Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: "I Congratulate Ecuador for Standing Up to British Empire to Protect Julian Assange." Julian Assange & Bradley Manning, Heroes or Traitors?
Daniel Ellsberg, the most famous whistleblower in the United
States, praises Ecuador for granting political asylum to Julian Assange
to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sex crime
accusations. "I congratulate Ecuador of course for standing up to the
British Empire here, for insisting that they are not a British colony,
and acting as a sovereign state ought to act,” said Ellsberg, who leaked
the Pentagon Papers in 1971, the secret history of the U.S. involvement
in Vietnam. On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said
Assange would be arrested if he left the embassy, saying Britain is
“under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. “[Assange] has
every reason to be wary that the real intent here is to whisk him away
to America where it really hasn’t been made clear what might be waiting
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: For more on
Julian Assange, we’re joined by Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the country’s
most famous whistleblower. He leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, the
secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He joins us from
Welcome to Democracy Now! Dan Ellsberg, your response to the latest developments of the decision of Ecuador to grant asylum?
Well, I congratulate Ecuador, of course, for standing up to the British
Empire here, for insisting that they are not a British colony, and
acting as a sovereign state ought to act. And I think they’ve done the
right thing. I appreciate what they’ve done.
And the British government first threatening to raid the Ecuadorean
embassy in London, also saying they would arrest Julian Assange if he
attempted to leave to go to Ecuador, but also saying they’d actually
raid the embassy?
It’s an outrageous proposal, which actually undermines the security of
every diplomat in the world, in this country right now. I would say it
has a chilling effect right now, the very fact that that possibility has
been raised. I’m old enough to remember the occasion that gave rise to
that, actually. I remember when a Libyan official shot from the Libyan
embassy in London and killed a British female officer—Vivian [Yvonne
Joyce Fletcher], I think her name was—in 1984. The result of that was
that they removed diplomatic recognition from Libya altogether, sent
everybody home. They didn’t raid the embassy on that occasion, but that
led three years later to a law that permitted them, under extraordinary
circumstances, to do that again. They obviously don’t have anyone here
who’s been shooting from the Ecuadorean embassy at anyone. He’s merely
been telling the truth, there as in London earlier. He should be
congratulated for that, not threatened.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dan
Ellsberg, again, the extraordinary efforts that are being taken here by
the British government—and, obviously, the Swedish government—supposedly
just to question him on allegations of a sexual attack, not even actual
Well, everything that we’ve seen supports the position of his defense
team, that this is not about sexual charges in Sweden, essentially, that
that’s a cover story—whatever substance there may be to that story. But
the procedures that have been followed here are extraordinary: a red
notice here, very unusually given, never under these circumstances, to
arrest him and these heavy efforts to extradite him, after he had
offered either to be questioned by the prosecutor herself or by some
representative of her in the Swedish embassy or the British embassy or
by British police in London, where he was, something that, by the way,
is routinely done all the time, and the expense is paid for that, if
necessary—all of that being refused. Why? In a situation where this man
is charged with criminal charges by no country—not by Sweden, not by
Britain, not by the United States, although there may in fact be a
secret indictment already waiting for him in the United States, being
denied or lied about right now by my country. But no charges have
actually been made public. So, here, all this emphasis just to get him
charged—just to get him questioned, rather, when he’s offered himself
for questioning, even right now in the Ecuadorean embassy. The state of
Ecuador has actually officially proposed that that take place in the
Ecuadorean embassy or elsewhere and in London. And that has been
refused. All of this supports the idea that this is merely a way of
getting him to Sweden, which apparently would be easier to extradite him
from to the United States than Britain. If Britain were totally open to
extraditing him, it would have happened by now. Two years have passed.
But he’s an Australian citizen, a member of the Commonwealth, and the
criteria for extraditing somebody who’s been telling the truth and is
wanted for what can only be a political crime in another country are
apparently more stringent here than they might be in Sweden.
So I think that—in fact, I join his lawyers, Michael Ratner and
others, in saying that he has every reason to be wary that the real
intent here is to whisk him away to America, where it really hasn’t been
made as clear what might be waiting for him as I think one can
conjecture. The new National Defense Authorization Act—and I’m a
plaintiff in a suit to call that act unconstitutional, in terms of its
effect on me and on others, a suit that has been successful so far at
the district court level and has led to that act being called
unconstitutional. But on its face, that act could be used against Julian
Assange or Bradley Manning, if he weren’t already in military custody.
Julian Assange, although a civilian, and not an American civilian at
that, would seem to me, a layman, to be clearly subject to the National
Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA, putting
in military detention for suspicion of giving aid to an enemy, which
he’s certainly been accused of by high American officials. I don’t see
why he couldn’t be put in indefinite contention, without even the
charges that I faced 40 years ago for doing the exact same things that
The record of President Obama on whistleblowers: six whistleblowers
charged under the Obama administration, more than in all—under the
administrations of all past presidents combined, Dan Ellsberg?
