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Is outer space big enough for the U.S. and China?

When U.S. President Barack Obama visited China last December, he and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao issued a joint statement promising "the initiation of a joint dialogue on human spaceflight and space exploration, based on the principles of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit." But don't expect space to be on the agenda when Hu comes to Washington this month, according to Reuters' Jim Wolf:

Hu's state visit will highlight the importance of expanding cooperation on "bilateral, regional and global issues," the White House said.

But space appears to be a frontier too far for now, partly due to U.S. fears of an inadvertent technology transfer. China may no longer be much interested in any event, reckoning it does not need U.S. expertise for its space program.

New obstacles to cooperation have come from the Republicans capturing control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November 2 congressional elections from Obama's Democrats.

Representative Frank Wolf, for instance, is set to take over as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the U.S. space agency in the House. A China critic and human rights firebrand, the Republican congressman has faulted NASA's chief for meeting leaders of China's Manned Space Engineering Office in October.

"As you know, we have serious concerns about the nature and goals of China's space program and strongly oppose any cooperation between NASA and China," Wolf and three fellow Republicans wrote NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on October 15 as he left for China.

It's hard to look at space and not see an example of American decline. While China has launched two moon orbiters and conducted a space walk in recent years and plans for a moon rover by 2012, the U.S. is now forced to hitch a ride on Soviet-era Soyuz rockets in order to maintain the international space station.   

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Issa: Why haven't we prosecuted WikiLeaks under our nonexistent laws?

Incoming House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa discussed WikiLeaks and Attorney General Eric Holder with Chris Wallace on: Fox News Sunday:

And when it comes to WikiLeaks, at the end of the last Congress we couldn't get a whistleblower bill passed because ultimately the next whistleblower bill has to deal with WikiLeaks and the loss of these classified documents in a mature, bipartisan way. And we're going to do that right off the bat because the kind of transparency we need is not to have somebody outing what is said by diplomats in private.

And we need to change that, and that's going to be a big part of our committee's oversight, is to get that right so the diplomats can do their job with confidence and people can talk to our government with confidence.

WALLACE: When you say that Attorney General Holder is guilty of all of those failures, should he step down?

ISSA: Well, I think he needs to realize that, for example, WikiLeaks, if the president says I can't deal with this guy as a terrorist, then he has to be able to deal with him as a criminal, otherwise the world is laughing at -- at this paper tiger we've become.

So he's hurting this administration. If you're hurting the administration, either stop hurting the administration, or leave.

Issa also dings Holder over ACORN, the New Black Panther Party, and a number of other cases that are outside this blog's wheelhouse, but the WikiLeaks argument seems strange and contradictory. By proposing new legislation to combat future leaks, Issa seems to be acknowledging that current laws are insufficient. Yet he also attacks Holder for not aggressively going after WikiLeaks under those same laws. Issa is aware that as attorney general, Holder doesn't write the laws he enforces, right?

The topic of whether the U.S. can prosecute WikiLeaks has been up for debate since the Afghan war logs came out in July, and no action has been taken despite numerous reports that the Justice Department was investigating the matter. Since the Espionage Act is rarely applied to outlets who receive classified information (evidently, there isn't sufficient evidence to prove that Julian Assange actively abetted the leaks) and laws against trafficking in stolen government property were never set up to deal with computer files that are still in the government's possession, it's an awfully hard case to prosecute.

Some argue that it's time for new laws to replace the outdated Espionage Act and prevent future leaks of this type. That's perfectly within Congress's right and may even come to pass this session. Others say the current laws are sufficient. But the logical extension of Issa's remarks seems to be that he thinks Holder has just been insufficiently creative in coming up with a legal justification for prosecuting Assange. Not a very promising sign from the new government oversight chief.

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