Ellsberg Calls on Insiders to Leak Details of Alleged War Plans
Editor and Publisher | September 15 2006
NEW YORK When Daniel Ellsberg, the defense analyst, leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, it created one of the most significant newspaper stories -- and battles -- of the century. One thing it did not do was prevent the Vietnam War, although it may have shortened it. Now he is calling on officials within the government to leak "the Pentagon Paper of the Middle East" to modern reporters, to short-circuit another possible war.
Ellsberg's challenge is found in the October issue of Harper's magazine, to appear next week. E&P has obtained an advance copy.
The article is titled, "The Next War," with the conflict in question a possible face-off between the U.S. and Iran. Ellsberg, based on unconfirmed reporting by Seymour Hersh and others, believes there is a "hidden crisis," with government insiders aware of "serious plans for war with Iran" while "congress and the public remain largely in the dark."
His remedy: "Conscientious insiders" need to leak hard evidence to the press and public, while risking their current and future employment, as he did in the early 1970s.
But Ellsberg is hardly the hero of his own story. While proud of what he did, he faults himself for waiting far too long in the 1960s. If he had leaked government information in 1964, it might have halted the entire enterprise in its tracks, he feels. In the same way, he hails former Clinton and Bush terrorism expert Richard Clarke for blowing the whistle on trumped-up evidence used to support the invasion of Iraq -- but, as in his case, this came after the Iraq adventure had already come to fruition.
Indeed, Ellsberg had called for insiders, such as Clarke, to come forward before the Iraq invasion, in a January 2003 interview with E&P.
Now, in the Harper's article, therefore, he declares: "Assuming Hersh's so-far anonymous sources mean what they say -- that this is, as one puts it, 'a juggernaut that has to be stopped' -- I believe it is time for one or more of them to go beyond fragmentary leaks unaccompanied by documents. That means doing what no other active official or consultant has ever done in a timely way: what neither Richard Clarke nor I nor anyone else thought of doing until we were no longer officials, no longer had access to current documents, after bombs had fallen and thousands had died, years into a war. It means going outside executive channels, as officials with contemporary access, to expose the president's lies and oppose his war policy publicly before the war, with unequivocal evidence from inside.
"Simply resigning in silence does not meet moral or political responsibilities of officials rightly 'appalled' by the thrust of secret policy. I hope that one or more such persons will make the sober decision -- accepting sacrifice of clearance and career, and risk of prison -- to disclose comprehensive files that convey, irrefutably, official, secret estimates of costs and prospects and dangers of the military plans being considered.
"What needs disclosure is the full internal controversy, the secret critiques as well as the arguments and claims of advocates of war and nuclear 'options' -- the Pentagon Papers of the Middle East. ...
"The personal risks of doing this are very great. Yet they are not as great as the risks of bodies and lives we are asking daily of over 130,000 young Americans -- with many yet to join them -- in an unjust war. Our country has urgent need for comparable courage, moral and civil courage, from its public servants. They owe us the truth before the next war begins."
Today, The Washington Post reports that United Nations inspectors probing Iran's nuclear program have contested Bush administration's claims. They "angrily complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran's capabilities, calling parts of the document 'outrageous and dishonest' and offering evidence to refute its central claims," the Post relates.
Ellsberg's most recent book is "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers."
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