Daniel Ellsberg on Colbert Report: Julian Assange is Not a Criminal Under the Laws of the United States

by Ellsberg.Net on December 10, 2010

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
International Manhunt for Julian Assange – Daniel Ellsberg
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog March to Keep Fear Alive

[Daniel’s segment starts at 4:06]

ELLSBERG: Julian Assange is not a criminal under the laws of the United States. I was the first one prosecuted for the charges that would be brought against him. I was the first person ever prosecuted for a leak in this country—although there had been a lot of leaks before me. That’s because the First Amendment kept us from having an Official Secrets Act. . . . The founding of this country was based on the principle that the government should not have a say as to what we hear, what we think, and what we read. . . .

If Bradley Manning did what he’s accused of, then he’s a hero if mine and I think he did a great service to this country. We’re not in the mess we’re in, in the world, because of too many leaks. . . . I say there should be some secrets. But I also say we invaded Iraq illegally because of a lackof a Bradley Manning at that time.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

John Kennard February 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Assange should be prosecuted under the Alien and Sedition Acts.

That’ll fix ‘im.

And we invaded Iraq because that’s what Bush II was bought and paid for and put in the White House to do:


Nathan Clark January 23, 2011 at 11:29 pm

I am a vet from the invasion of Iraq. My story is similar to yours in that at first I was helping the war effort, and now that I have stepped back and can see the big picture, I am very much against it. As for the wikileaks, I too think that Mr. Assange was not wrong. I believe that his endeavour will help to create a stronger government. I have several friends who are listed in that report. It seems that a common fear is that the enemy will get their hands on this info and use it against these people. So what about Valerie Plame? Isn’t the idea to lead by example?

Daniel Ellsberg absolutely leads by example. Thanks you so much for your inspiration.

Michael Bousfield January 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm

G’Day Mr Ellsberg – I have just finished watching “The Most Dangerous Man in America” on Australian TV. An extremely thought provoking piece of documentary film making and aired at a time when Julian Assange undergoing similar travails as you went through with the Pentagon papers. What do you think are Mr Assange’s chances in obtaining a fair hearing should he eventually have to face trial over the leaks in the USA (seems the media frenzy, anti-WikiLeaks comments from global leaders, etc. could jeopardise this. In Australia I understand he’d be protected by ‘sub judice’ process but the USA doesn’t seem to have that). Secondly, will he be able to cite the “New York Times Co. v. United States 403 U.S. 713 (1971),” ruling as part of that defense? PS: I am currently re-reading ‘The Final Days’ by Woodward and Bernstein. Welcome any recommendations as to reading…..regards Michael Bousfield, Sydney Australia

Michael Ellsberg January 6, 2011 at 12:29 am

[Editor’s Note] Normally I do not approve comments that contain personal attacks (we encourage reasoned debate, not ad hominem attacks here) but this was so extreme, I thought I’d let it through, just to give you a flavor of the kind of hate mail we get every day here at Ellsberg.Net — Michael Ellsberg

p j batchelder January 4, 2011 at 10:04 am

I say hurrah for Interpol! If they would please expand their campaign to arrest ALL men who should be wearing condoms, it will not only benefit those men’s partners, but solve the population problem in a twinkling. Yes!

David West December 19, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Bradley Manning is a traitor and so are you Mr. Ellsberg. When Manning signed on to serve it was with constraint that he would follow the orders of his superiors and do what was in the best interest of the orders he was given. It is sad that the United States military has fallen because of the deceptive tactics of a mere homosexual private whose only cover was that he was listening to a performance artist who dresses up in meat suits and plastic wear. When the Muslim’s state that they have the right to kill all Americans because they vote and pay taxes it seems finally that they have a point. Part of the reason that this country is going in the wrong direction so consistently is because of bleeding heart liberals like yourself who should have never been involved in the military at all. The repeal of DADT is just another step in the wrong direction. It is the propagation of gay liberal elitist notions, gay marriage and gay adoption and population control all of which is immoral. You cry about the deaths in war but say nothing about the millions who are killed silently through abortion, that number since 1973 is now over 53,000,000, those are Stalin numbers. Pro-death proponents say they aren’t human beings, Hitler would say you weren’t a human being either. People like your self Mr. Ellsberg have some kind of moral imperative which is simply nothing more than a vain attempt to be some newly enshrined hero of consciousness dress up in a pseudo Christian replica. You are not going to bring peace on earth, you are not the messiah. We already know the way Mr. Ellsberg, it is Christ, we don’t need your vain moral imperative. People like yourself lead me to reconsider Adoph Hitler’s position. The fact of the matter is that people like yourself and the homosexuals are as subversive to the American society as communist, that lends credibility to the strong man argument as you and others like you seek to undermine true virtue. Don’t be so proud of yourself Mr. Ellsberg, as it stands, you are a traitor.

