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U.S. rep wants WikiLeaks, founder added to banned list

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Although U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, wants WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian…

Although U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, wants WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, to be added to a special government list of entities and individuals that includes terrorist groups and drug trafficking organizations, the Treasury Department has reportedly declined to do so. King called Wikileaks a "clear and present threat to U.S. national interests," in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

King sent the letter on Wednesday, asking that Assange and WikiLeaks be added to the department's "Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List," also known as the SDN List. The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which publishes the SDN List, describes the entities on the list "as individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries . . . [as well as] individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers designated under programs that are not country-specific."

On Friday afternoon, a Treasury spokesperson told The Hill that it would not do as King had asked. "We do not have evidence at this time as to Julian Assange or WikiLeaks meeting criteria under which OFAC may designate persons and place them on the SDN list," according to the news site.

The ramifications for those on the SDN List can be significant. According to the Treasury Department's website, the government generally prohibits U.S. persons from dealing with entities on the SDN List and also blocks the assets of those on the list.

King's letter stated that he aims to "prohibit any company or person subject to U.S. jurisdiction from conducting any business with Assange or Wikileaks." Referencing business transactions that Wikileaks or Assange have had with U.S. companies, King's letter also said that the government "should be doing all it can to sink Wikileaks. By adding Assange and Wikileaks to the SDN List, the United States can finally take action to dismantle his organization."

A press release attributed to WikiLeaks took issue with King's letter. "WikiLeaks is a publishing organization," the press release quotes Assange as stating. "It is time to cut through the bluster. There is no allegation by the U.S. government, or any other party, that WikiLeaks has hurt anyone, at any time, during its four-year publishing history, as a result of anything it has published. Very few news organizations can say as much."

King's letter follows similar requests to other cabinet members last year. In November, King called on Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act and requested that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton consider designating Wikileaks as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.