Daniel Ellsberg on the Assange Extradition and Growing Fascism
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Yves here. It’s very exciting to see Paul Jay again doing videos. Even though we have our hats our for Naked Capitalism, I hope you’ll reserve some space in your budget for a donation to TheAnalysis.news. This interview of Ellsberg provides ample grist for thought. The Assange trial is a brazen abuse of due process and should have all bona fide journalists worried.
By Paul Jay. Originally published at TheAnalysis.news
The leaker of the Pentagon Papers says that if Assange is extradited to the U.S., no journalist in the world is safe from being kidnapped to the United States to face life imprisonment for reporting on information like Chelsea Manning released. Daniel Ellsberg joins Paul Jay on theanalysis.news podcast.
Paul Jay: Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to theAnalysis.news podcast. Don’t forget there’s a donate button at the top of the Web page, and if you haven’t donated, perhaps now would be a good time.
Early Friday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was infected with COVID-19. Of course, this has become almost the only story covered by major American news media, and understandably so is it may change the outcome of the November elections and perhaps even who is president in the coming weeks. And, of course, there’s a crazy irony to it all.
Some say poetic justice, but prior to Trump’s news, the U.S. media almost completely ignored a story that is not only newsworthy in its own right but is of crucial importance to the American media itself.
And that is the extradition hearing for Julian Assange. If Assange is found guilty of the charges the U.S. government has laid against him. It means that whistleblowing and the publishing of whistleblowers revelations is dead. In fact, much of investigative journalism would be dead. A British judge said on Thursday, October 1st, she would give her decision on January 4th on whether Assange should be extradited to the United States to face charges, including espionage. The U.S. authorities accuse Australian-born Assange of conspiring to hack government computers and the violating espionage law in connection with the release of confidential cables by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011.
The week of hearings has heard evidence that exposes the charges against Assange as trumped-up and even ridiculous.
The most important whistleblower in American history, Daniel Ellsberg, submitted an eight-page written statement to the court in London opposing the extradition. And Daniel now joins us from Berkeley, California, to discuss the Assange case and what he considers growing fascism in the United States. Thanks for joining us, Daniel.
Daniel Ellsberg: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Paul Jay: So you’ve been quoted as saying that there hasn’t been such a significant attack on the freedom of the press since your case in 1971. Why do you think it holds such important?
Daniel EllsbergI wasn’t the first whistleblower in America or the first leaker of classified information? Of course, that goes on almost every day, every hour. Some part of the government putting out classified information that serves some agency or serves the president’s policy that’s authorized disclosure in effect of classified information. But there have been major leaks, of course, before me and after me. I was the first American to be prosecuted for giving information on unauthorized classified information to the American public. And I was prosecuted under the Espionage Act, which had never been intended or shaped for such a prosecution.
It was intended for spies. And people give information secretly to a foreign government to advantage them, especially in wartime. An enemy in wartime often being used for that, never used before me for a non-espionage case of a leaker or whistleblower when used three, two other times before Obama, three altogether before President Obama or President Obama brought nine such cases against former officials like me or current officials who put out classified information that embarrassed or incriminated the government, unlike the kind that they put out hourly or daily on their own behalf. But information that’s incriminating or embarrassing and most information that is classified or kept classified is so because it might be embarrassing to a government official or a policy or incriminating in various way.
So there have been, as I say, more like a dozen cases before Trump. Trump has brought even more cases in his three years than Obama did in four years than Obama did in 12 years. But it was foreseeable that by the ACLU that he would go even further and be the first, bring the first case, against a journalist, not a former official, but somebody who informs the public as a journalist or a publisher like Julian Assange.
Now, for 50 years since my case ended 47 years ago, I’ve been telling journalists that the wording of the Espionage Act was right there to indite them and in fact, even go further to indite readers who were unauthorized to get the classified information that a newspaper gave them could be used. The Espionage Act could be used, but in particular against a journalist. And I would say I’ve had no effect in getting journalists, mainstream media either to look at the secrecy system or the law, see their vulnerability and see the urgency of changing those laws.
