Ellsberg: Obama ‘has indicted more people for leaks than all previous presidents together’

The Wikileaks leak is all the rage; it’s having its 15 minutes of fame. (More on delayed detonation of that bomb at the bottom of this post.)

Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, appeared on Larry King Live this week, as did Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers leaker from the Vietnam War era, and Michael Hastings, the recently famous Rolling Stone writer. The transcript is here (h/t ezpz in the comments of this post).

There’s much in the show to comment on, but here are two fast take-aways:

1. In the Julian Assange interview, King asks him (my emphasis):

KING: The U.S. national security adviser, General James Jones, calls this irresponsible. According to him, “The disclosure could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk and threaten our national security.” How would you respond to that?

ASSANGE: Well, we’re used to dealing with organizations that have been exposed as a result of our publishing efforts, and, you know, whenever we hear something like that, how could this be incorrect? I mean, a Martian may land on the Pentagon at any moment in time. That doesn’t mean that it’s correct.

KING: So, you don’t take this seriously, this criticism? Any fear — any conscious [sic — conscience?] about possibly what you did cost a life?

ASSANGE: When you’re talking about any and possibly, of course, all sorts of things can happen in political affairs that are not — that are not predictable. But insofar as we can understand the material, we see material that’s at least 7 months old. We have withheld approximately 15,000 reports for a further minimization process, and we don’t see anything here that is of tactical significance.

It’s so subtle, so part of the foliage, you almost miss it. “Cost a life.” The blockbuster revelation so far from this material is the thousands of Afghan lives already lost. Yet King, like almost everyone living in this country, only totes up lost lives when they’re ours. Afghan life, like Iraqi life, must be almost invisible, like raindrops compared to ours.

(Assange’s answer, by the way, seemed a perfectly reasonable one; and no one wants any lives lost — that’s kind of the point.)

2. Daniel Ellsberg is asked to comment on a clip of press secretary Robert Gibbs complaining about the leaks:

KING: Daniel, do you understand why Mr. Gibbs, representing the president, is so upset?

ELLSBERG: Well, he’s very upset in part because he’s working for a president who has indicted more people now for leaks than all previous presidents put together. And two of those people — Thomas Drake and Shamai Leibowitz — have been indicted for acts that were undertaken under Bush, which [the] George W. Bush administration chose not to indict.

So this is an administration that’s more concerned about preventing transparency, I would say, than its predecessor which I’m very sorry to hear. As somebody who voted for Obama and expect to vote for him again, despite all this.

Yikes. That’s all — yikes. (Video of the Ellsberg interview is available here.)

About delayed detonation: The current counter-spin has veered from “Bad wiki” to “Gosh, didn’t we already know that?” Nice move; I didn’t see the soft-pedal coming.

But wait until all the citizen solders, the bloggers, the commenters, the research professionals and un-embedded journalists — the real ones — dig through that pile. My guess? This bomb will explode for months.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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