ELLSBERG: There hasn’t been an unauthorized disclosure of this magnitude since the Pentagon Papers 39 years ago. I’ve been waiting for it for a long time.
There should have been the Pentagon Papers of Iraq and a lot of other places. And I wish there had been Pentagon Papers of Afghanistan earlier than this. But better late than never, the war is still on. Congress is just being challenged now to vote $33 billion more to a war that’s cost $300 billion so far, in a war where the opponent we’re fighting is stronger than it’s ever been before. So the analogy to the war I was helping to expose is very close.
KING: How do you respond to the White House assertion that this leak puts U.S. forces in danger?
ELLSBERG: You know, the people who put U.S. forces in harm’s way—100,000 men and women in Afghanistan—are the last two administrations, but particularly this one, with a decision to escalate the war. I think it takes a lot of –I don’t know what to say—chutzpah, effrontery, for people who made the reckless, foolish, and I would say irresponsible decisions to escalate a war that I’m sure they know internally is as hopeless as these new revelations reveal it to be.
And yet, they’re preferring to send men and women into harm’s way to die and to kill civilians and others in a war that I think they perceive is endless and hopeless, rather than to face the accusations of generals that they have, these politicians have lost a war that the generals claimed is winnable. They claimed that very foolishly.
I’d say that was exactly the same as the boss I served in 1965, Lyndon Johnson. He didn’t want the General Johnson, the chief of staff of the Army, and others to resign if he didn’t give them enough of what they were asking for. I think President Obama has made the same terrible error.
ELLSBERG: I think you won’t find in those 92,000 pages any reason, any basis for believing that we’re going to be more successful in the next nine years or nine months or whatever than we were in the last nine months. And that’s something for the Congress, I think, to consider very strongly before they vote for money for this war.
ELLSBERG: I agree that there are things that should be kept secret. I think it was mistaken—wrong for the Bush administration to reveal the name of Valerie Plame, the covert operator who is working against proliferation during work that required secrecy, just to punish her husband for telling the truth.
To put her name out was a mistake. I think it was wrong to reveal that we were listening in on Osama bin Laden’s communications. I believe Senator Shelby of Alabama was a factor in that.
I think it was wrong for Condoleezza Rice to confirm that we had a mole high up next to Osama bin Laden. Not very good for that double agent’s health.
It could be there could be things in [the WikiLeaks archive] that I would agree and that others would say shouldn’t have been put out. But that remains to be seen.
The fact is that when it comes to judgment as to what should be secret and what should not be secret, Julian Assange’s judgment has been pretty good so far. I don’t think he’s made any mistakes that I’ve seen so far, as in that video of the Apache helicopter that they kept wrongly secret for years.
And I don’t give the benefit of the doubt to the people in the government who decided to keep that video secret and to keep these cables secret.
The full transcript of Ellsberg’s appearance on Larry King Live is here.