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Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg Is Calling On All Of Us To Work To Avert Nuclear War

The legendary Daniel Ellsberg has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In a March 1 email to friends, Dan wrote, “I’m sorry to report to you that my doctors have given me three to six months to live … it might be more, or less.” He will turn 92 on April 7. Dan displayed uncommon courage in 1971 when he publicized the 7,000-page top-secret Pentagon Papers while working at the Rand Corporation. As a consultant to the Department of Defense, Dan drafted Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s plans for nuclear war. In his book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, Dan wrote that the Pentagon Papers exposed the “secrets five presidents had withheld and the lies they told” about U.S. decision-making in Vietnam.

Daniel Ellsberg: Indict Me Too

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has told the U.S. Justice Department and President Joe Biden that he is as indictable as WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange for having unauthorized possession of classified materials before they were published by WikiLeaks and that he would plead “not guilty” because the Espionage Act is unconstitutional. Ellsberg revealed this week to the BBC interview program Hard Talk that Assange had given him the files leaked by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to keep as a backup before they were published by WikiLeaks in 2010. Assange has been charged with violating the Espionage Act for possession and dissemination of classified information and faces 175 years in a U.S. prison if he is extradited from Belmarsh Prison in London.

Revealing The Pentagon Papers: From Capitol Hill To Beacon Hill

If the press wouldn’t continue publishing the Papers, I would. I sought a commercial publisher for the 4,100-page subcommittee record. Americans had to know the whole story about how government lies ultimately killed more than 58,000 Americans and three million Southeast Asians—just as we need today to expose all the lies about Iraq. I received many rejections that summer of 1971, including from Harvard University Press and MIT Press. Publishers knew the risk. But Gobin Stair, executive director of Beacon Press in Boston, didn’t care. Like me, he felt the press was letting the public down. He explained Beacon’s motive: “The public, we feel is entitled to reasonable public disclosure of the material rather than sketchy journalistic synopses. We are undertaking this vital project because we are concerned at how rapidly the American press lost interest in the Pentagon study once the Supreme Court confirmed the public’s right to this information.”

Revealing The Pentagon Papers In Congress: Getting The Papers

The 7,100-page study, which had been obtained and secretly given to me, detailed in 4,100 pages of analysis–I was missing as many as 3,000 pages of supporting documents–how the federal government had consistently lied to the American people about our military involvement in Vietnam. They revealed a detailed portrait of an arrogant, authoritarian and secretive leadership, spanning Democratic and Republican administrations from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson, irresponsibly leading the nation gradually into a war they knew they could not win. Among many deceptions exposed over three decades, the Papers showed, for instance, that despite President Lyndon B. Johnson’s public promise that he would not expand the war, he secretly did just that, with bombing raids on Laos and North Vietnam as well as the insertion of U.S. marine combat units, long before the public found out.

Revealing The Pentagon Papers In Congress

It was a fairly steamy, early summer afternoon in the drained swamp of a city that had become Washington, DC, as I struggled with the two black flight bags up the steps of the Capitol. I walked briskly past the police and some inquisitive tourists through the cool, marble hallways to my office. I feared the FBI might be after me. I had asked Vietnam Veterans Against the War to send me the most disabled soldiers they could find. When I got to my office they were there, arrayed in their wheelchairs, medals pinned on, ready to do battle. They would have thrown their broken bodies in the way if the FBI tried to get in. These crippled men guarded the heavy flight bags behind the door until I was ready to take them onto the floor of the Senate. It was June 29, 1971.

The Pentagon Papers’ Success Hinged On A Personal Conversion To Nonviolence

Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers 50 years ago this week represents one of the most dramatic — if not the most dramatic — nonviolent actions of the movement that helped end the Vietnam War. It was also one of the most impactful as it precipitated events that led to the downfall of Richard Nixon. Less known is how the success of this action hinged on Ellsberg’s personal conversion to nonviolence. The media had a field day with the Pentagon Papers story. No wonder. It captured front-page headlines and network news for weeks: top secret documents revealed decades of governmental duplicity; a whistleblower eluded a massive FBI manhunt; the New York Times defied the president and published the papers; major newspapers joined in the defiance; a landmark Supreme Court decision vindicated the media; the whistleblower avoided a 100-plus year prison term because of governmental misconduct.

Celebrating Fifty Years Of Courage In An Era Of Apathy

He hasn’t gone anywhere, actually. He’s been here all along – poking small holes of decency in sick system, for five-plus decades. At 90, Dan Ellsberg is with us still, and still calling bullshit on a government that couldn’t act right if it tried, to a citizenry that couldn’t care less. Most of it, anyway; reminding me, at least – here at the 50th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers’ publication, and just a month after Dan just dared the Justice Department to indict him for dropping yet another classified truth bomb about US nuclear lunacy – of the indefatigable Tom Joad’s climactic speech from The Grapes of Wrath: “I’ll be aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be everywhere-wherever you look. Wherever there is a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there is a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there…

Ellsberg Blows The Whistle Again

Unbeknownst to most of us, Dan Ellsberg secretly copied another explosive report when he copied the Pentagon Papers fifty years ago. The second classified study documented how close the U.S. came to starting a nuclear war with China in 1958. The NYTimes reports:  “When Communist Chinese forces began shelling islands controlled by Taiwan in 1958, the United States rushed to back up its ally with military force — including drawing up plans to carry out nuclear strikes on mainland China, according to an apparently still-classified document that sheds new light on how dangerous that crisis was.” Ellsberg has previously published the study on his website, but didn’t call attention to it. But with recent escalations in tensions with China, Ellsberg is now highlighting the previously censored sections of the report.

