The Pentagon papers at 50: press freedom and whistleblowers still in danger

Legendary whistleblower Dan Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers fifty years ago, a brave act of truth for which he was later sentenced to life in prison. He hasn’t stopped since. Last May, just weeks after turning 90, Ellsberg made another disclosure of classified national security information. He was speaking at a panel at the University of Massachusetts “Truth, Dissent, & the Legacy of Daniel Ellsberg” conference with whistleblower Edward Snowden, who of us [Amy] moderate.

“Let me tell a truth that I have had for 50 years,” said Ellsberg, before reading a secret 1958 report describing the will of US officials to start nuclear war. “I copied this study. It was in my top secret safe in 1969. And I’ve had it ever since, ”he continued.

Ellsberg worked at RAND Corporation and as a consultant to the Kennedy administration. He was also an officer in the United States Navy and participated in combat missions in Vietnam.

In 1969, inspired by the growing anti-war and resistance movements, Ellsberg photocopied the Pentagon Papers, a 7,000-page secret history of American decision-making during the Vietnam War. Unable to find a US senator willing to take the documents, he leaked them to the New York Times.

The Times published its first Pentagon Papers article on June 13, 1971. Two days later, a federal court granted President Richard Nixon’s injunction, blocking further publication. After Ellsberg’s identity as responsible for the leak became public, he and his wife Patricia went into hiding, as he continued to distribute copies of the materials to other newspapers.

Nixon’s national security adviser Henry Kissinger called Ellsberg “America’s most dangerous man.” Nixon, in a taped conversation at the Oval Office with his attorney general, said, “We need to keep an eye on the main bullet. The main ball is Ellsberg. We must have this son of a bitch.

On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of The New York Times, prohibiting government censorship of the press and allowing the publication of the Pentagon Papers to continue.

Nixon has stepped up his campaign targeting the whistleblower, fearing what he might post next. As Ellsberg told on Democracy Now !, “He robbed my former psychoanalyst’s office, sent 12 Cuban assets from the Bay of Pigs to totally immobilize me on the steps of the Capitol. On May 3, he overheard me about illegal and warrantless wiretapping. When the misconduct of the Nixon administration came to light, the judge dismissed the spy case against him.

Dan Ellsberg’s example encouraged other whistleblowers, including Edward Snowden, who, while a sub-contractor to the National Security Agency (NSA), participated in the development of the government secret and global surveillance program of the net. He disclosed a huge trove of documents in 2013 and has lived in exile in Russia ever since.

Speaking at the May 1 conference, Snowden said of the whistleblowers who inspired him: “They stood up risking their lives to tell the public a vital truth that was intentionally denied to them for political gain. Ultimately, you think that’s what seems fairer than going back to the office and quietly perpetuating a system of injustice, day in and day out.

Snowden continued, “Reality Winner and Daniel Hale and Chelsea Manning, Thomas Drake, Terry Albury and others who have come forward over the past few decades have defended Daniel Ellsberg’s approach… because abuse of power doesn’t is not something that will go away. “

Reality Winner was a NSA entrepreneur when she disclosed to the press information describing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Imprisoned for more than four years, she was released on June 2 in a halfway house for the remaining months of her life. sadness. His family asks for grace.

Daniel Hale has pleaded guilty to leaking documents about the US targeted assassination drone program in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, in which he participated while in the Air Force. He will be sentenced in mid-July.

Ellsberg’s May 1 disclosure concerned a 1958 conflict over several small islands between mainland China and Taiwan. The United States, Ellsberg revealed, has plans to launch nuclear weapons against China to support Taiwan. The report predicted that a US first strike against China would trigger a nuclear counterattack by the Soviet Union, killing millions.

At 90, Ellsberg still advocates tirelessly for the rights of whistleblowers and a free press, calling on the Biden administration to drop its lawsuits against Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who published information leaks documenting crimes war, and his lawsuits against Daniel Hale.

He concluded his recent interview on Democracy Now !, “I have certainly been led, more than almost everyone, to appreciate the need for our First Amendment, the protection of freedom of the press, freedom of thought. You cannot have democracy without it.

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