HOPEX: Daniel Ellsberg

Disclaimer: un-cleaned-up copypaste from a shared piratepad for livenotes of this talk. Originals here: http://piratepad.net/hopex

Hashtags: #hopex and #asksnowden

Moderator: Daniel Ellsberg will be up first, then a short break, then Snowden will connect from Russia. There will be a 1 min standing ovation for Snowden when he shows up.

[daniel ellsberg takes the stage. Does a Nixon pose ;p ]

Daniel Ellsberg starts by saying that he had the privilege of meeting Snowden’s parents just now. It was a real pleasure, it meant the world to Ed to know that he has his father’s support, I thanked him for being that way. It was also true for Ellsberg’s father, meant a lot to him. When he and his wife were eluding the FBI for 13 days, they didn’t know how he’d react. He was a Republican, a structural engineer, who voted for Nixon twice, Ellsberg didn’t know how his dad would react to the news that his son was a criminal. [audience laughs]. So he was very pleased, when moving houses in Cambridge, in hiding, to see his father being interviewed in Detroit::

“I don’t know whether my son did this, but Daniel has always believed in telling the truth, and wanted to save those boys’ [in Vietnam] lives” and his voice cracked.

His parents were Russian anarchists, models and friends like Big Bill Heywood, Emma Goldman — my grandfather was a lover of her’s — not too exclusive a club, actually, but I’m proud of it though my grandmother didn’t feel the same way.

Legitimate secrecy, and the impact of manning’s revelations

Ellsberg says that as a little Jewish boy growing up in Colorado from Russian Jewish background, he got a Tom Paine award and he said in Common Sense, was an admirerer of my grandfather (?), nations should have no secrets because the secrets of nations, like individuals, are always their defects. That’s extreme, to say that there should be no secrets. I believe there are legitimate secrets, I argue with Julian Assange on that. The only example he could come up with was private medical records, a secret that shouldn’t be revealed by the government.

Ellsberg Argued with Jacob Appelbaum over government transparency: Ellsberg’s position was look, if the state is gathering all this info about us, if everything they have was released publicly, that would expose all of us.

Assange and Appelbaum were not insiders, which is good from many points of view, but were not exposed to things that you might say ‘ok, this would be better to keep secret.”

Snowden, Manning, Drake, I, etc, knew *many* more secrets than they revealed. Manning wasn’t a young kid who dumped out everything he could. It’s a totally untrue cliche. He worked in a ‘SCIF (sensitive compartmentalized information facility ) He would have had access to top secret or higher, he didn’t release any of that. He released “secret or lower”. When I was in the Pentagon, I didn’t even have time to *read* “secret or lower”.

When he realized how many crimes were revealed by Manning, he thought wow. Wouldn’t have thought they’d put this amount of criminality, tortures, assiassinations, 20k more people killed than official stats – wouldn’t have thought they’d even record this.

Manning’s revelations of atrocities, through Assange and through Le Monde, were absolutely critical in getting US troops out of Iraq. The neocons would say that’s a bad thing, we shouldn’t have pulled out. Ellsberg disagrees, doesn’t think another 10k troops or whatever would have changed the outcome or prevented what’s taking place now. Revelation of these atrocities that were not being investigated by the US pressured Maliki. Manning showed that the US government was indictable at the Hague for not investigating many credible claims of war crimes, including torture. We were obligated to investigate it, and stop it.

But instead what we see in the leaks is the fact that American intelligence and troops, time and again, were saying ‘these people will be tortured.” Many were political dissenters, revealing corruption in the Iraqi government, would be tortured after being turned over to the Iraqi government, high level order to not investigate further. Manning was revealing crimes in both of the last US administrations, and was prosecuted for it.

The idea of prosecuting someone for revealing evidence of crime sounds odd. It’s a mockery of the rule of law. Evidence of a serious crime, torture, murder, assination, is being kept secret. Evidence of what Tom Paine would call ‘defects,’ or ‘criminal defects,’ and kepp that out of the media, out of the public eye:

Thomas Tam(?), Ellsberg had mixed feelings about his case being dropped, he wanted to go to the court to contest this idea that revealing evidence of crimes can itself be a crime, but the case was dropped.