Kathleen Bergin December 16, 2010 at 9:01 pm

US lawmakers held hearings 12/16 on Assagne and Espionage Act. Links at First Amendment Law Prof Blog:


llewton December 14, 2010 at 10:29 pm

You were and remain an honorable man Mr. Ellsberg, an inspiration. Thank you.

Tom December 14, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Just heard that Michael Moore is posting a large part of Assange’s bail. He’s out under “strict conditions”. Good for him.

Now though, some questions that nobody’s asking.

While it’s good that Michael Moore putting some of his money (and his influence) on the line to help Wikileaks, what about the hundreds of others leakers who we all know are out there. Sibel Edmonds and various other whistleblower groups talk about them all the time. Yet, the current Stateside laws regarding protecting them are frankly a joke.

Unless all of these people are independently wealthy or get the ACLU to take their case, who’s going to help them? Is it because now that we’ve reached “The Great Turning Point” with Assange it’s now officially ok to talk about this and act openly? Are Moore and other rich progressives going to bankroll a fund to help pay the legal costs of these other whistleblowers who deserve to be heard as well? Not to be totally cynical about it, but this didn’t happen in the past with rich progressives bankrolling Air America. Now, it seems like the entire global media has gone corporate.

Yes, Moore’s using key people and events lately to help publicize his films. To a point I’ll give him and his crack showbiz advisors credit for that. But also keep in mind that under current Stateside “terorist” laws, don’t be shocked if Holder tries to go after Moore or possibly others for “aiding and abetting terrorists”. If I make a donation to a charity that helps people in Gaza, I could be prosecuted for “aiding and abetting a ‘terrorist’ organization” (Hamas). I agree, it is idiotic. Then again, we have an insane President and Congress (except for 6 Senators so far) who think it’s ok to give tax breaks to filthy rich people that don’t even want or need them.

Which means at this point, nothing surprises me.

eileen fleming December 14, 2010 at 3:17 am

Turkey’s Interior Minister Besir Atalay nailed it when he said, “It seems to us that the country which is not mentioned much, especially in the Middle East, or which this development seems to favor is Israel. This is how we see it in a way when we look in the context of who is benefitting and who is being harmed.”

Senator Mitch McConnell called Julian Assange a “high-tech terrorist” on NBC’s Meet the Press stating, “If it‘s found that Assange hasn’t violated the law, then the law should be changed.”

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. told us, “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

FrankieT December 13, 2010 at 5:41 am

Just because a few people blabber on TV and made judgement does not mean it is true.
Assange is very courageous for sticking his neck out for what he believes, unlike most Amercians hiding their heads in the sand…..

Rob December 12, 2010 at 2:47 pm

This was very enjoyable. I already knew about Daniel’s great work but had not previously seen the Colbert report and will watch out for it in the future.

Mademoiselle Maupin December 11, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Just when Mr. Ellsberg was about to talk about the financial industry’s part in this war he gets cut off by Colbert. Mr. Ellsberg, will you please post what you were going to say so that I can understand clearly what point you were trying to make about the involvement of the financial terrorists…or I shall I say the Wall Street banksters?

Thank you.

Dennis December 11, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Thank you Dr. Ellsberg and Michael for your work. MSM, controlled by just a few people, are as expected, spinning this into an attack on Wikileaks, and Assange. To take the focus off of the heart of the matter; truth. The truth will not change. The government is still invading foreign countries, killing innocent civillians, and US soldiers and spending us into debt for the benefit of defense contractors. Here we are today drowning in debt. Using politics to divide us, the people of America. Divide and Conquer is the oldest rick in ther book. Don’t allow their bullhorn, the controlled MSM to work. We should remain together and revoke the jekyll island “non-federal” reserve. It is not federal and it is not reserved. A group of private bankers. A fiat currency that JFK attempted to change with exec order 11110 five months before his death. We should make illegal the control of more than 2% of MSM by any one person, company or group. We should not allow long-term encumbants to remain in office. As in the old days Senators and Congressmen should be emplyed outside of government. The long-term encumbant House Reps, Senators, and Executive branch should be elected out, and elect new candidates that are not members of the club. Supreme Court should have a 10 year term limit. make lobbiests illegal. Enact strict limits on campaign spending. As Lt. Ehren Watada has said journalist Charley Reese’s famous article – The 545 people Responsible For All US Woes. hese 545 should not be allowed to remain. As Lt Watada said, All members of a democracy are responsible.

Wikileaksforum December 11, 2010 at 3:12 pm

I normally don’t watch this show, except for the time he was doing reports on the Olympics.

