Daniel Ellsberg Says He Fears US Might Assassinate Wikileaks Founder


The right to know, 1971 & today

Transcript: Daniel Ellsberg Says He Fears US Might Assassinate Wikileaks
Founder

By: Jane Hamsher Friday June 11, 2010 3:21 pm

Daniel Ellsberg, the former US military analyst who released the
pentagon papers in 1971, appeared on MSNBC today with Dylan Ratigan. He
said he fears for the safety of Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks,
who is reportedly on the verge of leaking secret State Department
cables. The Daily Beast reports that Assange is currently being sought
by the Pentagon, and Ellsberg advises him not to reveal his whereabouts.

“We have after all for the first time, that I ever perhaps in any
democratic country, we have a president who has announced that he feels
he has the right to use special operations operatives against anyone
abroad, that he thinks is associated with terrorism,” says Ellsberg.
“Now as I look at Assange’s case, they’re worried that he will reveal
current threats. I would have to say puts his well-being, his physical
life, in some danger now. And I say that with anguish. I think it’s
astonishing that an American president should have put out that policy
and he’s not getting these resistance from it, from Congress, the press,
the courts or anything. It’s an amazing development that I think Assange
would do well to keep his whereabouts unknown.”

Full transcript:

RATIGAN: Do you see direct parallels between what’s developing here and
what you went through?

ELLSBURG: Yes, there does seem to be an immediate parallel between me
and whoever leaked the video on the assault on the 19 or 20 Iraqis.
Someone–allegedly, it was Bradley Manning–did feel that that deserved to
be out. the “Reuters,” whose newspapermen were killed in the course of
that, had been trying to get that through the freedom of information act
for two years, as I understand it and had been refused. Let’s say
whoever did it, hypothetically, Bradley Manning, showed better judgment
in putting it out than the people who kept is secret from the American
people and from the Iraqis.

RATIGAN: What is your sense of disclosure of information to the American
people today, compared to the period of time that you lived through,
where there was similar issues with, with the perception of reality of
information being withheld from the public?

ELLSBURG: Look, there’s no doubt at all, that enormous amounts of energy
that should be made public are being withheld and that hundreds,
probably thousands of people, I’m speaking now of the run-up to the Iraq
war, which has a very great similarity to the lying and the secrecy that
got us into Vietnam. I think if many people had recognized that their
oath of office, which called them in to support the Constitution, really
contradicted their promise to keep certain secrets, when those secrets
concealed lies, concealed deception to the American public and getting
us into a hopeless war, they should have given priority to the oath of
office and they should have put that information out to Congress and the
public. 
They should have done what I wish I had done much earlier than I
did I had been in that position, too. I knew years before the Pentagon
Papers came out that the Americans were being lied in to an essentially
hopeless war. I’m not proud of the fact that it didn’t occur to me that
my oath of office, which was to support the Constitution, called on me
to put that information out and say, ‘64, when the war might have been
avoided. But I certainly am glad that I finally came aware of what my
real responsibilities were there. And I did put it out years later. At
times, at that time, which published it, the “Times,” and the 18 other
newspapers, which defied President Nixon’s injunctions and did put it
out, were in the position of Julian Assange is in now. I’m very happy
that he put it out and I congratulate him for it.

RATIGAN: What was your conclusion as to the direct liability for you? I
know that at one point you faced life imprisonment. What do you perceive
to be the liability for whoever the leak may be to asange, Mr. Manning
or anybody else?

ELLSBURG: I didn’t understand that we don’t have an official secrets act
in this country, criminalizing the disclosure of certain information.
Except with certain narrow forms of information which is not involved in
the pentagon papers or in this. The nuclear weapons data. The identities
of covert agents, those things are subject to law. The classification
system as a whole is an administrative system that doesn’t have legal
force in this country. We’re almost alone among countries in that. I
didn’t know that at the time. I assumed I must be breaking some law,
that we had some equivalent. And so I didn’t know to start with, that I
was the first person ever prosecuted for a leak. 
The first person to
have the Espionage Act provisions used not for espionage, but for
revealing information to the American public. There have only been a
couple of people who have been indicted since then. Samuel Loring
Morrison. And the APEC under George W. Bush. The only cases and
conviction was for Morrison. President Obama, who came in promptsing
transparency in government, and an end to the excessive secrecy has
totally violated that pledge. and it so happens that he’s not only
brought two indictments, more than any other president for leaking
before any other president had done. but with now, with Bradley Manning,
under arrest, if he’s under prosecution, that will be three. A new, a
new record for President Obama. That’s really not the kind of change I
voted for when I voted for him.

RATIGAN: Phillip, what is your understand of where Mr. Assange is right
now and how highly desired he is as a target, of either state department
or pentagon investigators?

SHENON: We in the press corps would like to know where he is, we have no
idea. He was supposed to speak at a panel in Las Vegas, but he
apparently canceled on them at the last minute. He was supposed to
appear in New York last week at a separate conference you made reference
to. He chose not to attend and was apparently in his native Australia.

RATIGAN: His absence is one thing, an understanding of the degree of
interest is one thing, and federal government is the other. Do you have
a sense of whether his absence correlates to avoiding the American
authorities in any way?

SHENON: Yeah, he said last week, at this New York gathering that he had
been instructed by his lawyers not to return to the United States.

ELLSBURG: You know, may I say, the expression he used, I was supposed to
do a dialogue with him at that conference, that’s why I went to New
York. And he explained, the explanation he used was that he was
understood that it was not safe for him to come to this country. And
then later he explained now when the Bradley Manning arrest was
announced, he said now you understand why I didn’t come. I think it’s
worth mentioning a very new and ominous development in our country. I
think he would not be safe, even physically entirely, wherever he is. We
have after all for the first time, that I ever perhaps in any Democratic
country, we have a president who has announced that he feels he has the
right to use special operations operatives against anyone abroad, that
he thinks is associated with terrorism. That he suspects of it. And that
includes American citizens. One American citizen has even been named.
Now Assange is not an American citizen. 
But I listen to that with a
special interest. Because I was in fact the subject of a White House hit
squad in November on May 3rd, 1972. A dozen Cuban assets were brought up
from Miami with orders, quote, quoting the prosecutor, to incapacitate
Daniel Ellsberg totally. on the steps of the capital, it so happens when
i was in a rally during the vietnam war. And I asked the prosecutor,
what does that mean, kill me? And he said, the words were “to
incapacitate you totally.” But you should understand, these guides,
meaning these c.i.a. operatives never use the word “kill.” i actually
think it was to silence me at that particular time. For worries they had
that I would leak president Nixon’s nuclear threats, which he was making
at that precise time in 1972. Now as I look at Assange’s case, they’re
worried that he will reveal current threats. I would have to say puts
his well-being, his physical life, in some danger now. And I say that
with anguish. I think it’s astonishing that an American president should
have put out that policy and he’s not getting these resistance from it,
from congress, the press, the courts or anything. it’s an amazing
development that I think Assange would do well to keep his whereabouts
unknown.

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