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Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg calls for boycott of Amazon.com

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, December 3, 2010 16:50 EDT
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The man responsible for what was once the largest amount of secret US government information ever leaked has called for free speech advocates to boycott online retailer Amazon.com over their removal of WikiLeaks from their cloud servers.

Saying that he’s “disgusted” by Amazon claiming a violation of their terms of service for taking WikiLeaks offline, Daniel Ellsberg sent an open letter damning the company for capitulating to public and private sector officials who “aspire to China’s control of information and deterrence of whistle-blowing.”

“For the last several years, I’ve been spending over $100 a month on new and used books from Amazon. That’s over,” he wrote. “I ask Amazon to terminate immediately my membership in Amazon Prime and my Amazon credit card and account, to delete my contact and credit information from their files and to send me no more notices.”

He called for a broad and “immediate” boycott of the retailer.

“I hope that these others encourage their contact lists to do likewise and to let Amazon know exactly why they’re shifting their business. I’ve asked friends today to suggest alternatives, and I’ll be exploring service from Powell’s Books, Half-Price Books, Biblio and others.”

Critics suggest that Amazon’s move was effectively a corporation acting to silence free speech, and that were it being logically and ethically consistent, Amazon would have to apply the same standard to most major news publications that have covered the site’s revelations.

After its servers in Sweden came under a series of denial of service attacks, WikiLeaks.org temporarily moved its home to Amazon’s US-based server farm. After being contacted by members of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) staff, Amazon took the site offline and said its business arrangement with WikiLeaks hinged upon it not publishing any classified material.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said his move to Amazon servers was a test of their commitment to freedom of speech. Following the take-down, he suggested if Amazon was “uncomfortable with the First Amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books.”

WikiLeaks.org and a series of other domains were taken offline Thursday and Friday amid what one influential tech expert called “the first serious infowar.” Facing continuing cyberattacks on WikiLeaks, new mirrors were popping up across Europe on Friday and the site was again available via an IP address in lieu of its DNS hosts jumping ship.

“So far Amazon has spared itself the further embarrassment of trying to explain its action openly,” Ellsberg wrote. “This would be a good time for Amazon insiders who know and perhaps can document the political pressures that were brought to bear–and the details of the hasty kowtowing by their bosses–to leak that information. They can send it to Wikileaks (now on servers outside the US), to mainstream journalists or bloggers, or perhaps to sites like antiwar.com that have now appropriately ended their book-purchasing association with Amazon.”

Ellsberg, who played an instrumental role in bringing about the end of America’s war in Vietnam by leaking the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, has said in the past that he fears for the safety of WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange.

The US Department of Justice said it was investigating the massive leak of State Department diplomatic cables that has fueled a media firestorm all week with no signs of letting up. A lone soldier, Private First Class Bradley Manning, stands accused of the leaks, but officials were still searching for any potential accomplices.

Assange said that if Manning indeed were the leak’s source, he’s an “unparalleled hero”.

In the 1971 case of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg’s prosecution was dismissed and a suit brought against The New York Times, which published the Pentagon Papers, ended in a Supreme Court decision upholding the freedom of the press.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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