Chris Hedges, who I often quote here, just interviewed Daniel Ellsberg, the man responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, hastening the end of the Vietnam war, and contributing toward the downfall of Richard Nixon. And, as it’s been a while since we’ve discussed the increasing severity with which our nation has been cracking down on whistleblowers, I though that I’d share a clip.
…Totalitarian systems disempower an unsuspecting population by gradually making legal what was once illegal. They incrementally corrupt and distort law to exclusively serve the goals of the inner sanctums of power and strip protection from the citizen. Law soon becomes the primary tool to advance the crimes of the elite and punish those who tell the truth. The state saturates the airwaves with official propaganda to replace news. Fear, and finally terror, creates an intellectual and moral void.
We have very little space left to maneuver. The iron doors of the corporate state are slamming shut. And a conviction of Bradley Manning, or any of the five others charged by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act of 1917 with passing on government secrets to the press, would effectively terminate public knowledge of the internal workings of the corporate state. What we live under cannot be called democracy. What we will live under if the Supreme Court upholds the use of the Espionage Act to punish those who expose war crimes and state lies will be a species of corporate fascism. And this closed society is, perhaps, only a few weeks or months away.
Few other Americans are as acutely aware of our descent into corporate totalitarianism as Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 to The New York Times and is one of Manning’s most ardent and vocal defenders. Ellsberg, who was charged under the Espionage Act, faced 12 felony counts and a possible sentence of 115 years. He says that if he provided the Pentagon Papers today to news organizations, he would most likely never see his case dismissed on grounds of government misconduct against him as it was in 1973. The government tactics employed to discredit Ellsberg, which included burglarizing his psychoanalyst’s office and illegal wiretaps, were subjects of the impeachment hearings against President Richard Nixon. But that was then.
“Everything that Richard Nixon did to me, for which he faced impeachment and prosecution, which led to his resignation, is now legal under the Patriot Act, the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] amendment act, the National Defense Authorization Act,” Ellsberg told me late Friday afternoon when we met in Princeton, N.J.
….Ellsberg has called on those with security clearances to release the modern version of the Pentagon Papers about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He said his only regret was that he did not leak the Pentagon Papers earlier. If the documents had been published in August 1964, he said, rather than 1971, he would have exposed the lie that the North Vietnamese had made an “unequivocal, unprovoked” attack on U.S. destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf. The fabricated attack was used by President Lyndon Johnson to get Congress to pass the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which authorized the administration to escalate the war. Ellsberg said that there were intelligence officials who in 2002 could have exposed the lies used by the Bush administration to plunge us into a war with Iraq. The failure of these officials to release this evidence has resulted in the deaths of, and injury to, thousands of U.S. soldiers and Marines, along with hundreds of thousands of civilians.
“Had I or one of the scores of other officials who had the same high-level information acted then on our oath of office—which was not an oath to obey the president, nor to keep the secret that he was violating his own sworn obligations, but solely an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States—that terrible war [the Vietnam War] might well have been averted altogether,” Ellsberg said. “But to hope to have that effect, we would have needed to disclose the documents when they were current, before the escalation—not five or seven, or even two, years after the fateful commitments had been made.”
“Don’t do what I did,” he cautioned. “Don’t wait until a new war has started in Iran, until more bombs have fallen in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, Libya, Iraq or Yemen. Don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you go to the press and to Congress to tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. Don’t wait 40 years for it to be declassified, or seven years as I did for you or someone else to leak it.”…
There’s certainly a lot that we can discuss. I’d be particularly interested, however, to know what people think of Ellsberg’s comment about how everything that Richard Nixon had done to him, would now be legal under the Patriot Act, FISA, and the National Defense Authorization Act. That, to me, is shocking, if true. And it certainly speaks to the erosion of civil liberties that we’ve experienced these past several years.
And, speaking of Bradley Manning, did you happen to see this headline today, “Bradley Manning’s treatment was cruel and inhuman, UN torture chief rules“?