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Supreme Court Likely to Endorse Obama’s War on Whistle-Blowers
Posted on Mar 12, 2012
By Chris Hedges
The Obama administration, to make matters worse, has mounted a war not only against those who leak information but those who publish it, including Assange. The Obama administration is attempting to force New York Times reporter James Risen to name the source, or sources, that told him about a failed effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer, is charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly leaking information about the program to Risen. If Risen confirms in court that Sterling was his source, Sterling probably will be convicted. A Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Espionage Act in a leak case would also remove the legal protection that traditionally allows journalists to refuse to reveal their sources.
“Unauthorized disclosures are the lifeblood of the republic,” Ellsberg said. “You cannot have a meaningful democracy where the public only has authorized disclosures from the government. If they [officials] get control, if they can prosecute anybody who violates that, you are kidding yourself if you think you have any kind of democratic control over foreign policy, national security and homeland security. We don’t have a democracy now in foreign affairs and national security. We have a monarchy tempered by leaks. Cut off the leaks and we don’t even have that.”
The WikiLeaks disclosures—the first in 40 years to approach the scale of the Pentagon Papers—may, if Obama has his way, be our last look into the corrupt heart of empire. Those who have access to information that exposes the lies of the state will, if the Espionage Act becomes the vehicle to halt unauthorized disclosures, not only risk their careers by providing information that challenges the official version of events but almost certainly be given prison sentences.
Ellsberg has called on those with security clearances to release the modern version of the Pentagon Papers about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He said his only regret was that he did not leak the Pentagon Papers earlier. If the documents had been published in August 1964, he said, rather than 1971, he would have exposed the lie that the North Vietnamese had made an “unequivocal, unprovoked” attack on U.S. destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf. The fabricated attack was used by President Lyndon Johnson to get Congress to pass the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which authorized the administration to escalate the war. Ellsberg said that there were intelligence officials who in 2002 could have exposed the lies used by the Bush administration to plunge us into a war with Iraq. The failure of these officials to release this evidence has resulted in the deaths of, and injury to, thousands of U.S. soldiers and Marines, along with hundreds of thousands of civilians.
“Had I or one of the scores of other officials who had the same high-level information acted then on our oath of office—which was not an oath to obey the president, nor to keep the secret that he was violating his own sworn obligations, but solely an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States—that terrible war [the Vietnam War] might well have been averted altogether,” Ellsberg said. “But to hope to have that effect, we would have needed to disclose the documents when they were current, before the escalation—not five or seven, or even two years after the fateful commitments had been made.
“Don’t do what I did,” he cautioned. “Don’t wait until a new war has started in Iran, until more bombs have fallen in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, Libya, Iraq or Yemen. Don’t wait until thousands more have died before you go to the press and to Congress to tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. Don’t wait 40 years for it to be declassified, or seven years as I did for you or someone else to leak it.”
The courage of an Ellsberg or a Manning is rare. It will become even more so in a state where the law is used as a vehicle to protect those who carry out war crimes and to imprison patriots for life. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the government on any of these six cases, it will invert the law and plunge us into totalitarian darkness.
Obama, a constitutional lawyer, has a far better grasp of the dramatic erosion of civil liberties his administration is cementing into place than his hapless predecessor. Obama, however, dissembles with an icy cynicism. He assured the public in January that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would not be used to detain and hold American citizens without due process, although the act’s latest version, which became law this month, clearly states the opposite. And Ellsberg, along with Noam Chomsky and other activists, has joined me as a plaintiff in suing the president and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta over the NDAA. We are scheduled to appear in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 29. When Obama was questioned in 2011 about the difference between the release of the Pentagon Papers and the cables turned over to WikiLeaks he answered: “Ellsberg’s material was classified on a different basis.”
“That’s true,” Ellsberg said ruefully in our conversation last week. “Mine were top secret. The cables released in WikiLeaks were secret.”
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