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Whistleblowing

Trump’s War on the Press

ACLU lawyers believe that Trump is likely to prosecute journalists and editors for publishing leaks of classified information, for the first time, using the Espionage Act. So far, the Espionage Act has been used for leaks to the American public only against government officials or former ones, of which I was the first, for the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

There were only two other such prosecutions before Obama; he prosecuted nine cases, or three times as many as all previous presidents together. It’s being taken for granted that Trump will follow Obama’s pattern, but also believed that he will go further to use the Act against reporters for the first time.

The Supreme Court might (or might not) find this application unconstitutional under the First Amendment (though the plain language of the Act–which was meant for spies, not leakers, and used only for spies before my case, applies as well to anyone who copies, holds, or passes on information “related to the national defense” including journalists, publishers (like Julian Assange or the New York Times) or even readers of the newspapers (!) as well as to officials. Continue Reading

Secrecy and National Security Whistleblowing

By Daniel Ellsberg (originally published in Social Research)

I) Reflections on Secret-keeping and Identity

In the “national security” area of the government–the White House, the departments of state and defense, the armed services and the “intelligence community,” along with their contractors–there is less whistleblowing than in other departments of the executive branch or in private corporations. This despite the frequency of misguided practices and policies within these particular agencies that are both more well-concealed and more catastrophic than elsewhere, and thus even more needful of unauthorized exposure.

The mystique of secrecy in the universe of national security, even beyond the formal apparatus of classification and clearances, is a compelling deterrent to whistleblowing and thus to effective resistance to gravely wrongful or dangerous policies. In this realm, telling secrets appears unpatriotic, even traitorous. That reflects the general presumption–even though it is very commonly false–that the secrecy is aimed not at domestic, bureaucratic or political rivals or the American public but at foreign, powerful enemies, and that breaching it exposes the country, its people and its troops to danger.

Even those insiders who have come to understand that the presumption is frequently false and that particular facts are being wrongly and dangerously kept secret not so much from foreigners but from Congress, courts or the public are strongly inhibited from speaking out by an internalized commitment to keep official secrets from outsiders, which they have promised to do as a condition of employment or access. Continue Reading

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

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
International Manhunt for Julian Assange – Daniel Ellsberg
www.colbertnation.com
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[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.

Ellsberg: “EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.”

[Below is a news release put out by the Institute for Public Accuracy, co-signed by Daniel Ellsberg]

Ex-Intelligence Officers, Others See Plusses in WikiLeaks Disclosures

WASHINGTON – December 7 – The following statement was released today, signed by Daniel Ellsberg, Frank Grevil, Katharine Gun, David MacMichael, Ray McGovern, Craig Murray, Coleen Rowley and Larry Wilkerson; all are associated with Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.

WikiLeaks has teased the genie of transparency out of a very opaque bottle, and powerful forces in America, who thrive on secrecy, are trying desperately to stuff the genie back in. The people listed below this release would be pleased to shed light on these exciting new developments. Continue Reading

Daniel Ellsberg: “I’ve waited forty years for a release of documents on this scale.”

On the eve of the biggest leak of classified documents in US history, Daniel Ellsberg appeared on Democracy Now. Daniel is on his way to London to participate in a press conference with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Saturday to announce the release.

From the WikiLeaks website:

At 5pm EST Friday 22nd October 2010 WikiLeaks released the largest classified military leak in history. The 391,832 reports (‘The Iraq War Logs’), document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army. Each is a ‘SIGACT’ or Significant Action in the war. They detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout.

The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 ‘civilians’; 23,984 ‘enemy’ (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 ‘host nation’ (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 ‘friendly’ (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period. For comparison, the ‘Afghan War Diaries’, previously released by WikiLeaks, covering the same period, detail the deaths of some 20,000 people. Iraq during the same period, was five times as lethal with equivallent population size.

Share your thoughts, comments, and discussion in the comments section below.

Ellsberg in LA Times: “There should be a Pentagon Papers out every year.”