Assange Court Report September 16: Afternoon

A famous Vietnam era whistleblower, 89-year-old Daniel Ellsberg, has told a court that he feels “a great identification,” with both Julian Assange and his source Chelsea Manning, who, he said, “were willing to suffer the risk of imprisonment or even death to get information to the American public.” Ellsberg, a former US Marine officer who served with the US State Department in Vietnam during the war years, is best known for leaking a huge tranche of US government documents on the war to the New York Times in 1970, documents that showed that the government had been lying to the American people about the conflict from the beginning.

Good Ellsberg, Bad Assange

Opponents of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange often hold up Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg as an example of someone who was responsible for a good leak. They insist WikiLeaks is not like the Pentagon Papers because supposedly Assange was reckless with sensitive documents. On the seventh day of an extradition trial against Assange, Ellsberg dismantled this false narrative and outlined for a British magistrate court why Assange would not receive a fair trial in the United States. Assange is accused of 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime that, as alleged in the indictment, is written like an Espionage Act offense.

Snowden & Ellsberg Hail New Drone Whistleblower

By Tom McCarthy for the Guardian - American whistleblowers hailed the release on Thursday of a collection of classified documents about US drone warfare as a blow on behalf of transparency and human rights. “It’s wonderful,” Ellsberg said. “I waited 40 years to see somebody, for Chelsea Manning, to put out a comprehensive, sufficiently voluminous number of long-held secrets, enough to make the case clear. “I waited 40 years for Chelsea. Three more for Snowden. And so it’s wonderful that somebody is telling the truth about this series of crimes. I’m very glad to see it.” Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who in 2013 leaked classified documents about surveillance programs to journalist Glenn Greenwald – then at the Guardian, now at the Intercept – hailed the new leak on Twitter. Ellsberg said of the source: “I hope they stay anonymous. Nothing at all would be gained by their suffering the fate of exile like Snowden [who now lives in Russia], or isolation or imprisonment like Chelsea [who was given a 35-year jail term]. Or the life sentences that I faced, or that others have faced. “It comes down to this. Hundreds could have done what I did, literally. And should have. Hundreds of people could and should have done what Edward Snowden did. And hundreds of people could and should have done what Chelsea Manning did."

Ellsberg & Snowden: Mutual Respect, Different Approaches

Just as Snowden claimed Ellsberg as an influence, Ellsberg found common cause with his inheritors today. He made a lengthy and passionate speech denouncing the ongoing evils of the modern U.S. security regime, and calling on more people in the security services to take risks and speak out. “A lot of blood has flowed because people bit their tongues or swallowed their whistles,” he cried. When the floor turned to Snowden after that, he fell quiet at first. “I’m still politically pretty moderate,” he began by saying. (He’d earlier described his political philosophy as “almost Stallman-esque,” referring to the anti-copyright, free-software advocate Richard Stallman.) He stressed that he doesn’t blame fellow contractors who haven’t followed his lead; rather, he put the burden on the hundreds of hackers in the room to create tools that will make whistleblowing easier and safer. Whereas Ellsberg spoke of resistance as a matter of moral urgency and heroic choice, Snowden saw it as an engineering challenge.

Defending Our ‘Right To Know’ With Courage

Yesterday in Berlin, a new international organization was announced whose purpose is to (1) defend whistleblowers when they are facing prosecution; and (2) defend the public’s right to know. In a video to the Courage Foundation opening announcement Edward Snowden described how we need to confront surveillance because in order to participate in a democratic government we need to know “what the government is doing to us and what they are doing in our name.” It the people are not informed about what the government is doing “the government becomes a force unto itself not a public servant but a public master.” Snowden believes that public officials who take illegal or unethical action must be held accountable. Snowden goes on to say that since government is not protecting whistleblower we must say “we will protect them as a global society.” For him the Courage Foundation is “a new rapid response team for global democracy” saying now, when “we see someone facing unjustified retaliation for performing a public service we can rally to their defense.”

On Secrecy, Oaths, and Edward Snowden

Snowden did not take an oath of secrecy. Such an oath doesn't exist (look up "oath" on the web). Rather he—and I—broke an agreement (known as Standard Form 312) which was a condition of employment. It provides for civil or administrative penalties (e.g., losing a clearance or a job) for disclosing classified information: serious enough to keep nearly everyone quiet about...anything classified, no matter how illegal or dangerous. The reason this matters is that Snowden, as he said to Gellman and as I've repeatedly said, did take a real "oath," just one oath, the same oath that every official in the government and every Congressperson takes as an oath of office. He and they "swore" ("or affirmed") "to support and defend the Constitution of the U.S., against all enemies, foreign and domestic." They did not swear to support and defend or obey the President, or to keep secrets. But to support and defend, among other elements of the Constitution, the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments in the Bill of Rights, and Article I, section 8, on war powers. That's the oath that, as Snowden correctly said to Gellman, he upheld (as I would say I eventually did) and that Clapper and Alexander broke (along with most members of Congress).

Daniel Ellsberg’s Determined Lifelong Resistance

Releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971 was an historic act. Since then Ellsberg has relentlessly built on and expanded upon this particular nonviolent action in innumerable ways. Retirement doesn’t seem to apply to the job of making the world a better place, as Ellsberg proves almost daily. The ongoing threats to our democracy persist, and Ellsberg continues to sound the alarm with his words and with his body. For example, on August 6, he will be a keynote speaker at the annual protest at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, marking the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, where he will likely cross the line with others. Like Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg persists with peaceful but determined resistance. He reminds us that at any point in our lives — Ellsberg recently turned 82 — there’s work to be done.
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