Transcript: Remarks by Daniel Ellsberg on Bradley Manning and the media on June 2, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower, at the “Manning and the Media” panel held at All Soul’s Church Unitarian in Washington, D.C. on Sunday June 2, 2013:

I was very impressed by each of the statements I’ve heard here. Seeing Tom Drake. I’ve longed been impressed by all of these people…

The one I just heard is one I virtually never heard from anyone. I certainly…[inaudible]

There were times – and it’s certainly true in my case – when I could have told, possibly to much greater effect than later, the truth about what the government was doing and I didn’t do it…I’m very struck to hear you acknowledge that. It’s courageous in itself to do that. Courageous because it risks embarrassment and the idea of risking embarrassment is what just keeps people from doing civil disobedience even in the smallest way and doing what they should…

…Let me say that for a long time – 40 years, I could say – my Quaker friends have a slogan that is maybe a little uneasy, which is “Speaking truth to power”. That always means to me, well, that’s what I did…

And it took me a long time – longer than it took Bradley Manning, who impresses me very much – to realize two things. A – that it didn’t have any effect telling it or me to the people in power, inside the government, which is the price to having access to all this stuff – the implicit and explicit agreement that you will not tell it whatever it involves to anyone outside the branch. It might embarrass the government. And the second thing is…as Noam Chomsky says “power knows the truth”. They know what I was telling them, and it had an effect on them when they heard it from anybody else.

So for a long time, it felt to me that I had to do something with that slogan. One thing is telling the truth of power to people who have been denied it…Speaking truth to power in public – right in front of everyone… [inaudible audio]

…On the issue of telling the truth…why is Obama doing this? Why more prosecutions than George W. Bush or all presidents put together? …So it’s after 9/11, he’s got an environment that he – that’s possible for him to do that – to crack down and make it look like national security. It’s generally a more reactionary court. But that was true under George W. Bush. And the courts in general…

…Actually, there has been over the last few years a change in the attitude toward the word “whistleblower” in this country, and one of the sign for that is that the government is arguing that Bradley Manning is not a whistleblower. And all of his critics, his opponents are saying, “He’s no whistleblower”…which is absurd…

…We’re beginning to get a sense of why we need whistleblowers and what they do for us. To mention one benefit, for example, I think everybody recognizes with Bradley Manning, the gay parade committee in San Francisco actually accused him of putting American troops in harm’s way and since American troops have always included gays – and now some of them are telling the truth about that – some of their gay people didn’t want Bradley Manning as a grand marshal at the gay parade that was coming up, which I was going to represent him…

The fact is, of course, not one person has been shown to have been harmed by what he did, either troop or otherwise. On the other hand, tens of thousands of American troops – men and women – would be in harm’s way in Iraq right now – right now – if it were not for Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks.

…One of the very many State cables of the hundreds of thousands that were put out revealed that the State Department was aware of an American atrocity – serious, by the way – I think there were 10 or 11 women and children actually with hand bound behind their back, shot in the head by American troops, and then they called in an airstrike to cover up how they can kill. Now, the Iraqis knew very well – was aware of the atrocity here but the Americans had denied it. State cable – one of these thousands – said, which was the revealed by WikiLeaks, said that not only knew of that, that it had not been investigated, and of course had not been prosecuted. That revelation specifically in the Iraqi press led the Iraqi opposition and Maliki’s own party to demand that no Americans could stay in the country at the risk of committing atrocities, which was a daily occurrence, with immunity from Iraqi prosecution since Americans would not prosecute atrocities…Well, Obama was negotiating to keep at least 10,000 or maybe much more than that in Iraq beyond the deadline that George Bush had…the end of the year. He negotiated that up until the last minute…he couldn’t risk accusations of the kind of atrocities that he saw on the video Bradley Manning put out. He couldn’t risk Iraqi prosecution. He couldn’t do without immunity…So they all had to leave. Many of them would have died by this time…

So, final point, if Bradley Manning had asked me what he asked Adrian Lamo, “What would you do if you’ve seen hundreds of horrible things, terrible things, crimes and you have free run of all this?” And if he asked me whether he should put up the video, I would say, “Of course, absolutely. It should be out. It should have been out long before. Worth great personal risk to get it out.” If he asked me, “Should I put out the entire Afghan war logs or the entire Iraqi war logs – thousands and thousands of pages – which he obviously could not have read or the 260,000 State cables he hadn’t read”, I’m pretty sure I would have told him no – I didn’t put out stuff I hadn’t read and I wouldn’t put out stuff classified that I hadn’t read. I was wrong.

Three years have passed – we have three years of experience to see what came of his doing exactly what he did do, which was to put that out to WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks put it out to a consortium of papers – international, which was crucial – pool and use their editorial staffs and their judgments and their years of experience [inaudible]…Would there be evidence of hundreds, even thousands…that showed how many times we have handed over prisoners to be tortured – an illegal act – and then ordered that not to be investigated – another illegal act? No, no one harmed as it turned out so the risks, which may not have been zero, were obviously no where in the level [inaudible]…

On the other hand, enormous benefits could not have been seen.

If somebody ask me that advice tomorrow, I’d give them a different advice than I would have three years ago.

So that’s why I think that this man is not only a hero of mine but I hope…he’s a hero to very many people in the world, not only in this country.

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2 Comments on “Transcript: Remarks by Daniel Ellsberg on Bradley Manning and the media on June 2, 2013

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Remarks by CCR president emeritus Michael Ratner on Bradley Manning and the media on June 2, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: Remarks by State Department whistleblower Peter van Buren on Bradley Manning and the media on June 2, 2013 | What The Folly?!

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