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WikiLeaks debate heats up among party leaders

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Bill Clinton: "I'll be very surprised if some people don't lose their lives over these leaks"
  • Mike Huckabee: "Anything less than execution is too kind a penalty"
  • Newt Gingrich: "The WikiLeaks guy should be in jail for the rest of his life"
  • Hilary Clinton: The leaks won't affect U.S. relations with other nations

Washington (CNN) -- Amid the fallout from WikiLeaks' release of State Department cables, an ongoing fury of words has erupted from both sides of the aisle over blame and accountability.

Former President Bill Clinton issued a warning Tuesday at an appearance in Greensboro, North Carolina. "I'll be very surprised if some people don't lose their lives over these leaks," he told a crowd at Guilford College. "And goodness knows how many will lose their careers."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee indicated those responsible for the leak should face execution. He visited the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, Tuesday to promote two new Christmas-themed books. Asked to comment on the disclosures, Huckabee declared that "whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason. And I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty."

The 2008 GOP presidential hopeful continued, "They've put American lives at risk ... and any lives they endanger they're personally responsible for and the blood is on their hands."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stopped short of recommending execution, declaring Tuesday on Fox News that "the WikiLeaks guy should be in jail for the rest of his life." The Republican called Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, an enemy of the United States and said he is "going to get a lot of folks killed."

Gingrich's comments echoed those of New York Rep. Peter King, the ranking member of the House committee on Homeland Security, who told CNN Tuesday that Assange is an enemy combatant.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew praise from Gingrich based on the leaked documents.

Gingrich, who is considering running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, said he is "proud" that Clinton "actually cared about national security" and suggested "she should be praised for trying to gather intelligence and not in any way attacked or condemned."

He presumably was referring to a leaked document from July 2009 containing an order from "SECSTATE WASHDC" and signed "CLINTON."

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In it, Clinton directs her envoys at the United Nations and embassies around the world to collect information ranging from basic biographical data on foreign diplomats to their frequent flyer and credit card numbers and even "biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats." Typical biometric information can include fingerprints, signatures and iris recognition data.

Responding to news reports on the document, the State Department said its officers are not spies.

In an interview from an undisclosed location, Assange told CNN's sister publication, Time magazine, that Clinton "should resign if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations."

But Clinton, at a security summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, showed no signs of doing that. Instead, she expressed confidence Wednesday that the leaks will not adversely affect U.S. relations with other countries.

"I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing," she said.

"I have not had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with and discuss matters of importance to us both going forward."

A few minutes later, answering a question about Kazakh-Kyrgyz relations, she spoke about cybersecurity and the importance of freedom of speech on the internet, saying, "We want the internet to be a vehicle for the free exchange of information, yet we are well aware of the dangers that can be posed to the misuse of the internet to all kinds of institutions and to networks, and so this is not only a matter of concern to the United States, we think this deserves attention at the highest international levels. And that's beginning to occur."

In an effort to mitigate the damage from the leaks, the U.S. government has contacted representatives of 186 countries, including "several dozen" that were called by Clinton herself, a senior State Department official said Wednesday.

In a post published Monday on the social networking site Facebook, Sarah Palin, a former Alaska governor and potential GOP presidential candidate, slammed the administration over the release of the documents, saying "it raises serious questions about the Obama administration's incompetent handling of this whole fiasco."

Former President George W. Bush called the leaks "very damaging," telling a forum at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California, that the release will adversely affect U.S. relations with other countries. "It's going to be very hard to keep the trust of foreign leaders," the nation's 43rd president said. "If you have a conversation with a foreign leader and it ends up in a newspaper, you don't like it. I didn't like it."

In addition to being published on WikiLeaks' website, the documents were acquired in advance by five major newspapers in Europe and the United States: The New York Times, The Guardian of the UK, El Pais of Spain, Le Monde of France, and Der Spiegel of Germany. CNN declined a last-minute offer to discuss advance access to some of the documents because of a confidentiality agreement requested by WikiLeaks that CNN considered unacceptable.

CNN Associate Producer Rebecca Stewart and Jill Dougherty contributed to this story