Daniel Ellsberg was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times in anticipation of the premiere of The Most Dangerous Man in America tonight on PBS:

“Ellsberg was critical of George W. Bush’s administration for what he regards as its disdain for transparency, but also blames the Obama White House for continuing the cloaked practices in the war on terror. He’s heartened by the recent cache of documents released by WikiLeaks on the Afghan war, though he thinks newspapers are more credible places to publish than the Internet. But he applauds the site for offering a clearer look at what the U.S. government is up to: ‘There should be a Pentagon Papers out ever year,’ he says.”

Daniel Ellsberg’s WikiLeaks Wishlist- Will a Patriotic Truthteller Please Leak These Documents?

Daniel Ellsberg told the Washington Post the four documents he most wishes someone would release to WikiLeaks:

1. The official U.S. “order of battle” estimates of the Taliban in Afghanistan, detailing its size, organization and geographic breakdown — in short, the total of our opponents in this war. If possible, a comparison of the estimate in December 2009 (when President Obama decided on a troop increase and new strategy) and the estimate in June or July 2010 (after six or seven months of the new strategy). We would probably see that our increased presence and activities have strengthened the Taliban, as has happened over the past three years.

2. Memos from the administration’s decision-making process between July and December 2009 on the new strategy for Afghanistan, presenting internal critiques of the McChrystal-Petraeus strategy and troop requests — similar to the November 2009 cables from Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry that were leaked in January. In particular, memos by Vice President Biden, national security adviser Jim Jones and others; responses to the critiques; and responses to the responses. This paperwork would probably show that, like Eikenberry, other high-level internal critics of escalation made a stronger and more realistic case than its advocates, warranting congressional reexamination of the president’s policy.

3. The draft revision, known as a “memo to holders,” of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran from November 2007. This has been held up for the past several months, apparently because it is consistent with the judgment of that NIE that Iran has not made a decision to produce nuclear weapons. In particular, the contribution to that memo by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), since the INR has had the best track record on such matters. Plus, estimates by the INR and others of the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iran later this summer. Such disclosures could arrest momentum toward a foreseeably disastrous U.S.-supported attack, as the same finding did in 2007.

4. The 28 or more pages on the foreknowledge or involvement of foreign governments (particularly Saudi Arabia) that were redacted from the congressional investigation of 9/11, over the protest of then-Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.).

On each of these matters, congressional investigation is called for. The chance of this would be greatly strengthened by leaks from insiders. Subsequent hearings could elicit testimony from the insiders who provided the information (whose identities could be made known to congressional investigators) and others who, while not willing to take on the personal risks of leaking, would be ready to testify honestly under oath if requested or subpoenaed by Congress. Leaks are essential to this process.


Yes, there are risks in leaking 92,000 pages- but also great risks in overclassification and secrecy

Ellsberg was interviewed by USA Today on the Wikileaks documents here:

Even Daniel Ellsberg said releasing the documents to anyone with a computer connection raised questions beyond those that faced him when he turned over most of the Pentagon Papers to congressional committees and then The NewYork Times in 1971.

“I had read all of those, of course, and I did make the judgment that there was nothing in there that was going to harm national security or individuals,” Ellsberg, now 79, said in a telephone interview from Mexico. He was there to attend a screening of a documentary about himself called The Most Dangerous Man in America. “With a vast amount of information like this, it’s hard to imagine that there was a very considered decision in releasing all of it.”

Assange’s judgment would be “tested,” he said.

On balance, though, Ellsberg said he supported the decision to put the documents in the public realm.

“To think that all the risks are only on the side of releasing it would be mistaken,” he said. “Continued secrecy does put a lot of American and Afghan lives at risk.”

One Thing the 92,000 Pages Probably Doesn’t Contain: A Single Good Reason For the War

Daniel Ellsberg was interview for CNN’s Afghanistan blog here:

I think what the Pentagon Papers showed with 7,000 pages was that there was a lack of any good reason for doing what we were doing,” Ellsberg told CNN. “My strong expectation is these 92,000 pages will not convey any good reason for the dying and killing and the enormous money we’re spending over there in a time we cannot afford it. . . .

They’d be well-advised to postpone that vote until Congress has time to digest the gist of this story and hold hearings of the kind they never held on Afghanistan in nine years, and really challenge the administration to give any basis on why we’d do better than the Soviets in their 10 years, or the United States in the last nine years.