Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, discusses the government and media attacks on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks; a reminder that – at the time – Ellsberg was called a traitor for releasing the Pentagon papers; why Assange can’t be charged with a crime without jeopardizing investigative journalism and the notion of a free press; how Bradley Manning’s punitive detainment conditions seem designed to elicit a false confession; the question whether a potential US official secrets act (or implementation of the 1917 Espionage Act as such) would survive Supreme Court scrutiny; how the NY Times‘ deference to government power – especially when it counts the most – guarantees immunity from the charges leveled at WikiLeaks; Ellsberg’s reassuring conversation with Assange about his sexual misconduct charges; and why we need more whistleblowers ready to risk life in prison to expose government criminality.
Daniel Ellsberg is the author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.
In 1959 Daniel Ellsberg worked as a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation, and consultant to the Defense Department and the White House, specializing in problems of the command and control of nuclear weapons, nuclear war plans, and crisis decision-making. He joined the Defense Department in 1964 as Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs), John McNaughton, working on Vietnam. He transferred to the State Department in 1965 to serve two years at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, evaluating pacification on the front lines.
On return to the RAND Corporation in 1967, he worked on the Top Secret McNamara study of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68, which later came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1969, he photocopied the 7,000 page study and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; in 1971 he gave it to the New York Times, the Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. His trial, on twelve felony counts posing a possible sentence of 115 years, was dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, which led to the convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.