Twice as many. Twice as many as all past presidents. There was a total
of three under past presidents, one each. I was the first ever charged
with those charges. Obama has brought six such charges. And apparently
his grand jury in Virginia is seeking at least a seventh, and perhaps
more, against Assange and others. Twice as many as all previous.
AMY GOODMAN: You were charged? You were indicted for having secret documents and giving them away?
For possessing them and for possessing them without authorization.
There was a second grand jury going on that would have gotten me in a
second trial for distribution, which of course I was also involved in. I
didn’t contest any of the facts. And would—that would probably, for the
first time, have brought in newspaper people, like Neil Sheehan and
Hendrick Smith. That was quashed after government criminality led to the
ending of my trial, and so they dropped the other grand jury. As a
result, we have no prior precedent of a newspaper person being tried
under that charge. I was a former official. Julian Assange would be the
first, again, charged. No newspaper person has been so charged.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dan
Ellsberg, the impact already of this hounding of Assange by the Swedish,
and clearly with the United States government in the wings, behind the
scenes, orchestrating a lot of this—the impact on WikiLeaks and on other
whistleblowers? The message that’s being sent, that if you dare to go
against the empire, you will be hounded and gone after?
That’s hardly an amazing message. It was, of course, to be expected.
There was reason to think that an international organization with no
national roots here, and using the internet, would escape that kind of
chilling effect. And they found the empire here is more resourceful and
creative and less mindful of its own constitution and laws and
traditions than one might have hoped. But, anyway, it’s hardly
surprising that when you twist the lion’s tail, the lion may get very
angry. Their ability to shut off the funding by intimidating, without
even invoking the law, places like PayPal and Amazon and others from
giving any money to or serving as distribution channels is very
dismaying. It’s a sign, and not unique, of the way in which our
fundamental rights, our Bill of Rights, our constitutional freedoms,
have been abridged by the last 10 years and more. And President Obama
is, unhappily, following in that tradition, as, I must say, I predicted,
unhappily, when I urged people to vote for him four years ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally—
And I’ll predict people—I’ll predict it unhappily when I vote for
people—when I urge people in Florida and swing states to vote for him
next time, not in the expectation that he will act like a president
rather than a king. We have currently now, and have had for some years,
the choice between two candidates for monarchy four years apart.
Julian Assange’s statement after the Ecuadorean government granted him
political asylum, he said, "I’m grateful to the Ecuadorean people,
President Rafael Correa and his government. It was not Britain or my
home country, Australia, that stood up to protect me from persecution,
but a courageous, independent Latin American nation. While today is a
historic victory, our struggles have just begun. The unprecedented U.S.
investigation against WikiLeaks must be stopped."
And Assange went on to say, "While today much of the focus will be on
the decision of the Ecuadorean government, it is just as important that
we remember Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for over
800 days. The task of protecting WikiLeaks, its staff, its supporters
and its alleged sources continue." That from Julian Assange’s statement
yesterday. Final comment, Dan Ellsberg?
Absolutely. There’s no reason to believe that he would get what in past
years, including my time when I was prosecuted, would pass for a fair
trial or for fair treatment in this country. I’m sorry to say that
there’s been something like a coup some 10 years ago, an executive coup
against our Constitution and against the separation of government. It’s
outrageous that Bradley Manning’s trial has again been postponed by the
action of the government 'til next spring. He will have spent—he's
already spent more than 800 days in confinement, 10 months of it and
more in conditions that Amnesty International called torture. The idea
that President Obama ended torture is simply not true. He didn’t end it
even in this country, in terms of isolated commitment, incommunicado,
basically, and conditions of nudity, in some cases, intended to
humiliate him—all intended to press him to cop a plea and reduce his
sentence from the life sentence they’re asking to a much lower sentence,
if he will only implicate Julian Assange in ways that would allow them
to bring a trial without great embarrassment.
Now, let me enlarge on that for a moment. They don’t have to
extradite anyone to bring someone under these charges under the
WikiLeaks disclosures. Everything Julian Assange could possibly be
charged with under our law was committed as an act by Bill Keller, the
president—sorry, the managing editor of—the executive editor of the New York Times. I don’t mean the New York Times
should be indicted or that Keller should be indicted. That would be an
outrage, just as it is an outrage to think of indicting Julian Assange
for exactly the same thing. But meanwhile, Bradley Manning is facing
charges that he aided the enemy, absurd charges that amount virtually to
treason. And many people have even called for execution of either of
them. Well, obviously, the same charges then could lead to Julian
Assange being tried under the NDAA, the
National Defense Authorization Act, which has just been found
unconstitutional by a courageous and right-thinking judge in the
first—in the district of Manhattan—
AMY GOODMAN: Dan Ellsberg, we want to thank—
—right now, which has been—found that act unconstitutional. That’s the
act under which I was tried. I wish I had had the chance to go for an
injunction under that charge. She’s obviously right.
Dan Ellsberg, thanks so much for being with us, perhaps the country’s
most famous whistleblower. He leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, the
secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, joining us from
University of California, Berkeley.
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