WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on Monday that the administration is not ruling out taking legal action against WikiLeaks after the online site began releasing 250,000 leaked U.S. State Department cables.
"Obviously, there is an ongoing criminal investigation about the stealing of and dissemination of sensitive and classified information," Gibbs said, during Monday's press briefing. "Secondly... administration-wide, we are looking at a whole host of things and I wouldn't rule anything out."
WikiLeaks and people who disseminate information to them, Gibbs added, are "criminals first and foremost."
Gibbs was responding to a question about the idea of taking legal action against the site. It did not touch on what some Republican congressmembers have urged, which is to designate Wikileaks a "foreign terrorist organization."
"They are engaged in terrorist activity. What they're doing is clearly aiding and abetting terrorist groups," Rep. Peter King, ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. "Either we're serious about this or we're not."
Gibbs, elsewhere, sought to strike an even but angered tone with respect to Sunday's massive document disclosure. The president will not be discussing the matter on Monday, he said. And the task of patching up any diplomatic messes will be left to the State Department,
It would be "an understatement," he said, to suggest that President Obama was displeased by WikiLeaks. But that would not spur massive changes in U.S. foreign policy -- just a review of how information is disseminated and, on occasion, leaked.
"I don't think anybody would stand up here and tell you this isn't a serious concern," said Gibbs. "At the same time I do not believe this does... impact our ability to pursue a foreign policy that is in our interest and in the interest of the world."
"This is a serious violation of the law, this is a serious threat to individuals that both carry out and assist in our foreign policy," he added later. "And I'm not here to downplay the overall seriousness of information that is classified for a reason. But I'm also here to say that the problems the world has, be they countries that seek nuclear weapons... simply the release of these documents does not change our posture and our effort in seeking to contain that... threat."