WikiLeaks, and believe that the organization and its leadership have done considerable harm to this country. This issue needs to be addressed. However, the ambiguity in the bill is dangerous because it fails to draw a bright line between WikiLeaks and legitimate journalistic organizations that play a vital role in our democracy.

I supported efforts to remove this language in Committee and look forward to working with my colleagues as the bill proceeds to address my concerns.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

5 replies
  1. der says:

    When Trump signs a bill with Section 623 in it will anyone who visits Wikileaks website be considered a supporter of “our enemy”? Will any news organization who links to Wikileaks be hostile to our freedoms?

    .

    What Constitution, so yesterday, only the Supremes can reach back 230 years for original intent.

  2. Charles says:

    Calling Wikileaks a non-state hostile actor is ridiculous and unconstitutional. The fact that this can even pass the laugh test in the Senate is because they have declared war on “Terror,” as if “Terror” were a government.

    Wikileaks may be being exploited by a hostile state. It may be hostile to the US and therefore assisting a hostile state. But calling it a “non-state hostile intelligence service” only makes sense if we also apply that designation as well to the Heritage Foundation & Co., organizations that have made it abundantly clear that they despise the Constitution.

  3. orionATL says:

    hmm. this label could have widespread political use to deal with really annoying organizations.

    say the communist party USA, the kkk, (no wait, scratch those two), the aclu, the s. p. law center, the church of what’s happenin’ now, or saturday night live offends sufficient numbers of politicians in power and their supporters? label ’em and ban’ em.

    looks like it’s time for an amendment to the USA patriot act or would that be the USA freedom act? the amendment would, of course, be labeled something like “the protection of speech and association” amendment.

  4. orionATL says:

    look at it this way (borrowing from the vocabulary of hackers) , national security “needs” are the politician’s backdoor to the constitution, cf. the execrable and thoroughly unconstitutional national security letter. i’d warrant that none of those present at the votes for the constitution would have even considered such a measure.

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