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Profile: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee was a participant or observer in the following events:
Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, appears before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. At a closed hearing he tells it that the administration has intelligence showing that China is shipping nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan, but the administration is covering this up (see (April 1992), (Mid-1990s), Early 1996, May 1996, and September 1996). Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say that by this time Oehler has “had enough” of the administration ignoring his work documenting the deals between China and Pakistan. “There was no consistent policy emerging,” they will write. “There was no strategy even. There was no considered attempt to rein China in or to tackle Pakistan, which was getting increasingly out of hand. There was just a steady drip, drip of doomsday technology from China to Pakistan and from Pakistan to—no one was exactly sure how many countries.” Therefore, Oehler makes the attempt to get the Senate to do something. Levy and Scott-Clark will say he found “the softest way he could to contradict his superiors short of becoming a whistle-blower.” However, no action is taken against China or Pakistan, and Oehler soon resigns (see October 1997). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259-260]
YouTube logo. [Source: YouTube.com]Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asks Google, the parent company of the online video-sharing site YouTube, to “immediately remove content produced by Islamist terrorist organizations” from YouTube and prevent similar content from reappearing. The company refuses Lieberman’s request. Lieberman writes a letter to Eric Schmidt, the CEO and chairman of Google, saying in part that YouTube “unwittingly, permits Islamist terrorist groups to maintain an active, pervasive and amplified voice despite military setbacks or successful operations by the law enforcement and intelligence communities.” Lieberman also asks that Google identify changes it plans to make in YouTube’s community guidelines and delineate exactly what it will do to enforce those guidelines. Lieberman says removing such content ought to be “a straightforward task since so many of the Islamist terrorist organizations brand their material with logos or icons identifying their provenance.” However, YouTube responds by saying that taking such actions is not as simple as Lieberman believes, and refuses to remove any videos from anyone without consideration as to whether the videos are legal, nonviolent, or non-hate speech videos. “While we respect and understand his views, YouTube encourages free speech and defends everyone’s right to express unpopular points of view,” the company says. YouTube has removed a few videos that Lieberman identified last week after determining that the individual videos violated the company’s community guidelines. However, “most of the videos, which did not contain violent or hate speech content, were not removed because they do not violate our Community Guidelines,” the company says. Lieberman’s committee recently released a report that indicated some Islamist terrorist groups used Internet chat rooms, message boards, and Web sites to help recruit and indoctrinate members, and to communicate with one another. Some critics have said that the committee’s report unfairly singles out Muslims as possible extremists. Additionally, civil libertarians and privacy activists speak out against what they see as Lieberman’s attempt to restrain freedom of speech. John Morris of the Center for Democracy and Technology says that Lieberman’s request is a practical impossibility; worse, to have sites such as YouTube pre-screen content would radically change how the Internet is used, he says. “The government can’t get involved in suppressing videos if the content is not illegal.” [Federal Computer Weekly, 5/19/2008; US Senate, 5/19/2008; YouTube, 5/19/2008]
Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee Joe Lieberman (I-CT) expresses doubts about designating WikiLeaks a foreign terrorist organization. Responding to a question on the Imus in the Morning radio show about a proposal from Representative Peter King (R-NY) to make such designation, Lieberman says: “Normally, we reserve that designation for groups that fit the traditional definition of terrorism, which is that they are using violence to achieve a political end.… While it’s true that what WikiLeaks did may result in damage to some people… it’s not al-Qaeda.” However, Lieberman does not rule out supporting the proposal, adding, “I want to talk to Pete and figure out what he’s got in mind.” In addition, he says that the group’s release of thousands of US documents over the past year is a “terrible thing,” and expresses the hope that “we are doing everything we can to take down their Web site.” [Hill, 11/29/2010]
Staff from the office of Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) contact the Internet retailer Amazon to ask about its hosting of WikiLeaks’ website. Lieberman is chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security. [Guardian, 12/1/2010] His staff learns of the hosting from media accounts and leaves a series of questions, including, “Are there plans to take the site down,” with Amazon’s press secretary. [Talking Points Memo, 12/1/2010] The next day, Amazon will remove the website from its servers (see December 2, 2010).
The Internet retailer Amazon cancels WikiLeaks’ server account, removing its website from its servers. The move follows pressure from Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee (see December 1, 2010). As a result, the WikiLeaks website is inaccessible for a time, but it soon moves to servers in Sweden. The announcement that Amazon has got rid of WikiLeaks is also made by Lieberman, who adds that the “decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material.” Amazon attributes the break between the two organizations to a terms of service violation by WikiLeaks. However, WikiLeaks expresses disappointment with Amazon, saying in a post on Twitter that if Amazon is “so uncomfortable with the First Amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books.” [Guardian, 12/1/2010]
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