By Ray McGovern
You are not likely to learn this from “mainstream media,’ but WikiLeaks and its leader Julian Assange have received the 2010 Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award for their resourcefulness in making available secret U.S. military documents on the Iraq and Afghan wars.
If the WikiLeaks documents get the attention they deserve, and if lessons can be learned from the courageous work of former CIA analyst Sam Adams-and from Daniel Ellsberg’s timely leak of Adams’ work in early 1968-even the amateurs in the White House may be able to recognize the folly of widening the war from Afghanistan to adjacent countries. That leak played a key role in dissuading President Lyndon Johnson from approving Gen. William Westmoreland’s request to send 206,000 more troops-not only into the Big Muddy, but also into countries neighboring Vietnam (further detail below in the description of SAAII).
This year’s award was presented Saturday, with the customary “corner-brightener candlestick,” by SAAII awardee, and former UK ambassador, Craig Murray, after Julian Assange and Daniel Ellsberg discussed WikiLeaks’ release of almost 400,000 classified battlefield reports from Iraq. The award reads as follows:
It seems altogether fitting and proper that this year’s award be presented in London, where Edmund Burke coined the expression “Fourth Estate.” Comparing the function of the press to that of the three Houses then in Parliament, Burke said:
“… but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sits a Fourth Estate more important far then they all.”
The year was 1787 – the year the U.S. Constitution was adopted. The First Amendment, approved four years later, aimed at ensuring that the press would be free of government interference. That was then.
With the Fourth Estate now on life support, there is a high premium on the fledgling Fifth Estate, which uses the ether and is not susceptible of government or corporation control. Small wonder that governments with lots to hide feel very threatened.
It has been said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” WikiLeaks is helping make that possible by publishing documents that do not lie.
Last spring, when we chose WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for this award, Julian said he would accept only “on behalf of our sources, without which WikiLeaks’ contributions are of no significance.”
We do not know if Pvt. Bradley Manning gave WikiLeaks the gun-barrel video of July 12, 2007 called “Collateral Murder.” Whoever did provide that graphic footage, showing the brutality of the celebrated “surge” in Iraq, was certainly far more a patriot than the “mainstream” journalist embedded in that same Army unit. He suppressed what happened in Baghdad that day, dismissed it as simply “one bad day in a surge that was filled with such days,” and then had the temerity to lavish praise on the unit in a book he called The Good Soldiers.
Julian is right to emphasize that the world is deeply indebted to patriotic truth-tellers like the sources who provided the gun-barrel footage and the many documents on Afghanistan and Iraq to WikiLeaks. We hope to have a chance to honor them in person in the future.
Today we honor WikiLeaks, and one of its leaders, Julian Assange, for their ingenuity in creating a new highway by which important documentary evidence can make its way, quickly and confidentially, through the ether and into our in-boxes. Long live the Fifth Estate!
Presented this 23rd day of October 2010 in London, England by admirers of the example set by former CIA analyst, Sam Adams.
What Is Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence?
SAAII is a movement of former CIA colleagues and other associates of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. Sam did precisely that, and in honoring his memory, SAAII confers an award each year to a member of the intelligence profession exemplifying Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth – no matter the consequences.
It was Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were at least 500,000 Vietnamese Communists under arms – more than twice the number that our military in Saigon would admit to in the “war of attrition.” Gen. William Westmoreland had put an artificial limit on the number that Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books. And Gen. Creighton Abrams specifically warned Washington that the press would have a field day if Adam’s numbers were released, and that this would weaken the war effort.
Westmoreland’s figures were shown to be bogus in January/February 1968, when Communist troops mounted a surprise countrywide offensive in numbers that proved that Adams’ analysis had been correct. But because Sam was reluctant to go “outside channels,” the CIA and Army were able to keep the American people in the dark.
After the Tet offensive, however, Daniel Ellsberg learned that Westmoreland had asked for 206,000 more troops to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam – right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond. In his first such act, Ellsberg leaked Sam Adams’ data to the then-independent New York Times on March 19, 1968. Dan’s timely truth telling, and that of the Times’ Neil Sheehan, won the day.
On March 25, President Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us…We have no support for the war. This is caused by the 206,000 troop request [by Westmoreland] and the leaks…I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.” On March 31, Johnson introduced a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November 1968.
Sam Adams continued to press for honesty and accountability but stayed “inside channels” – and failed. He was not able to see that the supervening value of ending unnecessary killing trumped the secrecy agreement he had signed as a condition of employment. Nagged by remorse, Adams died at 55 of a sudden heart attack. He could not shake the thought that, had he not let himself be diddled, the entire left wall of the Vietnam memorial would not exist. There would have been no new names to chisel into such a wall.
In the past, the annual Sam Adams Award has been given to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; former US Army Sgt. Sam Provance, who told the truth about Abu Ghraib; and Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence, who exposed his government’s eagerness to conspire with the Bush administration in advertising non-existent weapons of mass destruction in order to “justify” the invasion of Iraq – and went to prison for it; and Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Secretary Colin Powell at the State Department, who exposed the powers behind many of the crimes of the Bush administration – first and foremost what he called the “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal;” in Washington, DC.
An earlier version of this article ran on Consortiumnews.com
Ray McGovern was a colleague of Sam Adams and witnessed the gyrations Sam went through to get the truth out about Vietnam (sans the option WikiLeaks now offers)-in vain. Ray has acknowledged that, in 1967, he, too, blew a golden opportunity to “do a Dan Ellsberg” on Vietnam.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).