This is Part 8 of Consortium News’ multi-part series on the 50th Anniversary of the late Sen. Mike Gravel obtaining the Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg and the consequences Gravel faced for revealing the top secret documents in Congress, just hours before the Supreme Court decided the case on June 30, 1971, a half century ago today.
16.9.2020 Opponents of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange often hold up Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg as an example of someone who was responsible for a good leak. They insist WikiLeaks is not like the Pentagon Papers because supposedly Assange was reckless with sensitive documents.
WikiLeaks revealed – in partnership with major international publications, including the two involved in the Pentagon Papers Case – videos of American troops murdering civilians and celebrating the murders (a war crime) as well as documentary proof of American complicity in torture (also a war crime).
Earlier this week, we learned that our leaders also knew the war was a fiasco, doomed to fail. But, unlike many of us, they chose not to speak out. Instead, as The Washington Post revealed in a series of stunning articles based on what it has labeled the Afghanistan Papers—a trove of previously classified documents that it is calling a “secret history of the war”—dozens of consecutive generals and senior US officials had repeatedly lied about, omitted, and obfuscated the facts to give an illusion of progress in that war.
As the Justice Department charges WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act, we speak to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. In 1971, he was charged with violating the Espionage Act for leaking a top-secret report on U.S. involvement in Vietnam to The New York Times and other publications. At the time, Ellsberg faced over 100 years in prison. He tells Democracy Now!, “There hasn’t actually been such a significant attack on the freedom of the press … since my case in 1971.”