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U.S. senators call for WikiLeaks prosecution

/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Leaders of the Senate intelligence committee called on Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday evening to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on espionage charges.

The former computer hacker has embarrassed the U.S. government and foreign leaders with his online leak of a huge trove of secret American diplomatic cables. Thursday marked day five of the release of classified documents.

"The unauthorized release of this information, including the recent release of approximately 250,000 State Department documents, is a serious breach of national security," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., write in a letter to Holder.

In other developments:

Senator strikes WikiLeaks again, kind of
A Seattle-based website removed WikiLeaks graphics after a request from Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. It's the second online site to stop promoting WikiLeaks-linked information.

"We understand this is a sensitive issue and want to assure the public and our users that this was not an easy decision, nor one that we took lightly," according to a statement by Tableau Public, a data visualization company.

But there was a twist: The charts weren't produced by WikiLeaks but by a freelance journalist and contained no classified or secret material.

Earlier this week, Amazon.com Inc stopped hosting WikiLeaks' website after an inquiry by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee. WikiLeaks reacted by moving the website to computers in Sweden. Amazon has vast banks of computers that can be rented on a self-service basis to meet surges in traffic.

On Thursday, Amazon.com said in a statement that it had taken the action not because of political pressure from Lieberman's office but because WikiLeaks had not followed terms of a service agreement.

"For example, our terms of service state that 'you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content… that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.' It's clear that WikiLeaks doesn't own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content," the statement said.

Law tightens around Assange
The lawyer acting for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied that Sweden had issued a valid European arrest warrant over alleged sex crimes, despite Stockholm's insistence that legal difficulties with the warrant were resolved. Swedish police earlier said technical problems hindering the arrest of the 39-year-old Australian had been ironed out, and a newspaper report said he was in Britain.

Afghan contempt for British military
Leaked U.S. cables show Britain's four-year military effort in Helmand province was the subject of scorn from President Hamid Karzai, other top Afghan officials and the U.S. commander of NATO troops, the Guardian newspaper reported. The newspaper said the criticism centered on British failure to secure the town of Sangin, which has claimed more British lives than any other place in Afghanistan.

Cables reveal widespread Afghan corruption
The New York Times reported several cases of allegations of fraud, embezzlement and bribery among Afghan officials. The report detailed U.S. officials frustration in trying to build support for the Afghan government.

Canada's envoy offers to resign
Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan has offered to resign his post ahead of potentially damaging revelations in an upcoming WikiLeaks release, Canada's The Globe and Mail newspaper reported. William Crosbie has warned Ottawa that information in one of the U.S. diplomatic cables could damage his country's relations with Afghanistan, the newspaper reported.

Cable: Argentina awash in drug money
A secret U.S. Embassy cable sent from Buenos Aires a year ago bluntly describes Argentina as becoming awash in drug money due to lax prosecution of organized crime. The dispatch said the problem started with the president herself, who "stands to lose" by going after money launderers.

The unvarnished language in the Dec. 1, 2009 cable — one of hundreds of thousands of documents exposed by the WikiLeaks website this week — made for banner headlines in Argentina's opposition newspapers Thursday.

Other leaked U.S. diplomatic cables also have shown Argentina's leaders in an unflattering light, including one dated Dec. 31, 2009, in which the Embassy was asked to find out if President Cristina Fernandez was taking medicine to control her mental health. Another, from Sept. 10, 2009, shared unsubstantiated allegations that her Cabinet chief had ties to drug traffickers.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally called Fernandez to apologize on Thursday from Central Asia, where she spent much of her time reassuring various leaders that America has good intentions despite the blunt language of leaked Cold War-era diplomatic cables that were supposed to remain classified for decades.