Daniel Ellsberg fears a US hit on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

By Muriel Kane
Friday, June 11, 2010 19:17 EDT
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Update: A New York Times article Saturday notes, “In 17 months in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions.”

Scott Shane reports for the Times that the “Obama administration is proving more aggressive than the Bush administration in seeking to punish unauthorized leaks” and that “[h]is administration has taken actions that might have provoked sharp political criticism for his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was often in public fights with the press.”

Steven Aftergood, head of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, who has long tracked the uneasy commerce in secrets between government officials and the press, said Mr. Drake might have fallen afoul of a bipartisan sense in recent years that leaks have gotten out of hand and need to be deterred. By several accounts, Mr. Obama has been outraged by some leaks, too.

“I think this administration, like every other administration, is driven to distraction by leaking,” Mr. Aftergood said. “And Congress wants a few scalps, too. On a bipartisan basis, they want these prosecutions to proceed.”

More information on specific leakers being pursued by the Obama administration at this link.

At Democratic Underground, one forum member called ‘go west young man’ complained, “They didn’t trade secrets to the enemies of the United States. They exposed corruption from within. Leaking isn’t the problem. Fucked up policies and the people who implement them are.”

We need leakers when there is injustice. Mr. Obama is just trying to look tough. He might want to look for the real criminals. They are pretty easy to find as they were in the previous administration and the Republican Party. I’m an ex marine and I voted for Obama but at this point he can kiss my ass. I’m fed up with this “Good German” mindset in our military. We need more like these leakers.”

Daniel Ellsberg, who gained fame when he leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 in hopes of ending the Vietnam War,
told MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan on Friday that he not only sees a parallel between himself and the person who recently leaked a video of an assault by US forces on Iraqi civilians but also fears for the safety of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who published the video.

Army specialist Bradley Manning was recently arrested in the case, and according to reporter Philip Shenon, the Pentagon is “desperately” seeking Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in hopes of preventing further damaging revelations.

Noting that since his own prosecution under the Espionage Act “for revealing information to the American public” almost 40 years ago there had been only two other similar indictments prior to the current administration, Ellsberg stated angrily, “President Obama, who came in promising transparency in government and to end the excessive secrecy has totally violated that pledge. … That’s really not the kind of change I voted for when I voted for him.”

Philip Shenon, who was appearing along with Ellsberg, told Ratigan that Assange “was supposed to appear this evening at a panel in Las Vegas … but he apparently canceled on them at the last minute. … He said last week at [a] New York gathering that he had been instructed by his lawyers not to return to the United States.”

“I was supposed to do a dialogue with him at that conference,” Ellsberg added, “and the explanation he used was that he understood that it was not safe for him to come to this country.”

“I think it’s worth mentioning a very new and ominous development in our country,” Ellsberg continued. “I think he would not be safe even physically, entirely, wherever he is. … We have a president who has announced that he feels he has the right to use special operations operatives against anyone abroad that he thinks is associated with terrorism.”

Recalling that he himself had been the intended target of a CIA hit squad in 1972, Ellsberg suggested, “As I look at Assange’s case, their worry that he will reveal current threats, I would have to say, puts his well-being, his physical life, in some danger. And I say that with anguish. … I think Assange would do well to keep his whereabouts unknown.”

Video of the complete Dylan Ratigan segment with Daniel Ellsberg can be see here.

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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