Sunday, October 24, 2010

Truest statement of the week

The threat being made by the Pentagon, as we read over the last few days, of warning newsmen to stand away from this material, to refuse to receive it and, if they do receive it, to return it seems absurd on its face. We're not dealing with the 7,000 pieces of paper, top secret pieces of paper, that comprised the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon did make a demand to the New York Times that they return that pile of paper to the -- to the Pentagon. The Times refused until -- in fact, never did return it. And refused to stop the presses until a court order came down. But with cyber material, it's all over the world right now and in several papers right now, the demand seems absurd. I understand the reason for those words because they echo the words first used against me, the legal words of 18 USC 793, paragraphs D and E which for the first time used the so-called espionage act as if it were a kind of official secrets act that you have in Britain which simply criminalizes the release of any classified material to any unauthorized person. We don't have such a law. And the irony now is that President Obama in making these clear threats of applying this law to anybody who deals with this information including not only the journalists but the words apply to the people who read it and don't return it to the proper authorities actually. President Obama's threats are not entirely without credibility here because he has started as many prosecutions for leaks as all previous presidents put together. It's a small number. It's three. The last one is Bradley Manning. [C.I. note: The other two are Shamai Kedem Leibowitz of the FBI and Thomas Drake of the NSA.] That's small because we don't have an official secrets act. And prior to Bush and Obama, presidents took it for granted that any application of the espionage act was likely to be overthrown as unconstitutional in our First Amendment by the Supreme Court but we're now facing a different Supreme Court. And, after 9-11, Obama is making a new experiment on this issue which will really change the relationship of the press to sources very radically. As it is, any source, with or without this change in the law, who gave this kind of material -- 400,000 pages of documents, 800,000 pages of documents -- to WikiLeaks would have to know that they were facing a risk of being where Bradley Manning is right now, in prison, accused of these things. And we don't know, I don't know, who the source is. If the president should prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it is Bradley Manning, we can give him his unreserved admiration from us and thanks for what he did. But whomever did it, in fact, acted very appropriately in the course of deadly, stalemated war and which has one characteristic, by the way, in Iraq which isn't going to come out clearly in these 400,000 pages or in the discussion. And that is that the origins of war were clearly in the form of lying to the publics of Britain and America in order to carry on a clearly illegal crime against the peace, a war of aggression. So all of these civilian casualties are killed in a war of aggression. We won't have to say also the non-civilian casualties reported here are in the role of fighting against foreign occupiers, invaders, by the standards of the world, the question is raised very much whether their death by the invader is not also to be counted among the murders?

-- Daniel Ellsberg, at the WikiLeaks London press conference yesterday. Click link to stream it in full at CSpan and C.I. transcribed it for this entry.
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