June 25th, 2009
12:03 PM ET
14 years ago

Senators to introduce Iran legislation

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/25/art.mccain.gi.jpg caption=" John McCain and Joe Lieberman are among the senators introducing legislation on Iran."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Three U.S. senators said Thursday they will introduce legislation funding a package of assistance to help get around the Tehran regime's information block.

"The Iranian government recognizes that Internet is a threat to its stranglehold over society and is trying to impose its repressive controls over it," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said. "The legislation would authorize funds to ensure that Iranians have the hardware, software and other tools to evade the censorship and surveillance of the regime online."

McCain joined fellow Sens. Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, at a news conference to announce the legislation, which they said is an effort to support the Iranian people.

CNN Radio: Correspondent Reza Sayah, just back from Iran, has the latest from Tehran

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the results of the June 12 election results which gave incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term in office. Protesters, including many supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, have accused the Tehran regime of vote tampering and are calling for a new vote.

As a result, Iranian forces have brutally cracked down on the protests, restricted international journalists from covering the events, and blocked access to certain Web sites used to share information with the outside world, although many Iranians have been able to get around the blockade.

McCain compared the use of information-sharing Web sites to older technology provided by the United States in the past.

"During the Cold War we provided the Polish people and dissidents with printing presses," McCain said. "Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are the modern-day printing presses. They are the way to spread information and keep the hope of freedom alive amongst the Iranian people."

The bill, which has not been drafted yet, will authorize funding to allow Persian-language broadcaster Radio Farda - funded by Radio Free Europe and Voice of America (VOA) - to "expand its reach across the country," McCain said. It would also provide VOA's other broadcasts more time to broadcast.

Last week, Congress overwhelmingly approved non-binding resolutions to support "all Iranians who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law."

McCain and Lieberman sponsored the resolution that was passed by the Senate.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is still walking a diplomatic tightrope in finding the right response to the crisis. The White House said Wednesday that it was rescinding invitations to Iranian diplomats overseas for U.S. Independence Day celebrations.

The president's position has evolved since his first comments after the Iranian election, in which he said he was "troubled" by the post-election violence and had "deep concerns about the elections." He went to great pains to say he didn't want the United States to be seen as "meddling."

He ruffled more than a few feathers in Iran and around the world last week when he said that when it came to U.S. national interests, there was little difference between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi.

By appearing at first to be neutral, Obama faced criticism from Republicans, like McCain - his challenger in the 2008 presidential campaign - and Graham who last weekend accused the president of being "timid and passive" in speaking out against the growing wave of arrests, violence and deaths of pro-democracy activists.

On Wednesday Obama said "it was that bloodshed" that led him to speak in more forceful terms, saying he was "appalled and outraged" by the violence.

Obama has said Iranians must be free to demonstrate peacefully, and his administration Wednesday withdrew invitations to Iranian diplomats around the world to attend U.S. Embassy 4th of July parties. The extension of invitations last month was seen as a cautious outreach to Iran, which has not had diplomatic relations with Washington for 30 years.

–CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report

Filed under: Iran
soundoff (291 Responses)
  1. don

    First off, Joe Lieberman is NO Democrat, that guy is a republican all the way!

    Secondly, who elected the Republican party or the USA for that matter, the worlds police force. Yes, we all agree that what is going on in Iran is wrong; but, it is up to the people of Iran to change it.
    Support means being there when we are asked for help, not by butting in, when we are not asked.

    I guess its a good thing that during our revolution, there was no Republican party to whine and complain otherwise there might never have been a USA!

    June 25, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. Brenz03

    Wow, cant say that Im shocked that McCain thinks this is a good idea. But seriously does anyone think that what Iran and the Middle East needs right now is the U.S. deciding that we need to be MORE involved in sticking our noses where it does not belong??? I mean you don't see McCain saying that we need to assist the Chinese in getting around their country's censorship of the Internet. Ditto for N.Korea. I think Mr. McCain and company should stop, sit down and think about what repercussions would come from this type of legislation before they back door us into another Middle East war that we REALLY can not afford this time.

