Sept. 20, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Members See Little Recourse for WikiLeaks

Members of Congress decried the release of more than 250,000 secret State Department cables by WikiLeaks — including some that exposed private talks between Members and foreign leaders — saying it could hamper future Congressional involvement abroad.

But it was unclear Monday whether there is much Congress can do about the leaks.

“I feel personally violated,” said Rep. Jane Harman, whose name appears in a cable posted by WikiLeaks describing a conversation between a Congressional delegation, or CODEL, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding what to do about Iran’s nuclear program.

The alleged 2009 cable describes Netanyahu pressing the Americans repeatedly in what appears to be an effort to pin them down on whether the United States is ultimately prepared to go to war.

“Leaning forward, Netanyahu repeated his earlier question: ‘What will you do if it does not work?’ Netanyahu said that learning to live with a nuclear Iran would be a big mistake, which would lead to a different, more dangerous world. While he noted that he could not say for certain that Iran would use a nuclear weapon against Israel, if Iran had a bomb Israelis would have to ask that question every day....For a third time, Netanyahu asked, ‘What are you going to do?’”

The cable does not mention a response from the CODEL, and Harman said in an interview Monday that she could not discuss it.

“The irony here is it’s still a secret cable,” the California Democrat said. “It hasn’t been declassified. I can’t discuss the contents. I can discuss how I feel about this. It is ironic, isn’t it?”

Harman said the releases could damage the value of future CODELs. “If conversations are not protected, some conversations will not occur,” she said, adding that the whole point of a CODEL is to have candid conversations with major players.

The House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to get a briefing on the leaks in closed session Wednesday with senior intelligence officials and the State Department. Other committees also plan to hold hearings, said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But beyond hearings, it’s not clear if Congress will take any action regarding the matter.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry declined in a brief interview Monday to discuss other cables in which his CODELs were detailed, but he also said those who leaked the documents should be brought to justice. Asked what he thought Congress should do, the Massachusetts Democrat referred to the administration, which is investigating the leaks.

“I think there needs to be prosecutor action. I think it’s treasonous, outrageous, counterproductive, dangerous,” he said. “It impacts people’s ability to have honest conversation and talk to you directly ... It complicates diplomacy enormously.”

Kerry said it could also harm security by making some countries, such as Yemen, unwilling to cooperate in fighting terrorism for fear that their leaders’ private conversations will be exposed.

Several Republicans also condemned the leaks.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, called the release an embarrassment to the Obama administration and a failure of the Pentagon and the intelligence community, and he called for Congressional hearings on the matter.

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