Open Letter to

by Daniel Ellsberg on December 3, 2010

To Customer Service and Jeff Bezos,

I’m disgusted by Amazon’s cowardice and servility in abruptly terminating its hosting of  the Wikileaks website, in the face of threats from Senator Joe Lieberman and other Congressional right-wingers. I want no further association with any company that encourages legislative and executive officials to aspire to China’s control of information  and deterrence of whistle-blowing.

For the last several years, I’ve been spending over $100 a month on new and used books from Amazon. That’s over. I have contacted Customer Service to ask Amazon to terminate immediately my membership in Amazon Prime and my Amazon credit card and account, to delete my contact and credit information from their files and to send me no more notices.

I understand that many other regular customers feel as I do and are responding the same way. Good: the broader and more immediate the boycott, the better.I hope that these others encourage their contact lists to do likewise and to let Amazon know exactly why they’re shifting their business. I’ve asked friends today to suggest alternatives. I’ve removed all links to Amazon from my site, and I’ll be exploring service from Powell’s Books, IndieBound, Biblio and others.

So far Amazon has spared itself the further embarrassment of trying to explain its action openly. This would be a good time for Amazon insiders who know and perhaps can document the political pressures that were brought to bear—and the details of the hasty kowtowing by their bosses—to leak that information. They can send it to Wikileaks (now on servers outside the US), to mainstream journalists or bloggers, or perhaps to a site like, which has now appropriately ended its book-purchasing association with Amazon and called a boycott.

If you’d like to read further analysis of your cowardice, I suggest you see this excellent article by Glenn Greenwald.

Yours (no longer),

Daniel Ellsberg

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Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate » Who Dares to Tell the Truth
April 2, 2011 at 8:24 pm

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Bud February 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Poetic Justice:
Bradley Manning wins the Nobel Peace Prize. He is freed. He becomes president (at age 35). He then has Bush and Obama prosecuted for war crimes.

Peter Jemley February 19, 2011 at 2:26 am


I do agree with your general point, but blaming Amazon is almost as much of a red herring – and out of proportion – as trying to take down Wikileaks. (I have no financial, or other, ties with Amazon, whatsoever.)

You can easily inform yourself about the nature of DDoS (distributed denial of service attacks) by reading some reading entirely accessible blog entries by Ross Anderson, a security researcher at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, who helps to maintain Tor (used by Wikileaks).

The paper for which I’ll post a link below has as its subject “Censorship Resistant Systems,” and I’ll think you’ll find that, objectively, DDoS attacks are one mirror-image response to the “removal” of digital material.

Ross Anderson begins the paper by reference to our inheritance from Gutenberg, and how mass publications of the work of Wycliffe and Tyndale were simply so numerous as to be indelible: all copies could not be rounded up and burned. This inheritance from Gutenberg was a major factor leading to the Reformation.

Contrast this inheritance with our current context and you may come to the conclusion that the erasure of digital data is akin to book burning, and that our digital age has in fact empowered by orders of magnitude those who would previously burn books or conducted other forms of extreme censorship. DDoS attacks are one of the responses to making digital information disappear.

Moralising about whether DDoS attacks are okay or not requires a context that seeks to address new and novel imbalances of power inherent in the Amazon story. I don’t think it’s an easy good-bad dichotomy. Your books are still for sale by Amazon through electronic distribution, for example, and I don’t think boycotting them will change anything. I’m far more disappointed with Apple working with the Pentagon, which is a far more active role than Amazon’s by most any measure. I’d like to hear you ask Steve Jobs about what he’s doing providing hardware to the military. I’ve written to him and got no response.

Speaking of which, I’m reading your “Secrets” book right now (I was in military intel, and quit without at all regretting losing my high clearance – unescorted access in the Pentagon, for example – or very high salary during the late Bush Administration period).

And in the spirit of your book, although the Amazon problem is very important, I’ve yet to find, either in your book or in your other works, a criticism of the GS and Military side of policy making such as takes places in the Pentagon.

Clearly high-level civilians are contributing to foreign policy, but they are also clearly unelected. It seems to me that something like the vetting of officers above, say O5s (and their GS equivalents), ought to take place, and their input really ought to have limited impact on policy because military advancement can also be corrupt (I’ve seen it. You have, too). The records of military advisors are not available to the public, but perhaps they ought to be. This subject strikes me as far more relevant than whether Amazon, a business, hosts Wikileaks data or not.

Ross has also recently written about Wikileaks. (


Colin January 30, 2011 at 1:17 am

Hi Mate, we are holding peaceful rallies in Brisbane Australia where our own government supports the USA. I too have stopped with Amazon, Paypal and will never use any credit cards.

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