    June 25, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  3. Crn

    Yea lets give them all the tools so they can then turn that around and use it to break into the US missle defense computers just minutes before they send the nuke our way.

    June 25, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  4. Wow

    Seems the democrats forgot how democratic house members critized President Bush on his every move. That is part of the process people. You democrats have a very short memory. My guess is if President Bush was still President and did what Obama has done on this issue you would be upset with him as would Senators Kerry, Durbin, Obama etc. etc.

    June 25, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. Debra

    John McCain just cannot accept that he lost the election. While we can empathize with what is going on in Iran and hope that the protestors prevail (which sadly is unlikely), I can't quite get over the "Death to America" chants heard almost every day. We don't have the money, the resources, or the troops to enter into another fray that is clearly another swamp. McCain and the others should actually do some work for the States that elected them instead of trying to run the country from the back seat.

    June 25, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  6. RICK

    What is this money supposed to buy anyway? Iran has the technology mentioned "twitter, facebook, you tube...". Do they not understand that that is how we know what's happening over there since the press got kicked out?

    June 25, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  7. J Stuart

    McCain will SPEND taxpayer money on Iranians, but when it comes to stimulating our economy, health care and revewable energy forget about it! What's up with that?

    June 25, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. ToddZ

    I'm not sure how anyone can be so self-assured when judging legislation like this. Don't get me wrong, I'm by no means a fan of any of these gentlemen, but you've gotta remember that how we look on a global scale is every bit as important as how solid our infrastructure is. The support of a peaceful foreign constituency is invaluable to a country like ours. And it goes without saying that the positive moral and social implications of aid like this (aid that would promote a just democratic social policy) are quite apparent.
    It's true, many times the government should restrain itself, but situations like this call for an able nation's help. We cannot ignore such a call.

    June 25, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  9. The Unshrub

    Why don' these republican do-gooders do the same thing against China? After all, China has been using the internet to repress billions of people.

    June 25, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. Aaron in Atlanta

    Seeing as Iran is looking for ANY excuse to demonize America or accuse us of meddling in their affairs (remember, that's a central tenet of the current regime's claim to power), this is hardly the wisest or most prudent course of action, especially as Obama attempts to maintain a neutral position in a potentially volatile situation.

    What we should be paying attention to, however, is the Iranian regime's death-grip on the media and realize that that is the logical end for any sort of internet regulation; let's learn from this while we can and try not to stir up a veritable global hornet's nest.

    June 25, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  11. What?

    So Iran needs the freedom that these jokers threw away for Americans.

    Stupid doesn't even begin to describe them.

    June 25, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  12. Tracy

    I think the money and efforts in arguing / battling to do this can be better spent on issues here in the US. I feel for the protesters in Iran (and any country where their voices are muffuled by tyranny) but my concer is stronger for the under nourished, homeless and unemployeed Americans in my country. AOWM get with the program and focus on the US.

    June 25, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  13. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    Judging from the many comments here we have a lot of Libertarians in denial. I remind you that Libertarians are the only party that would withdraw the USA from the role of world police force. See Ron Paul's lone NO vote from last week.

    June 25, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  14. RAG

    How can we stop these traitorous Senators? They are giving aid and comfort to the Supreme Leader if Iran by setting up the US to take the heat for his own dictatorial horror. These Senators (and the House traitors and their bil last week) need to be sent to Gitmo, pronto!

    June 25, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. Anu, Phoenix

    Thank you Laverne. Very well said. My sentiments exactly.
    Laverne June 25th, 2009 2:20 pm ET
    Seems to me we have a lot going on right here in America that the Republicans refuse to address and act on, but can find time to poke their noses in others business. It amazes me how the repubs are so called "outraged" by all that is going on in Iran, but when Katrina hit and our own people was suffering and dying by the droves, you could barely hear anything from the republicans. Our own children are getting killed everyday in the inner cites and we don't see a need to address it, but we are suppose to save the world. I think we should sweep around our own front door before we try to sweep around someone elses!

    June 25, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  16. annie s

    Ah, the hawks are at it again. Stay out of it, gentlemen. We will only be accused of meddling, which will make matters worse between Iran and the West – and hurt the protesters even more.

    June 25, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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