Dec 4, 2013
Truthdigger of the Week: Daniel Ellsberg
Posted on Jun 16, 2013
It is difficult to believe things will go the same for Snowden. Our decade sees the president select and order the death of people in other countries with impunity. The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. Pfc. Bradley Manning is on trial for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks and looks likely to receive a sentence of life in prison. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who isn’t even an American citizen, is being pursued by the U.S. government for posting state secrets—but no established news organ that co-published the documents he collected, including The New York Times and The Guardian, is facing prosecution. This may be the worst time in American history to be a person of conscience employed in the machinery of government.
The documents leaked by Snowden stand as another exhibit in the mounting case against the legitimacy of the current government and its policies. Snowden now has a higher approval rating than both President Obama and Congress. A Time magazine poll found that 54 percent of Americans believed Snowden did “a good thing” and only 30 percent thought otherwise. Officials say that Snowden has endangered national security, but no hard evidence has been presented to prove this is true. Obama’s administration persistently fails to support such claims.
And like previous administrations, it spreads fabrications outright. When Oregon Democratic Rep. Ron Wyden asked National Director of Intelligence James Clapper in an open Senate hearing in March whether “the NSA collects any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans,” Clapper responded, “No, sir … not wittingly.”
Pundits and lawyers claim we need to carefully parse those words. But as Paul Campos at Salon wrote, “This is what an ordinary person would call a ‘lie.’ ”
It remains to be seen whether that kind of respect for and adherence to the truth is even possible for members of the establishment in our age, when politicians, economists and journalists treat truth as chronically obscured or not more than a matter of personal and variable opinion. It appears to be up to the public to demand a return to honesty by taking either to the polling booth or the street.
Writing in The Guardian on June 10, Ellsberg said that Snowden had given us the most “important leak” in “American history” and “the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an ‘executive coup’ against the US constitution.” Referring to the secret police of East Germany, he wrote that Snowden had revealed “that the so-called intelligence community has become the United Stasi of America,” a symptom of America’s plummet into a dangerous “abyss” of totalitarianism.
“But with Snowden having put his life on the line to get this information out, quite possibly inspiring others with similar knowledge, conscience and patriotism to show comparable civil courage—in the public, in Congress, in the executive branch itself,” Ellsberg continued, “I see the unexpected possibility of a way up and out of the abyss.”
Just as he was 40 years ago, Ellsberg is committed to true liberty and truth. Americans need his message of moral clarity, and so does Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, as well as any other principled people who in the future may risk their lives to reveal dangerous secrets held by the U.S. government. For giving comfort to us all by remaining a steadfast example of the courage he recognizes in Snowden and others in the current generation of whistle-blowers, and for giving them the support of his good name, we honor Daniel Ellsberg as our Truthdigger of the Week.
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