But they said, well, they’re not used. It would be unconstitutional to use it against us. And they haven’t done it, so we’re not worried about it, like just like Trump was not worried about the pandemic. But actually, it turns out Trump was worried about the pandemic and just didn’t tell us. Unfortunately, the journalists haven’t been in that position and he really haven’t had to worry. Now, the Assange prosecution puts an inditement. Target cross, you might see on the backs of every journalist and every publisher who puts out information that might be embarrassing to the government.
In fact, the very ones who put out the information from Chelsea Manning that Assange distributed to the newspapers, that includes The New York Times and really everybody who dealt with it on The New York Times and many other newspapers. And yet we have the fact. So this involves an actual destruction of the First Amendment, freedom of the press, protection to journalists. If this is carried on if he’s both extradited and prosecuted, and if so, under the current state of court decisions over recent years, he would almost certainly be convicted and probably to life imprisonment.
He’s facing charges that add up to 175 years. My 12 felony counts 50 years ago only added up to 115 years, but in both cases, it would be effectively a life sentence. So that’s what journalists are facing here. And they don’t seem to notice that.
Paul Jay: There’s been reports that during the Obama administration, they looked into whether to pursue the charges against Assange and they came to the conclusion that if they went forward with it, they would open the door to going after The New York Times and other papers that released the Manning revelations about war crimes in Iraq. Despite the fact that Obama went after many whistleblowers, in this case, they decided would be the end of investigative journalism if they extradited and charged Assange. So they decided not to pursue it, but Trump decided that he would.
Daniel Ellsberg: That’s been raised very much in these hearings. And the fact is he kept the grand jury open and the grand jury. But it was reported in 2013, seven years ago, that they decided not to prosecute him because that would the same charges would obviously apply to The New York Times. Well, Trump was so desperate from the very beginning. It turns out we’ve now learned from the very beginning in January of his term to get Julian Assange. And that’s when this illegal surveillance of Julian Assange began with audio recordings of every conversation of his with everybody, including all of his legal conversations, clearly should rule out any kind of legal proceedings against him.
That’s the impossibility of getting a fair trial, as my judge said in dismissing the charges after discovering on warrantless illegal wiretapping of me and other events, including an attempt to incapacitate me, to kill me at that time. He defends his sense of justice and he dismissed all charges. Obviously, we haven’t mentioned this, but just in the last two days now, there has been sworn testimony unchallenged by the prosecution. Now It doesn’t mean to admit it, but they refused to cross-examine or challenge it.
Exactly the same kind of abuses were done against Julian Assange, illegal surveillance, in this case, all his legal conversations. We don’t know that in my case may have happened, but I don’t have proof of it. But but definitely of me which they had denied for over a year falsely, that they had such overhearing. It also turned out, of course, that they had tried to incapacitate me or kill me in 1972 in the midst of my trial proceedings.
In this case, we have testimony that there was a consideration and discussion with the CIA of poisoning Julian Assange, essentially saying. They weren’t trying to poison me, they were going to beat me to death or any way to silence me. At that point, they wanted to silence Julian Assange necessarily by poisoning.
Now, this is sensational testimony about the CIA. It’s given by people who actually operated performed these surveillance operations and participated in the discussion or overheard of the poisoning from the CIA, which clearly would go to the White House in the investigation, almost surely would show that the CIA wasn’t doing that on their own. They were doing it at the behest. In fact, they said the highest authorities, highest circles were desperate to do this.
And there hasn’t been, to my knowledge, testimony like that in a court since my case. And I can tell you that when it came out in my case, the newspaperman could not have been more excited, dashing for the payphones to inform their home offices that Watergate, which was going on then, had reached the Pentagon Papers case, which before that had been very boring to them. And they felt out of the action. There was a lot of attention to it, ultimately figured in the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, which led him to resign and made the Vietnam War and double in nine months, which could not have happened without this process in which many people participated.