But seeing this I do really appreciate the way he brings this item, only his intonation differ from what other newsources in the US are saying and with this very small change, it becomes very clear how insane it is what he is saying, making it funny.

Great performance by mister Ellsberg too, and I hope too see more of his down to earth vision and character on TV/the internet

Rick December 11, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Notice the quiet when he said that Private Manning is a hero.

People aren’t ready for such a unique perspective.

The people are pawns in the face of the barrage of state propoganda.

Rick December 11, 2010 at 12:33 pm

So good to see such a great man alive and kicking.
To hell with his detractors!

Trylon December 11, 2010 at 11:36 am

ELLSBERG: Julian Assange is not a criminal under the laws of the United States.

Neither is Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and myriad other indisputable criminals. In the good old days the law was an ass. Now its a psychopath on LSD with its hands around your throat – – – smiling and waiting.

This land is your land, this land is my land, from California, to the NY island–

BLKOblivion December 11, 2010 at 11:19 am

Since you are so obsessed with grading the guest and the host by the “MSM” stick of measurement and not the content of their interview, [ the actual accurate way to measure], you should want to see a long inclusive interview with Noam Chomsky on Democracy Now, with Amy Goodman.

By the way, Assange and Ellsberg are frequent guests on her show.

SapperK9 December 11, 2010 at 8:20 am

All that Assange is guilty of is exposing the incompetence of an administration that trusts its Windows servers, no?

Hardly anything to do with him, fix it, abandon WynDuh$ and use secure, encoded, encrypted means. This cannot be too much of an intellectual challenge for the nation that put a man on the moon is it…

Wardropper December 11, 2010 at 6:55 am

For me the point is that we got to hear what Mr. Ellsberg has to say on the matter, and Colbert and Stewart have big audiences.

Perhaps Noam Chomsky sees through trivial nonsense too easily to feel entirely at home on a show like this, while Mr. Ellsberg appears to be able to enjoy a laugh when he’s off-duty.

Stewart and Colbert have to consider such things when they choose their guests, since nobody expects them to give us a rerun of Plato’s “Gorgias” for entertainment.

That said, I must admit that, privately, I would really enjoy hearing Chomsky discuss some Plato with those two…

flo b. December 11, 2010 at 5:19 am

I have like an idea that Colbert and Stewart put their money where their mouth is.
Give me a media company today who would have the power and the money to have their show on, and not being as a media company tainted ?

I want to hear and see Mr. Ellsberg as much as possible. I wouldn’t mind even switching for five minutes to Fox news to see him rebuke them.

If you do not like to see Stewart or Colbert on Viacom, then you know, don’t watch them.

If Mr. Ellsberg wants to defend the cause of Assange on their show, thank god. Thank god if Fox calls him to defend Assange. Whatever can be seen of a defense of Assange is more important than to decide for Colbert and Stewart where their office should be. You consider that their DC rally was self promotion ? Perhaps it was, but if it opened the eyes of one person to the lack of courage of some of our politicians and the desperate state of this country, I, for my part, am really glad they promote themselves, even if that keeps Viacom going, because in the end the power of one person’s mind is more than the temporary power of a corporation.

Tom December 11, 2010 at 12:18 am

While I respect Mr. Ellsberg for what he did, I have a big problem with him appearing on comedy shows like this for several reasons:

When Tony Blair did his book tour thru the States, almost every major media outlet had this war criminal on. Nobody ever publically mentioned this or apologized for their actions in booking him.

When Stewart, Colbert and others had their D.C. rally, 250,000 people showed up. Why did they show up? To hang with their comedian idols and turn it into a massive MSM promo for their shows? Or, was there an actual purpose there?

Now, a large majority of the public gets their news from comedy shows. Does it bother anyone (including Mr. Ellsberg) that serious subjects like this are now just lame comedy bits? If Stewart and Colbert are such great guys, then how come they won’t put their money where their mouth is?

Because if they did, Viacom (their parent company) would fire them in a second. They could fight it out in court (ala Dan Rather getting sacked) and try to outspin each other. Instead they won’t. Because it’s “not their job” to do that? If lots of people see us as “journalists”, that’s their problem, not mine.

Frankly, as long as they plug war criminals on their shows, maybe Viacom should be added to the boycott Amazon and others list? Also, if it’s okay to have someone like Mr. Ellsberg on (who’s “a radical” to much of the MSM), how come Noam Chomsky (who’s only the third-most quoted source in the freaking world) isn’t ok?

Stupid double standards.

Deborah Menkart December 10, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Thank you for posting this brilliant segment. So many contradictions highlighted in just 8 minutes. We will share it with educators on the Zinn Education Project facebook page.

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