June 25th, 2009
12:03 PM ET
13 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. linda in AR

    So is Iran-Contra now Iran-Cyber...

    Get over thyself "Bomb, Bomb, Iran" triplets of tough and dumb. They should be spending their time on DoD readiness, repairing the Military that has become so broken. We have some real defense to call on instead of MERCs, no-bid contractors, stop loss, IRR and lowered recruiting standards.

    PS: No F-22s either, spend the money on what the troops need.

    June 25, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. Kevin

    Hopefully China will have access as well.

    June 25, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. Shasta

    Please, we need to just stay out of this! It may sound heartless, but we can't interfere with their fight for freedom if we want any sort of relationship with Iran. They need to do it themselves to achieve stability.

    June 25, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  4. Vince

    I think Obama has played this very well. Although early indications were that things would get ugly (the govt. reaction to the protests), Obama remained quiet UNTIL things did get ugly. The Republicans would prefer to jump the gun and condemn actions before they occur, but our President remained collected. He ramped up his denouncements AFTER there was something to denounce (there was never any proof of voter fraud, so there was no legitimate reason to condemn it). This way, there can be no blame on the U.S. for being the stimulus for the crackdown.

    I do, however, think that the time has come to be more adamant about condemning the actions of the Iranian government and, perhaps, finding ways (such as this proposed legislation) to help the Iranian people undermine their govt. It seems like a good opportunity.

    June 25, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  5. dennative1

    No wondeer nothing gets done!! talk is cheap-talk about bi-partisan!! these guys have their own agenda..not working for the american people..

    June 25, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  6. Troy from NJ

    Do these old cooks know the election is over and John Mccain is no longer a candidate. Why dont they sit down and work on the Health Care Bill so American lives can be better.

    This is just a silly game to seem as if they are stronger on security than Pres. Obama. John McCain already lost that argument; its time to move on!!!

    June 25, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  7. John

    These three IDIOTS should keepo their mouth shut, get involved in this important debates and help President. Obama to bring economy, health, energy, education and job create for American, let the people and their politician to work out their differences . You war mongers only think and try to create problem among each other ( People and government) of Iran. It is their country and there are smart people who can think rationaly & find out what is best for them & for the country. They are smarter than you old thugs are thinking..

    June 25, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. RealityKing

    What a weak president our progressive media elected..

    June 25, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. anthony

    R U kidding me. we have money to fund this, but we don't have money for health care. I cannot believe McCain is introducing this legislation. Out of all people he knows better, this is more tax payer dollars being spent, and this time by the main Republican leader. Talk about wasting money.....

    June 25, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. mike

    wow what a great idea thanks to all dems for thinking of this, oh wait a minute it was a republican idea, bad bad idea then.

    June 25, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. Kate, NV

    We have our own economic issues here. Why does the US have to do everything and get involved in a revolution that has nothing to do with us. Allow the Iranians to work this out and if other Muslim countries want to meddle, then allow them to. This is not our place and not smart diplomacy. Again, McCain can't seem to 'get it' that he lost the election. McCain, the campaign is over! Now, go work on getting healthcare reform for all Americans. We need every dollar to pay for it!

    June 25, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. chuck G

    When are we going to quit funding the great democracy experiment in the Middle East? We will eventually go bankrupt as a nation trying to force a lifestyle on those that could care less about our form o f democracy. Anyone think this money could be better spent on issues in this country?

    June 25, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  13. dean

    Didn't McCain want to bomb Iran. Now he want to give them a hug?

    June 25, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. Mich

    Ok, Lets all stop crying bush and obama have destroyed our constitution or bent it into what they want. Lets have a heart stop yelling. Get off our behinds ,and help people when they need help. After all Obama went to Egypt and said that's what he going to do.

    Obama said ,"we will behind you".

    So stop lieing and start practicing what you are saying. SIR.

    June 25, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. Ernestine

    willard bullock June 25th, 2009 12:47 pm ET

    I dont understand why obama are trouble blame on bush president cause he is blame evil on presdient bush so i belived that bush are great catched against terroist im belived that obama will not great his presdient so he have too big problems.

    WHAT!!!!!WHAT!!!!!!WHAT!!!!!!! YOUR FUNNY DUDE

    June 25, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  16. Walt

    Hold on! DONT WORRY! Obama will hold another news conference. He sure as hell hasnt done anything else but give away money.

    June 25, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. Paul C

    It appears that the Republicans, in particular, and Congress, in general, have plenty of money to meddle in other countries (unfortunately always unsuccessfully) but can't seem to manage health care.
    The U.S. can learn a lot from the Canadians. They don't seem to be driven to manage the world. They are content to watch the U.S. blunder from one crisis to another spending money like a drunk sailor on shore leave.

    June 25, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. brenda

    John at 12:10 pm.

    I couldn't have said it better.

    June 25, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. IsaacTheForcedCatholic

    Yes, let’s spend money on other countries and not our own. These senators should stop trying to meddle in other countries affairs. USA is NOT THE WORLD POLICE!! We can't even police our self correctly, especially with that flawed second amendment we have. Why not we try to build our Network Infrastructure here since were below other western countries. What will it take for senators to pay attention to US!!

    June 25, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  20. Nadilyn

    We need to focus on America first. There are plenty of Americans that need help too. How about we fix Katrina's mess to start with, then we can fix the Public Education sector second, and the list goes on.


    June 25, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  21. David SC

    It was'nt too long ago that McCain sang the infamous "Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb .............. Iran" song which basically quipped about indiscriminate bombing of Iranian civilians.
    All of a sudden he and his neocon pals have developed a strange "love" for the Iranian people.
    They must be wanting the same "shining beacon of freedom and democracy" in Iran that they caused in Iraq.

    June 25, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. Brandon V in DFW

    So if our country had banned something or some action and the legislature of another country vowed money to help us circumvent that how would our country react.

    This is completely insane. I am not a supporter of censorship, or anything Iran is doing. But this is not something we as a nation need to be doing.

    Think about about, the Congress of the US is proposing spending US tax money to help Iranian citizens circumvent the law and will of their on government.

    June 25, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. OBAMA

    What in the world are these guys doing. The old and blind leading the blind. The GOP needs to mind it's own business and to know it's place in the minority party. Stop trying to undermine the president and step the heck back. No one cares about you three Joke of a senator.

    What a BIG gray headed JOKE.

    June 25, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  24. Gary SC

    These 3 fools can't get together to solve Americas biggest problem but they sure want to stick their ignorant nose's deep into another country's civil war.
    If it includes Graham you know it's rediculous.
    Lets see, you have a war monger, a loser with his head so far up the war mongers back side, and an anti racisit senator of the biggest racist states in the country. PT Barnum couldn't have done better.

    June 25, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  25. Larry

    Hey wait a minute, its OK for China a communist country to do it and I don't see you Sen. or Rep doing anything about that. Shut up and let the people of Iran stand or fall for themselves.

    June 25, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
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