OK, that’s the same thing as pointing to the White House right now, certainly to the CIA, almost surely to the White House. And there hasn’t been a word about it in The New York Times or The Washington Post.
There was one AP dispatch about it about a day or two ago. The Guardian, the British Guardian which shows in the United States as well, has covered this pretty well as they should, because if Julian Assange is guilty, Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian or the Observer, people are obviously as indictable. And just this morning, I heard a British lawyer say the law has always been pointed at British journalists with their Official Secrets Act, but with restraint, very few cases actually brought.
He said if this case is part of the United States, they will imminently, the British will imitate that immediately and the British journalists will feel the weight of that immediately. They’ll imitate the United States, strictly speaking.
Now we’re talking about the U.S. doing this to a British I’m sorry, an Australian citizen now also an Ecuadorian citizen, not an American.
If Julian can be extradited for putting out the information that The New York Times did, we interviewed in El Pais and Le Monde also did. No journalist in the world is safe from being kidnapped in the United States to face life imprisonment for putting out information like Chelsea Manning. And a lot of them put out Chelsea Manning’s read the news that he’s been charged with. But anything like that, there should be worldwide attention to it. And there is some certainly in Britain, none in the United States, in the mainstream press, you have to go to programs like this or Consortium News or Kevin Stoller’s blog and others to learn that this case has been going on.
Actually, the Times had one item that I remember back in about September 16th that that’s the last time they mentioned it, by the way, which only talked about technical problems, the problem of hearing people and seeing people, nothing on the substance of the case or how it applied to them. It’s extremely shortsighted of the press in protecting the First Amendment and in protecting themselves very individually from prosecution. It’s rather amazing.
Paul Jay: The charge that was the start of the case against Assange was that he collaborated with Chelsea Manning to hack military computers. But I think it came out during the course of this extradition hearing that this whole thing is ridiculous because Manning had access to all the files. They didn’t need to hack anything.
Daniel Ellsberg: There was a piece by Michael Leigh of the Freedom of the Press Foundation as a computer expert recently. I think it’s in the Intercept of how the hacking charges just been made absurd. And he goes into technical detail on that, but they quickly supplemented that. Then with that, the point of that charge was to show supposedly that he was doing things that weren’t journalistic and that The New York Times has not been found to have done in that case. So, you know, to separate him from that.
But that’s fallen because they’ve made charges so far really cover all the material that came out. The prosecutor said to me when I testified on September 16th, actually, that really he’s only charged with revelations which involved the names of informants, which he said put them at great risk and great harm.
Well, first of all, the danger of that, whatever it was, has been tested now by, what is it, 10 years of experience where the government had to admit not one individual has been found to have been harmed as a result of this. So no actual harm. Second, the prosecutor was flatly lying when he said that these were the only charges he was being tried on. The other charges are of retaining information, withholding it, you know, possessing it, and so forth, charges that go through the whole range of what he revealed, including the Chelsea Manning revelation of the collateral murder video. Now, that video impressed a lot of people. And by the way, I find that most people haven’t yet seen it easy to see on YouTube.
Paul Jay: We’re going to run some of the footage of what Manning released at the end of this interview.
Daniel Ellsberg: People should see it. Its in a couple of forms. See it in the full form of, its about, 30, 31 minutes for the final thing, which shows people being murdered by Americans who are laughing about it at the time, at the time, asking for permission to kill, sounding like boys on a soccer field, asking for the ball or a basketball court or something and pursuing these unarmed. There was one person who was armed, which is not unusual in Iraq, to see somebody on the street with a weapon of any kind. But it included Reuters.
Paul Jay: And they had a camera which the soldiers in the helicopter said they thought was a gun.
