Blogger-troublemaker-muckraker and sometime L.A. radio host Brad Friedman Wednesday nabbed Daniel Ellsberg for an interview. Ellsberg, the Defense Department analyst who leaked the 1960s Pentagon Papers exposing Johnson Administration lies tied to the war in Vietnam, has been in the news in the wake of the recent historic Wikileaks dump of hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables. President Nixon targeted Ellsberg for assassination at the time but Americans overwhelmingly now see him as a hero whistleblower motivated by dedication to Constitutional democracy.
Ellsberg told Friedman that he disagrees with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange that Secretary of State Clinton should resign for apparently encouraging diplomats and staff to spy on members of the United Nations. He also praised Assange as well as the suspected source of the leak, PFC Bradley Manning, who have been called respectively a terrorist and a traitor, with many prominent figures calling for the assassination of Assange and the execution of Manning. Ellsberg called Manning a patriot and a hero.
Ellsberg also talked at length about revelations from the cable dump of covert bombing and assassinations by the U.S. in Yemen, covered up by Yemeni officials, the kind of serious policy action Ellsberg says the government is undertaking on behalf of the American people who have been unconstitutionally kept in the dark.
Friedman posted the transcript of the interview at the BradBlog.
Here’s Ellsberg on Manning:
ELLSBERG: I’m very impressed that Bradley Manning, the suspect in this, who has not been proven to be the source yet by the Army but if the Army’s –I should say the Pentagon and Army’s suspicions are correct then I admire what he did and I feel a great affinity for it, because he did say, allegedly, to the person who turned him in, Adrian Lamo, in a chatlog, that he was prepared, he was ready to go to prison for life or even be executed, he said, in order to share this information with the American people who needed to have it. And that’s the statement I said I’ve waited, in a way, for 40 years to hear someone make. I think it’s an appropriate choice for somebody to make. It’s not that they’re obliged to be willing to do that so much. That’s something a person has to decide for themselves very much. But I certainly think that when so many lives are at stake as in these wars or the new wars that may be coming at us, as in Yemen or even Pakistan, that to try to avert those is appropriate and to shorten them when they’re clearly hopeless and dangerous, as in Afghanistan.[…]
Bradley Manning is not a traitor any more than I was. I’m sure from what I’ve read that he in fact is very patriotic, as I was. And indeed the charge of treason in our country, in our Constitution, requires aid and comfort to an enemy with whom you adhere. And adherence to an enemy to the disadvantage of the United States. I don’t think Bradley Manning or I intended at all to be disadvantageous to the United States. Quite the contrary. To do things, as I’ve said, to reveal truths that would reduce the danger that our policies are subjecting Americans to. And Bradley Manning, I’m sure, does not adhere to the Taliban or to al-Qaeda any more than I adhered to the Viet Cong, which was zero. So that charge is ignorant, let’s say, of what the term means in America.
And on Yemen:
ELLSBERG: One of these cases, of course, reveals that the Yemeni leaders, Saleh and his deputy and so forth, are assuring Petraeus that they were lying for us and lying to keep it from their own people that Yemen was being bombed by a foreign power, namely us. And of course that’s keeping it from the American people as well. We weren’t admitting that. And not only to keep it from the Yemeni people but to keep it from Americans because Americans, I think, do have a right to know who we’re bombing, who we’re at war with. Certainly Congress should be making that decision and has not been. Certainly. So our Constitution is being absolutely flouted on that, as is true in Iraq, for example. Or in Vietnam. So there have been some significant revelations, although on the whole these latest releases, large as they are in scale, haven’t yet proven as informative as the earlier ones on Afghan and Iraq. And they’re not, as I say, at the level of the Pentagon Papers. I wish they were. And yet there have been a number of significant revelations there. I mentioned one, that we were bombing …
FRIEDMAN: Yemen, certainly. Yeah.
ELLSBERG: … and that that was being concealed for us by lies to the Yemeni Parliament, which amount to lies by us, as well, to our own people. But another example, for instance, which is rather like some of the things in the Pentagon Papers, were the warnings by our former or recent ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, that our policy there of bombing, drone attacks and other attacks in Pakistan was, as she put it, counterproductive and dangerous. Meaning that it’s endangering a regime that, with all its faults, Pakistan, is less bad for us in the world and for Pakistan than what might well follow it if we destabilize it. And what we’re doing is destabilizing that regime. What that also means is that our policies are endan- in both Yemen and Pakistan, and Afghanistan– are endangering Americans at home.
The idea that these releases are dangerous I think conceals a very misleading and basically dangerous attitude. And that is that the only risks to Americans lie in telling the truth or exposing these operations, or in any degree of transparency. Now, there may be some risks, in some cases. There are risks in democracy, and there’s risks in openness. It’s not without any risk. Our Constitution, on the whole, relies on our taking those risks in order to be a democracy and to have, to avoid debacles like the ones we’ve just been mentioning. But what these critics don’t seem to recognize is that our current debacles in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, all these places, do not result from too much openness or too much transparency. They reflect the risks which were realized risks having to do with secrecy and silence and lies.
The silence about the lies that got us into Iraq, for example, or, and in general the decision-making that is getting us into these. Now, the case of Yemen, for example. Probably there are, there’s an argument to be made about whether we should be attacking supposedly Al-Qaeda cells in Yemen. At the same time, many people in the government, it has been leaked now, actually believe that those attacks will mainly be targeted with the help of Saleh, the ruler in Yemen, against people who have no relation to Al-Qaeda, people are opposing his regime for various good or bad reasons.