NJ Peace Action

Daniel Ellsberg Sees New War with Same Old Lies

whistleblowerDaniel Ellsberg's spoke at the NJ Peace Action Annual Soup Luncheon. Pentagon Papers' Ellsberg Sees a New War, Same Lies. Critic of Vietnam conflict, 1971 whistleblower says 'history is repeating itself' in Iraq by Sarah N. Lynch

MAPLEWOOD -- For 74-year-old Daniel Ellsberg, who is best known for his leading role in leaking the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times in 1971, the war in Iraq, the workings of the Bush administration and the Valerie Plame leak all feel like déjà vu. Read article

WBAI Interview with Daniel Ellsberg

*PAINSTAKINGLY TRANSCRIBED FROM A RECORDING BY MAGGIE ASTOR*

WBAI: “Daniel Ellsberg is a former official with the Defense and State Departments, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, classified documents revealing government deceptions of the American people during the Vietnam War. Ellsberg was charged with 12 felonies for obtaining, copying and releasing the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, and he earned a top spot on President Richard Nixon's infamous “enemies list.” Due to extreme government misconduct, all the charges were eventually dropped. Ellsberg says the actions of the Bush administration against former ambassador [Joseph] Wilson are a virtual replay of what the Nixon administration did when it went after him.” ELLSBERG: “The crimes in my case consisted of burglarizing my former psychoanalyst's office to get information with which to blackmail me into silence. And when they didn't find that, they also overheard me and denied doing so on a number of warrantless and illegal wiretaps, and also set the CIA on me to do a psychological profile and to provide material, logistic support for the other criminal efforts against me, and finally brought a dozen CIA assets, Cuban-American veterans of the Bay of Pigs, with orders to incapacitate me on May 3, 1972, when I was giving a talk on the steps of the Capitol. These same people who threw that operation because they were afraid they were going to be caught then went into the Watergate. A few weeks later they were caught, and they had to be kept silent about these crimes against me by offering them bribes to commit perjury before the grand jury, which they did, and these new crimes of obstruction of justice were ordered directly by President Nixon, and implicated him, in other words, in further obstruction of justice and perjury, the crimes that Lewis Libby is now charged with. So those crimes, which in this case seem to point beyond Libby to his boss, Vice President Cheney, could have a similar result.” WBAI: “The parallel also extends to the fact that in publishing the Pentagon Papers you were putting the lie to the Nixon administration, and before that the Johnson administration's statements to the American public regarding the objective and strategy in Vietnam.” ELLSBERG: “Very similar, we were lied into this war to the same degree as we were lied into that one, and the other side of that coin, is that the president I served, Lyndon Johnson, deserved impeachment, I would say, as much as did Nixon, or now, Bush and Cheney. I think it's not a Republican or Democratic pattern exclusively; all administrations have shown this kind of thing, but Johnson didn't get caught in time, before he left office. In this case, the administration is being caught in its own lies in a more timely way.” WBAI: “And you know, what's happening in Washington is that they're going after Libby on obstruction of justice charges, charges of lying to the grand jury, even though the Valerie Plame affair has a Karl Rove footprint all over it. But Patrick Fitzgerald said specifically they are not going to go after the lies that took us into the war in Iraq. What does it take to get beyond that hump, get over that reluctance to prosecute?” ELLSBERG: “Well, as I understood Fitzgerald's statement, he has not said that this is the last indictment. And if there are further indictments, I'm sure that even though they're not aimed at the lies on getting us into Iraq, a lot of the truth behind that will come out, so I'm hopeful that this will serve as something of a substitute for a Senate investigation or a House investigation of these things, with subpoena powers and ability to demand documents and get testimony under oath. The Republican-controlled Congress has adamantly refused so far, or failed, to conduct such an investigation. I should say that Pat Roberts, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee did not refuse to conduct it, in fact he promised to conduct one, but he then hasn't carried out that promise at all, to conduct this investigation, and it seems unlikely that that will happen in a Republican Congress. That to me puts a great premium on getting an opposition party, in this case the Democrats, to control either the House or the Senate so that it can really do investigations. These are the only Democrats we should be asking the following questions about Republicans, and that question as they approach elections is, “Are you willing to investigate the very apparent deception that's been going on, and the flouting of Constitutional responsibilities, the bypassing of Congress, and the ignoring of restraints like the UN Charter, and if they merit impeachment, are you willing to vote for impeachment?” I would hope that that question will be posed by American citizens, voters, in the next year, in a way that will bring a change in the Congress. But meanwhile, we are relying on Fitzgerald's process, and I do hope that it proceeds further, as he's indicated.” WBAI: What do you see as your role, at this point, as a veteran of this past war and past similar experience with an administration that operated outside the law? ELLSBERG: “I am urging people in the administration now who have access to documents that we may be being lied into or drawn into another reckless operation, for instance, against Iran or Syria, or an escalation of this war and a continuation of it indefinitely, an intent, for instance, to remain in Iraq indefinitely in bases. If they know such documents, and know that the public is being misled on such pertinent issues, they should follow one example in my life and not another. They should not do what I did in the way of waiting for years; after I first saw such documents in 1964 and ‘65, before considering giving them to Congress and to the press. They also shouldn't waste time on giving them only to Congress. While they're ready to take this step of telling the truth, tell the public the truth of those documents right away. I wish I had done that, instead of waiting 22 months for Congress to act, before I gave the documents to the press. So I would say, consider doing that even at great personal cost, because we're talking about issues here that involve the lives of many Americans and many, many innocent foreigners who are threatened by these actions. And it's possible to save a lot of lives by telling the truth in a more timely way than I did.”