Daniel Ellsberg: It was widely seen, but it didn’t have the effect of the George Floyd video, which we’re seeing now, you know, people in the streets demanding. And that’s true in general of Chelsea Manning’s revelations, which included an enormous raft of torture as a policy by the United States, specifically handing people over to the Iraqi forces knowing they would be tortured. That’s a crime. Internationally, constitutionally, domestically, it’s a crime and it’s a crime because she showed that it wasn’t a case of a few bad apples doing this. It was a policy, hundreds of cases that went up to the White House that went up to Barack Obama. And I think that’s why the pursued her so much.
But why so much less effect of that than, let’s say, Snowden’s revelations three years later?
Difference Chelsea is almost entirely involved harm to foreigners, foreigners being killed, being surveillance, everything. Snowden found that Americans were being surveilled all over the place. Everyone, all of us, all the time, essentially. And now we’re seeing, as I say, the new stuff is that a lawyer and defendant talking to his lawyer in the bathroom to avoid surveillance, but to since they knew he was doing that from their visual surveillance, they put microphones in the bathroom, you know, in a plug and underneath a fire extinguisher for when he’s because that’s where he wanted to talk to his lawyers to avoid it. Hard to get away from them.
I revealed today it happened. I never happened to mention it before, at the end of my trial for the revelation of stuff exactly like this. This is what ended my trial. When we left the apartment we’ve been living in near the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. It was found that there were bugs in our living room and our bedroom, and there had been there, obviously, during the whole trial.
Well, we didn’t discuss with our lawyers in the bedroom and I don’t even think in the living room very much. But who knows where else those bugs were entirely. So this isn’t entirely new. It’s just revealed. And I have to say, I’m talking about it here to you. I haven’t been called by The New York Times on this, nor has anybody not a word in the Post or the Times so far.
Paul Jay: But let me ask you another question about the Assange case. First, there’s a there’s a charge or an accusation that Assange put people at risk. And there’s been some but there’s been some criticism of The Guardian newspaper and one of its journalists that in a book that came out that it was they, in fact, that leaked the password that led to the release of some of the unredacted documents. And in fact, Assange, there was testimony, was actually very careful about not releasing unredacted information.
Daniel Ellsberg: Well, it’s it’s a slightly complicated story. A British journalist named Jonathan Cook, I believe I just saw the other day a long article by him. He was a long term Guardian reporter and was observed. In fact, Julian, in fact, had wanted to be very meticulous in redacting names. In fact, he had a deadline and embargoed for releasing this information from The Guardian with The Guardian another day. And they were pressing him on keeping it. He wanted to he did postpone because he wanted to spend additional time redacting.
And in the end, they pressed him, its got to go out. well, in the end, eventually with the State Department cables and translator, it did come out through the fact that David Lee had published the password as an epigraph just for, you know, local color in one of his chapters, the entire password to the unredacted cables altogether. But if I may come back so, you know, the idea that what came very clearly in the trial was that the idea that he had deliberately shown either recklessness or unconcerned for the names of these informants or indeed had deliberately put out the names is absolutely true, untrue. That was clearly demolished, but also when it comes down to it.
The two other aspects here, we have a government professing great concern for certain people involved in the Iraq war who are informants, these are not spies for us. These are not agents. And that’s covered by entirely different laws, actually. There was nothing illegal about putting out those names except the fact that the entire cache, the entire cables in which they were embedded was classified. That’s the charge. But people could say, well, putting it out was irresponsible and that’s what they’re concerned about.
First point, which I said in court. This is the government which by pursuing an illegal war and aggression, a war of aggression, a crime against the peace, has created 37 million refugees in the Middle East, in the Middle East, wars that have come on. And they’re pretending that Julian Assange is the problem here for putting out these things.
Second, even, let’s say, the observer who allowed this coming out and so forth, the irresponsible, you know, was not unethical. It was unethical, let’s say, irresponsible to do that.
The First Amendment in our country doesn’t just defend responsible journalism. It doesn’t say Congress shall make no act acting like abridging freedom of the press, to act responsibly from the point of view of the government, anything that embarrasses them or incriminated them or lowers their prestige like seditious sedition against a king, which to which our founders wanted to get away from in enacting the First Amendment.
