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Interview with Daniel Ellsberg

There’s a very interesting interview with Daniel Ellsberg, of Pentagon Papers fame, in the Economist. Some choice quotes:

“Obama has now prosecuted three people [for whistleblowing]. Two of whom are being prosecuted for acts carried out under George Bush and for which Bush chose not to prosecute[…]. So Obama’s famous position of not looking backward seems to apply only to crimes like torture or illegal warrantless surveillance. He’s given absolute amnesty to the officials of the Bush administration. But in the case of Thomas Drake, who told a reporter about a billion-and-half-dollar waste at the NSA, and in the case of Shamai Leibowitz, who says he exposed acts to a blogger that he regarded as illegal, Obama was willing to look backward and prosecute.”

“I think we can assume that those who don’t use Wikileaks’s technology to get the information out can be assured of prosecution. I have to assume that if I had now put out the Pentagon Papers as I did, using that now outmoded technology of Xerox, Obama would prosecute me to the full extent of the law.”

“A number of the acts undertaken against me, which were illegal at the time, forcing Nixon to obstruct justice by concealing them, have been made part of our explicit policy. Not just the warrantless wire-tapping, but the raid of my psychoanalyst’s office is now regarded as legal under the Patriot Act as a sneak-and-peek operation.”

“Nixon brought a dozen CIA assets […] with orders to incapacitate me totally. That was done covertly and was one of the factors that led to Nixon’s resignation. Obama has now announced, through his then-head of intelligence, Dennis Blair, that we have a list of those who can be assassinated by special-forces operators. And this president has even approved names of American citizens on that list. Now that’s an astonishing change, not in our covert policy—presidents have been involved in covert assassination plots repeatedly—but to announce that publicly as a supposedly legitimate policy. That negates the Magna Carta. It’s a kind of power that no king of England has asserted since John I.”

“[W]hen I said that Julian Assange is in some danger, others said that’s ridiculous, he’s too prominent, no president would do such a thing. Well, I’m not saying that it’s very likely, but I am saying that the chance of Julian Assange coming to harm from the US president should be zero, and it isn’t. To say that it’s ridiculous is simply unfounded. My own experience proves that. Because after all, I was as well-known at the time, when that assault was made, as Julian Assange is today.”