Edited transcript of today’s Democracy Now interview with Daniel Ellsberg

ELLSBERG: The conditions under which Manning is being held clearly violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution against cruel and unusual punishment—even for someone being punished, having been convicted. Here we have someone who has not yet been tried, not yet convicted, being held in isolation, solitary confinement, for something over 9 months. This is something that is likely to drive a person mad, and may be the intent of what’s going on here.

The Wikileaks revelations that Manning is charged with having revealed, having to do with Iraq, show that in fact the US military in which Manning was a part, turns over suspect to the Iraqis with the knowledge that they will be and are being tortured. Turning these suspects over, with that knowledge, is a clear violation of our own laws and of international law. It makes us as much culpable for the torture as if we were doing it ourselves.

Moreover, the Wikileaks logs show, the order is given: “Do not investigate further.” That’s an illegal order, which our president could change and should change and must change with one call.

Reportedly, Manning was very strongly motivated, at one point, to try to change this situation, because he was involved in it actively, and knew that it was wrong. He found that it was not being investigated within the government and was not being dealt with at all.

That’s a big difference between the Pentagon Papers and the WIkileaks logs. The former were higher level things which didn’t reveal field-level war crimes. The Wikileaks actually do.

Well, P.J. Crowley described the conditions under which Manning is held as “ridiculous, counterproductive, and stupid.” That seems an accurate description as far as it goes. The words “abusive” and “illegal” would go beyond that, and are equally appropriate.

I was very dismayed that the president, faced with accustations at such a high level from his assistant secretary for public affairs, rather than investigating and discovering—as he easily could have—that the descriptions by Crowley’s counterpart at the defense department, have been totally false, and that Obama has been totally misinformed.

The president’s reaction was very dismaying. He was satisfied with having asked the Defense Department, whether the conditions were “appropriate” and met “basic standards.” He was assured that they did.

That was very like president Nixon asking the White House Plumbers, or asking his counsel John Ehrlichman, who was in charge of them–”Was it appropriate, and did it meet our standards, for you to be burglarizing Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist? Did that meet our basic standards?”

And when told by Howard Hunt, or G. Gordon Liddy, “Yes, no problem,” that’s the end of that matter.

It’s so absurd, it really raises the question very much about president Obama’s understanding of the law, or his willingness to abide by it, in this case. And not for the first time.

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[This statement by Daniel Ellsberg was published in the Guardian (UK), two days before P.J. Crowley was fired.]

President Obama tells us that he’s asked the Pentagon whether the conditions of confinement of Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking state secrets, “are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.”

If Obama believes that, he’ll believe anything. I would hope he would know better than to ask the perpetrators whether they’ve been behaving appropriately. I can just hear President Nixon saying to a press conference the same thing: “I was assured by the the White House Plumbers that their burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s doctor in Los Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards.”

When that criminal behavior ordered from the Oval Office came out, Nixon faced impeachment and had to resign. Well, times have changed. But if President Obama really doesn’t yet know the actual conditions of Manning’s detention – if he really believes, as he’s said, that “some of this [nudity, isolation, harassment, sleep-deprivation] has to do with Private Manning’s wellbeing”, despite the contrary judgments of the prison psychologist – then he’s being lied to, and he needs to get a grip on his administration.

If he does know, and agrees that it’s appropriate or even legal, that doesn’t speak well for his memory of the courses he taught on constitutional law.

The president refused to comment on PJ Crowley’s statement that the treatment of Manning is “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid”. Those words are true enough as far as they go – which is probably about as far as a state department spokesperson can allow himself to go in condemning actions of the defence department. But at least two other words are called for: abusive and illegal.

Crowley was responding to a question about the “torturing” of an American citizen, and, creditably, he didn’t rebut that description. Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity – that’s right out of the manual of the CIA for “enhanced interrogation”. We’ve seen it applied in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. It’s what the CIA calls “no-touch torture”, and its purpose there, as in this case, is very clear: to demoralise someone to the point of offering a desired confession. That’s what they are after, I suspect, with Manning. They don’t care if the confession is true or false, so long as it implicates WikiLeaks in a way that will help them prosecute Julian Assange.

That’s just my guess, as to their motives. But it does not affect the illegality of the behavior. If I’m right, it’s likely that such harsh treatment wasn’t ordered at the level of a warrant officer or the brig commander. The fact that they have continued to inflict such suffering on the prisoner despite weeks of complaint from his defence counsel, harsh publicity and condemnation from organisations such as Amnesty International, suggests to me that it might have come from high levels of the defence department or the justice department, if not from the White House itself.

It’s no coincidence that it’s someone from the state department who has gone off-message to speak out about this. When a branch of the US government makes a mockery of our pretensions to honour the rule of law, specifically our obligation not to use torture, the state department bears the brunt of that, as it affects our standing in the world.

The fact that Manning’s abusive mistreatment is going on at Quantico – where I spent nine months as a Marine officer in basic school – and that Marines are lying about it, makes me feel ashamed for the Corps. Just three years as an infantry officer was more than enough time for me to know that what is going on there is illegal behaviour that must be stopped and disciplined.

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

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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 antiwar.com, 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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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.

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“The Most Dangerous Man in America,” the Academy-Award-nominated documentary about Daniel Ellsberg, premieres tonight nationwide on PBS. Check the link for more info and local listings. You will also be able to watch the entire film for free via that link between Oct. 6-Oct. 27.

Daniel was interviewed by about parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam on the USA Today site here.

Did you watch the film? What are your reactions? Leave them in the comment section!

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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.

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PBS interviews Daniel Ellsberg on Need to Know about “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” premiering on PBS tomorrow night.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

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