That’s what they regard as irresponsible. In fact, illegal, they would like to put people in jail. I notice the attorney general, Barr, has talked now about reinstating sedition laws, which our country, the War of Independence, was in part against the idea of having a monarch who could not be criticized. That’s almost the definition of a monarch above the law, as Nixon put it. When the president does it, it’s not illegal. Well, obviously, Donald Trump believes that and he’s not the first.
All of our presidents have probably acted on that assumption, but they didn’t want to test it too much. They tried to keep their violations of law as secret as possible. Trump’s difference is that he puts it all right out on the table, pretty much he makes it clear, I think, that he wants to change the nature of this government to an executive that is beyond any law, and accountability. And I think that’s what’s at stake in this election.
You very unusually, we’re choosing actually in favor or against someone who wants an absolutely unaccountable, executive himself, even I don’t think he should be regarded as totally joking when he talks about going against the amendment to the Constitution, that limits him to two terms when he says he wants a third, fourth, fifth term. Well, fifth is stretching it in terms of life expectancy, especially as we know today with the virus. But in terms of the third term, I don’t think he should be regarded as joking on that.
This could be, from his point of view, the last real election in terms he admires, above all, dictator for life by name. He said it even openly. That’s one of the things he admires about them. She said to Turkey, Putin, no president for life has a good ring to him. That has to be I think people should take that very seriously when they come to the polls. And in fact, we’ve just seen how communicable CV 19 is for the president’s example.
That puts a very great incentive to vote by mail for sure. And a lot of people are going to do that. And yet we have a president who from perhaps from his sickbed, is going to continue to urge to say mail-in ballots, which might be 40 percent of the ballots are invalid, are not to be counted. That puts a pretty good premium on taking a chance, wearing a big mask, wearing gloves, going to the polls. And notice, this is a president who is openly calling for proud boys and for others to stand by and to as many people as possible to go to the polls and watch. Watch what? Intimidate. Obviously, these the kind of tactics that the brownshirts used in Germany, the Blackshirts in Italy. And I think that’s what he’s what he’s calling for.
So, the word fascist has not come out of my mouth that I can think of till this week because as I was growing up, that was a kind of hyperbole, that’s all in the past. We fought that and we beat that in World War 2. To call somebody a fascist now, it’s just a rhetorical overkill and it discounts you from like I’ve gone along with that up till now, use the word discriminatingly. I think the time has come now to say we are looking at a would-be fascist in the White House or wannabe. In fact, he is a fascist right now. And I’m saying that having just looked up definitions of fascism, which are wide-ranging and rather controversial, they have certain elements in common in general and anti-communist, anti-socialist, anti-liberal parliamentarians.
So he doesn’t believe in being constructed by Congress or by the laws or by Constitution. Another element which was not perceived in him, though, it should have been in 2016. There were people I just read in reading who said he’s not a fascist, he’s a Proteau, he’s a right-wing populist. Let’s be exact here, you know, like the right-wing populists we see in Europe. OK, fine. And here’s why he’s not a fascist. He’s not calling for violence. That was 2016 and actually, he already was but on a small scale. He doesn’t have a he doesn’t have a fascist party. Well, let’s think about the Republican Party at this point.
But above all, he doesn’t want to overthrow the Constitution to form a government. I look at Donald Trump now, and I think he does. I think he is in the sense of the oath I took as a Marine, as a State Department employee, as a Defense Department employee, every member of the government, every member of Congress takes an oath not to a president or a fuhrer or industry, but to the commander in chief. But to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
I think Donald Trump is a domestic enemy of the Constitution. Not in a rhetorical sense in the sense that I took an oath to defend and support against, and I think people who took that oath to the government right now should be thinking of what their duties are in terms of telling the truth or on the other hand, protecting him in his lies and being silent about them.
