By Gautham Nagesh - 12/07/10 07:26 PM EST
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said The New York Times may have committed a crime by publishing classified documents provided by WikiLeaks, and called for the Justice Department to investigate.
"To me, New York
Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship. And whether
they've committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by
the Justice Department," Lieberman said when asked whether the Times could be charged for publishing the documents.
During the interview with Fox News, Lieberman also questioned why WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has not been charged with treason by the Justice Department.
“I don’t understand why that hasn’t happened yet. It sure looks to me on the facts that Mr. Assange and Wikileaks have. He ought to be indicted and then we can ask the authorities in England to extradite him to the United States," Lieberman said, adding that he doesn't think politics are the reason.
“I think it’s the most serious violation of the Espionage Act in our history, and the consequences globally that have occurred.”
Lieberman acknowledged the sensitivity of prosecuting a news organization for publishing documents provided to it, but called it "a serious legal question that has to be answered."
"This is very sensitive stuff because it gets into the America's First Amendment," Lieberman said, before warning that allowing WikiLeaks to go unpunished could prompt a similar incident in the future.
"And, again, why do you prosecute crimes? Because if you don't, well, first you do because that's what our system of justice requires. Second, if you don't prosecute people who commit crimes, others are going to do it soon and again. And I'm afraid that's what's going to happen here."
He also called on Congress to repeal "Don't ask, don't tell" and pass the defense authorization bill before adjourning for the holidays.
“Nobody wants to be here over Christmas. I don’t want to be here over Christmas. It would be just outrageous if we don’t pass the Defense Authorization and repeal 'Don’t ask, don’t tell,' " Lieberman said. "We owe it to them [the troops] to pass this bill which they need for benefits that they otherwise will not get.”