So there’s a similarity between Ellsberg, Tam, Manning, Snowden: revealing crimes and being prosecuted for doing so. Bush, Cheney, were every bit as guilty as the people tried at Nuremberg, Tokyo.


All of us accepted, to start with, and continue to this day to feel that there are some legitimate secrets. That they should not be leaked without authorization. But that applies to very little. William Florence, an expert, who wrote the regulations for the Pentagon, said that about 5% of classified information fulfills the criteria for classification when it’s written. Two years later, it’s 0.5%. Overclassification affects 95% or 99% of what’s classified. Irving (?) Griswold, the former Dean of Harvard Law School, said: “Any further publication of Pentagon Papers would harm US security irrecoverably.” Just recently, he sad he never believed that, and further believes that very little that’s classified should be for more than a very short period of time.

For example: the date and time of the Normandy landing was secret at first, that’s fine. By August, the place of the Normandy landing was no longer secret [audience laughter], but it was stil kept secret. But still classified 20 years later?

All of us [manning snowden] had a certain level of clearance, and all signed a statement of secrecy.

On the lack of leaking defenses in court

The way the law is written now is strict liability, doesn’t allow a public interest argument. No argument for motives, public benefit, or lack of harm from putting out information, you can’t argue that. [It’s just “Was it classified, did you leak it, okay you’re guilty”.] There’s no argument in court about motives, public benefit, or the lack of harm.

(side note: during his trial, his lawyers kept referring to him as dr. ellsberg. The opposition moved that no titles be used in the courtroom, and the judge upheld that.).

In 4.5 days on the stand, his lawyer asked him “Mr. Ellsberg, why did you copy the Pentagon papers?” he thought, I’ll save certain things for when I’m under oath

“Objection: Irrelevant” from the other side. Couldn’t get the question true. Every time he was blocked, as it would be for Snowden, Manning, and Drake.

The lawyer said: “Your Honor, I’ve never heard a case where the defendent isn’t allowed to tell the jury why he did what we did?” “Now you’re hearing it.”

Yet Hillary Clinton says Snowden should “come back and make his case in court”. Absolutely hollow.

Ellsberg asked his lawyer Charlie Nesson 10 years later, “Charlie, am I a criminal, did I break any law?”. “It’s a hard question.”, no case law. Lawyers: “Statutes either do not apply to Ellberg’s acts, or if they apply, they are unconstitutional.”

Most of the discussion of the law has had to do with the press. Does the press have rights? It’s named in the first amendment. What about the free speech of officials? To what extent can it be constrained?

Nearly everyone looking at the Snowden and Manning case, including Greenwald: “no one doubts Ellsberg, Manning, Snowden broke the law.” Ellsberg thinks there’s more debate there, although he’s not a constitutional lawyer.

Jesselyn radak (?) talked about this yesterday, and so did Drake. 7 or 8 things that almost no one knows

1. of course there’s no doubt that snowden, manning and ellsberg broke regulations. They broke secrecy rules, which are admin rules within the executive branch, and have only existed since perhaps the WWII (jess said 1952 yesterday). The regulations are very clear: you can’t give classified info to a person without clearance.

But let’s focus on giving it to a newspaperman, or congressional staffer. That violates the rules, and subjects you to administrative penalties.

The three of us did not take a secrecy oath. We did take an oath, not to the secrecy system or the president, but solely to defend the US constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. There are enemies of the US constitution, and Dick Cheney is one of them. I don’t mean it as an epithet, because all presidents violated impeachable offenses, and violated the constitution. But really Cheney, and I don’t know about Bush, and his council David Eddington (?) had an idea of what the constitutionshould be, and it wasn’t the one they too an oath to defend.

They believe there’s no constraint on the President. Geneva convention, law, constitution, don’t bind the president during an emergency, which he defines as an emergency himself.

“He is sovereign who determines the state of emergency.”

George W. Bush declared a state of emergency, on 9/11, and that’s been renewed every 9 months, including by Barack Obama. What does that mean? Part of it is defined, publicly, and part of it is classified. When people try to find out what’s in the Classified Annex of the government continuity regulations, they’re told ‘you can’t have it.’

By the way, that’s a prime candidate for a leak. Anyone in governemnt who is party to keeping new executive regulations that amount to suspension ofthe sonstitution secret, [should leak it].

Mass surveillance without a warrant, which they could have gotten from the court, Cheney said don’t go for it. They wanted to establish the principle that they didn’t need to go to a court!