We’re facing very much a constitutional crisis. We’re being tested and we have a chance right now to protect ourselves from that move into fascism.
Paul Jay: And The New York Times that I think understands much of what you just said. And they’re probably coming to agree with much of what you just said.
How do they not connect that this attack on Assange is just what the Obama administration said it would be. It could lead to a potential charge against The New York Times itself.
If I remember correctly, Nixon did consider trying to lay charges against The New York Times and The Washington Post for printing the Pentagon Papers and certainly Trump in this crazy, maniacal state, you know, talking about recognizing, not recognizing the mail-in ballots and calling on his gangs to stand by and so on. What makes them think they wouldn’t charge the New York Times?
Daniel Ellsberg: Can’t really explain. You know, the first column describing Julian in The New York Times, which, of course, he’d collaborated with, and putting out this information fairly closely. And I think he thought of himself as being on a team with The New York Times, which I thought of it at the beginning when I gave information to Neil Sheehan, but that I quickly learned I was not on the team, no consultation, whatever. They didn’t work with me. The way actually they did work with Julian Assange, as the other papers did, in deciding how to interpret this stuff and what to put in, what not to put in quite a lot of working arrangement, which I didn’t have.
They wrote an article about Julian and they described him as scruffy, ill-clad, arrogant, and didn’t like to deal with it. Made a big point that he smelled bad, that he was the reason he didn’t bathe enough, and so forth. It was a real smear, actually, altogether. They did much the same with Chelsea Manning, actually. And I know that at that time I was in communication with him and I saw him in London after that, putting out the direct cables. And I know that he was quite put up by this. He said, what? Why? I said, Julian, I could have warned you that this is the way he would be treated. Its the way I was treated, actually, by The New York Times. They don’t think of a source or even in his case, Chelsea was a source, but he was a junior publisher. But, you know, they thought of him as a source.
I think they think of sources as the way police think of their snitches, their informants. Each one each policeman has his own informants, but he thinks of them as criminals, bad guys who, you know, maybe protecting to some extent for his source of information. But he has no respect for what they tell him. Here are people who some of them are telling stuff, officials all the time for their own benefit. They’re not going to get they’re not under the risk of prosecution.
But whistleblowers who are doing this for the good of the country at their own risk, I don’t think newsmen, personnel, women see them much differently. They try to protect who they are for various reasons so they can get more information. But beyond that, it’s not a matter of real respect. They don’t see it as part of the process part of the team. I think that really ought to change. I would like to see a Pulitzer Prize for sources as well as journalists.
I wouldn’t be named. No doubt it would be anonymous if you could you could find out who they were. I’m not asking for it to be retroactive exactly, but at all. But I think that would be to show that this is a legitimate, important part of a democracy and have a republic and that these unauthorized disclosure show, in the case of the whistleblowers, a very high form of patriotism. People say the highest part, I’m not going to compare, but I’m going to say it’s a high form of patriotism and we need it and we need a lot more of it than we’ve had so far.
In the whole process here I think the journalists need to re-examine their relationship to the secrecy system. Oh, certainly one less thing to see here. I think they like the secrecy system as it is, journalists, because it gives them scoops when somebody an official gives them classified information as a leak, not making it available and not declassifying it, not making it available to journalists at large because classified documents are here, you know, don’t tell don’t associate my name with it and so forth. The journalist gets exclusive. Other journalists don’t get it.
Now, next week, somebody else gets it. He doesn’t get it or she doesn’t get it. But then again, if he’s a good boy or girl, you’ll get it again. You know, if it doesn’t criticize you, doesn’t complain about the fact that what they were given was false, you a classified lie or misleading, as long as they don’t mention that, they’ll get more of them. And I don’t think they realize that they are not remotely getting the amount of information the public needs and they should be giving it to them. They don’t they are not aware how much-classified information should be available to the public.
Paul Jay: What’s really going on here, I think, is that Julian Assange poked his nose, his hands with Manning right into the state, right into the heart of the darkest part of the U.S. state.
