The house version of the bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on Thurday by Congressman Pete King, while the senate version was introduced last week by senators John Ensign, Joe Lieberman and Scott Brown. The move comes in response to WikiLeaks's publication of thousands of classified diplomatic cables.
The Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act would give the US government the flexibility to pursue WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for allegedly outing confidential US informants. King, a ranking member and chairman-elect of the house committee on homeland security, said the legislation will give the department of justice additional tools to prosecute future disclosures by Assange or others.
King had previously called on Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Assange under the US Espionage Act. This legislation expands the attorney general's authority to prosecute leaks of intelligence, he said.
"Julian Assange and his associates who operate and support WikiLeaks have not only damaged US national security with their releases of classified documents, but also placed at risk countless lives, including those of our nation's intelligence sources around the world," King said.
"WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the US, and Julian Assange, an enemy of the US, should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. This legislation will give the Attorney General additional tools to do just that," he added.
"Our sources are bravely risking their lives when they stand up against the tyranny of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and murderous regimes, and I simply will not stand idly by as they become death targets because of Julian Assange," Ensign said in a statement last week.
"Let me be very clear, WikiLeaks is not a whistleblower website and Assange is not a journalist," he argued.
Brown said the law would prevent anyone from compromising national security in a similar manner.
"Our foreign representatives, allies and intelligence sources must have the clear assurance that their lives will not be endangered by those with opposing agendas, whether they are Americans or not, and our government must make it clear that revealing the identities of these individuals will not be tolerated," Lieberman said.