Ellsberg thinks that everyone who allowed that to happen was guilty of violating their oath. But he’s never heard of anyone charged with ‘violating their oath to uphold the constitution.’

What Ellsberg, Snowden, Manning did do was sign a non disclosure agreement. Many people do that. Assange asked Wikileaks staff to sign NDAs.

“my wife used to hate me being called a leaker, it made me sound incontinent.”

We did sign an agreement not to reveal what we learned in the course of our employment. This is very common, except: we were warned “and I understand that I might be subject to prosecution under (1897 sec d and e (?, link).

No one had been prosecuted under Espionage Act for a leak, because that was seen as unconstitutional. In contrast to most countries in the world, who have Official Secret Acts criminalizin disclosure of protected info, the US doesn’t have such an act. Specifically the Espionage Act is not such an act. People don’t know this, because everybody assumes we have one.

Ellsberg wasn’t properly charged with theft, in copying the papers overnight at his office at a contractor. He wasn’t depriving anyone of the use of that document. And in those days copying wasn’t held to be theft, if you don’t deprive the owner of the information, although that has changed in the digital age.

Coming back kto the Espionage Act: it clearly wasn’t intended for whistleblowers. But courts now aren’t paying attention to legislative history (we don’t care what the intent was).

[side laughter re: ellsberg asks ‘who’s in charge, in this group of anarchists? take me to your leader!]

There should not be a British type official secrets act in this country. It’s a violation of the 1st amendment.

Unlike the founder’s attitudes to slavery, which were wrong, and were eventually changed, after a war – their attitudes on free speech were very good.

In Fahrenheit 451, when people were memorizing texts to pass on; I’ve asked myself what would I memorize? The 1st amendment is what I would choose.

Freedom of Speech, of officials, deserves a lot more attention than it’s gotten. Administrative punishments are more than enough to keep the secrets that need to be kept. For example: losing your job, your access, your friends. These things keep people quiet no matter what the secret.

We signed an agreement to keep any and all secrets. But it didn’t occur to us how much criminal, reckless, murderous, unconstitutional behavior was being kept secret by that secrecy. We knew it was destroying our democracy, and destroying many lives.

The secrets that kept it going should no longer be secret.

I’d been in Vietnam, driven the roads for 10k miles, risked my body and life like thousands of others who were expected to do that. Is it not worth taking a risk of freedom, or even life, to prevent this ongoing war in that case? Or in the case of Snowden, to prevent a violation that eats at the core of our democracy?

A government that knows every bit of communication between congressional staff, journalists, sources, judges, whoever else: can you really have independent forms of government at that ppoint?

The complaint that the Senate intelligence community had been monitored, which generated outraage: forgotten.

The Intelligence Committee has allowed a 6k page study of criminality and torture to be bottled up for a couple of years in the hands of the CIA. That’s absurd. The people who are failing to leak that document are violating hte constitution, although they do that daily. They’re complicit in mass criminality, in a very serious story.

one more leak we need: without more whistleblowers, rather than less, whcih is what the Obama admin wants – you people have to make it possible for people to leak without spending their life in prison, through secure drop, and other systems.

Exile is better than prison, but that shouldn’t have to be the price. You are the people who can help our democracy survive the attack on whistleblowers.

We can’t survive an official secrets act, and Obama is using the espionage act as if it were. Congress did pass such an act in 2000, at the end of the Cinton admin, and Clinton vetoed it as unconstitutional. But Obama has gotten away so far with using the Espionage Act as if it were an OSA.

Our survival as a species depends on the public being informed about the reality that there is human caused climate change. 30-40% of the public don’t believe it, b/c they’ve been manipulated by oil and gas industries who survive by seeding doubt. I’m sure there are documents in side those companies that describe clearly what they know is happening. You could have documents just as (williams and ?) exposed from the tobacco industry that revealed they were lying under oath when they said they didn’t know it was addictive, harmful, when they were selling to minors.

This had the effect of saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

People inside Exxon Mobile and other companies should leak to us the knowledge by their bosses that they are ending civilization, whether in 30 or 300 years.

The people in those companies need your help too, even if it’s not classified. They need anonymity.

They need your help to save the world! and that’s what we’re up to.

[standing applause!]