They exposed war crimes, the murder of innocent civilians. If they can go after Julian, why can’t they charge every journalist in the world that writes an investigative piece the American government doesn’t like?
The whole thing is nuts. What they’re really saying is you can’t mess with the American state. You don’t dare work with a whistleblower so close to real secrets.
Daniel Ellsberg: What’s called the Espionage Act, they’re charging it is so-called because up until my case, it was used only against spies for espionage. Actually, my case was a non-espionage case. I was not only not charged with espionage and Julian is not charged with espionage and is not being tried under the paragraphs of the law that apply specifically to spies. He’s applied to would apply to journalists and to officials who put out information like me and the letter.
Now, the so-called Espionage Act, as I say, is actually 18 USC 793 paragraphs DNE that are mainly used here actually used a paragraph PB against Julian as well, wasn’t against me. But I can run that off not being a lawyer because I was the first person charged under that. That’s the only law that I can identify that well. The word espionage was banned by all emotion from my prosecutor from the courtroom because he didn’t want the jury to hear that I was being charged with espionage, which I wasn’t because that would appear so absurd, the same. So they said the word espionage shall not be used in this courtroom, even though it’s generally known as the Espionage Act.
Second, Jullian is as I see is not charged with espionage, despite the allegation of Pompeo that I’ll come to in a moment. But he’s being charged with violations of 793 paragraphs DNE and some other paragraph. OK, it’s a non-espionage charge which are trying to use the Espionage Act or the 793 as if it were either. It’s actually as if it were a British UK Official Secrets Act, which we don’t have because Congress has always decided that that would clearly violate the First Amendment, which says, you know, freedom, which protects freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
So Congress has always said we don’t want an official secrets act, except which criminalizes all revelation of classified information without correction as to whether intent or whatnot. But it criminalizes it all. We don’t want that. In fact, almost nobody notices, but I follow this pretty closely. Congress didn’t have such an act by voice vote in the year 2000 in the last months of Clinton’s administration. And Clinton, after considering heavily for over two, vetoed it and said it violated the First Amendment almost. None of it nobody knows is exactly that did happen unconstitutional and I couldn’t do it, and because the main pusher of that act, I believe, was Senator Shelby, and since it was later, a year or two later came out that Shelby was the source of a major serious leak, actually, of the fact that we had a double agent in Osama Bin Laden’s camp, and he put that out to show how much he was in the know. He kind of was put out of action as a pusher, as a leader of criminalization of what he had just done.
Interesting point. There is there was an example of a secret that really shouldn’t have been put out. I wouldn’t have put it out. I don’t know of any colleague of mine who would ever imagine putting out a piece of information like that. But because it served his political interests, he did. And of course, he didn’t get prosecuted, but he did lay back from pushing his Official Secrets Act at that point. There have been other cases like that of putting out information that really shouldn’t be out.
Are there secrets that should be held to be secret? Yes, of course. Are there leaks that shouldn’t happen? Yes.
When Scooter Libby and others also put out the names of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent for which Libby was convicted and then given clemency by George W. Bush, that shouldn’t have been out, actually proving that there was a case, by the way, of Valerie Plame was doing good work against proliferation and nuclear proliferation. To do that, she had to run networks of agents and she had to be undercover. They didn’t want her name. She, you know, find us. There was a secret that should have been kept, but it served the interests of Cheney to punish her husband for leaking information about Cheney’s lie and embarrassing to the vice president. And so to punish him, they ended his wife’s career as a clandestine agent and endangered all of her agents, her network of agents elsewhere.
Paul Jay: That was Ambassador Joe Wilson. I did the last interview with Wilson before he passed away. And that series is up on theAnalysis.news website.
Daniel Ellsberg: Yeah, interestingly, I got to know, Joe, we liked each other very much and I admired him for what he’d put out and what he’d done. He never wanted to be called a whistleblower. And he told me because it still had that connotation, freedom of speech of informer and he didn’t want it, for anybody. He said, no, I’m not like you. I’m not a whistleblower. I actually pretty much a liar. But no, he didn’t like the work.
