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Three Amigos Push New Iran Legislation

1:03 PM, Jun 25, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Lieberman, McCain, and Graham held a presser announcing new Iran legislation they intend to introduce. It will increase funding for Radio Farda and Voice of America, both of which have been critical at keeping Iranians informed of what's happening in their own country and reporting those events to the outside world as well. They also talk of funding a new Farsi-language website with live news coverage, and "funding to foster the spread of technologies that would make it harder for the Iranian regime to crackdown" on the transmission of information over cellphones.

Lieberman sums it up: "We've seen that the Iranian regime has tried to deploy new technologies to restrict its people from getting access to information, prevent its people from exercising their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, particularly online. The Iranian government has jammed satellites and radio broadcasts, disrupted cell phone service, monitored Internet use, and blocked particular Web sites. It's now trying to slam shut the door that a vibrant election had begun to open. The legislation we intend to introduce is inspired by a clear and simple purpose. We want the Iranian people to be able to stay one step ahead of the Iranian regime, getting access to information and safely exercising freedom of speech and freedom of assembly online."

Lieberman again: "This legislation is not about endorsing or aiding one particular civil society group versus another in Iran. It is not about handing out American money to reformers in Iran. It is about the fundamental right of all Iranians to get access to the information they want, when they want, without interference or intimidation by their government. It is about the fundamental right of all Iranians to exercise freedom of speech and freedom of assembly online."

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

CQ defense reporter Josh Rogin asked Lieberman "Do you have any indications from Democratic leadership that they plan to move this bill through the process? Does it have Joe-mentum?" Lieberman responded, "Well, I hope it has more Joe-mentum than my ‘04 presidential campaign."

Full transcript after the jump (via CQ):

SPEAKERS: SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.

SEN. JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.

[*] LIEBERMAN: Well, good morning. I wanted Senator McCain to start this morning, but he cleverly called a vote, and I was -- a lost two to one, so I'm going to start.

Thanks for being here. Over the last two weeks, we have seen how, in the 21st century, technology can empower millions of ordinary people to resist the stranglehold of a repressive regime. Through blogs, text messages and social networking Web sites like Twitter and Facebook, Iranians from all walks of life have been able to use cyberspace to exercise their fund mental rights to free speech and free assembly and to share information among themselves and with the outside world about what has been happening inside their country.

And what has been happening inside their country have been both inspiring, as we've watched the yearning desire of the Iranian people for freedom and a better life come forward with courage to speak against the regime and, yet, we've ultimately watched the regime brutally repress their own people.

LIEBERMAN: The fact is that, as we acknowledged in our Declaration of Independence, there is, in every human being, a desire for freedom. We say in our declaration that that's a right that every person has as an endowment from our creator. That yearning desire, that flame burning inside everybody, for now, seems too much in Iran to have been pushed out of the streets by the brutality of the regime, but the flame of freedom, the yearning of the Iranian people for freedom has not been extinguished.

And we as Americans, because of our founding and still-driving ideals of freedom, rule of law, the right of assembly, the right of free speech, have a responsibility to do what we can to stand with those around the world and now, particularly, in Iran, who are asserting their freedom.

That's why Senator McCain and Senator Graham and I are announcing today our intention to introduce legislation when we return from the recess that will stand with the people of Iran. We've seen that the regime has tried to deploy new technologies to restrict its people from getting access to information, prevent its people from exercising their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, particularly online.