It’s only become an acceptable word in recent years. Actually, I think the change was when Coleen Rowley and two other women were on the cover of Time as Whistleblowers of the Year Action Against Whistleblowers, Persons of the Year whistleblowers. I saw a change in public acceptance of that. And that was because they’d all put out information in her case on the FBI, on others, Enron and others, you know, deserved to be a better word now. But it should be there should be a lot more of it.
And if Trump’s efforts against the journalists, I suspect that the Espionage Act permits prosecution of events succeeds, there will be many fewer whistleblowers, not zero, because there are people like Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden who will say and Snowden put it. Some things are worth dying for. Chelsea said, I’m prepared to go to prison for life or even face capital punishment, as she did, by the way, you know, charges, I saw that and I said, gee, I haven’t heard anybody say that. For thirty-nine years, that’s the way I felt, so I felt an identification with them. Those two people that I don’t have more than anybody else on Earth, as a matter of fact, I hardly know Chelsea, Ed a friend of mine now, we’re both on the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
But even without knowing her, I feel a great identification with her. It’s not you can’t point to too many people who, unfortunately, I wouldn’t do that, even though the stakes are enormously high, worth it. What’s more important is you don’t find people who are willing to risk their careers, their clearances, their access, and seriously their marriages, their children’s education, whatever. And some they won’t risk at any risk to their job. I would say to put out information that might save an untold number of lives or save the Constitution, as in Snowden’s case.
So coming right back to this case, the First Amendment is directly attacked in this case in a new way, it was attacked, in my case to and the others. The constitutionality of using the espionage act piece was regarded as wrong, as false, the invalid as early as mine by legal scholars. And that’s been true for all of the previous successive uses against officials who put out information. It was always regarded as blatantly unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment against journalists or publishers like Julian. And it is.
So if he were to succeed in this, you could write off for our nation as a republic or as any kind of public sovereignty when it comes to foreign affairs, defense affair, military matters. There isn’t much democracy now in the country as a whole. But we have essentially is an oligarchy, as I’ve discussed with you in the past. In terms of military and national, public doesn’t have much say because they aren’t told much, they don’t know much about it.
Well, that’s largely a fault of the media and our education and Congress investigations, our education system in general. The word empire is just absent from the consciousness of most Americans who have gone through our educational system and read the papers, which means they really can’t understand foreign affairs and what’s going on, that we are one, that we are the strongest empire in the world at this time, which is the way it is. And that depends on secrecy from the public of what empires to effect regime change, torture whose paramilitary actual invasions.
It occurs to me, we’ve had until recently what I call a Covert Empire, covert meaning plausible denial of what you’re doing and who orders it. As in covert operations, we deny we’re an empire. We deny what we do, like other empires, to effect regime change, to control other governments, to get them what we do. It’s pretty well covered. The invasion of Iraq took the wraps off that one even in Vietnam we pretended to be coming in at the request of a sovereign government, the South Vietnam government, which was in fact a government we had created and controlled. It was a puppet, but at least that covered that plausible denial that we were running the affairs and some possibility not in Iraq.
Nobody invited us in Iraq. Nobody. Well, that’s not quite true and full of people, especially people who hoped, you know, to be power. Ahmad Chalabi and others. There were some unquenched, but not from any official party, not from any major faction there. It was an invasion. Was a crime against the peace? Absolutely. And so if you ask what will happen?
If the First Amendment is discarded in this field as result of this case or Iracs, and that would lead not only to millions dead, to 37 million refugees. So a lot is at stake here.
Paul Jay: Thank you for joining us, Daniel.
Daniel Ellsberg: Thank you, Paul.
Paul Jay: And thank you for joining us on theAnalysis.news podcast. And again, please don’t forget that if you haven’t donated, there’s a donate button at the top of the Web page.