Hi Reddit,

I am Daniel Ellsberg, the former State and Defense Department official who leaked 7,000 pages of Top Secret documents on the Vietnam War to the New York Times and 19 other papers in 1971.

Recently, I co-founded the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Yesterday, we announced Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower, will be joining our board of directors!

Here’s our website: https://pressfreedomfoundation.org

I believe that Edward Snowden has done more to support and defend the Constitution—in particular, the First and Fourth Amendments—than any member of Congress or any other employee or official of the Executive branch, up to the president: every one of whom took that same oath, which many of them have violated.

Ask me anything.

Here's proof it's me: https://twitter.com/DanielEllsberg/status/423520429676826624

If you want to take action against mass surveillance, visit TheDayWeFightBack and demand reform in Congress on February 11th.

Comments: 2749 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

Mr_TedBundy2176 karma

I just wanted to say thank you for fighting the good fight for us. You are a legend sir and history will look favorably on you and Mr Snowden.

ellsbergd1213 karma

thank you!

karmanaut974 karma

Do you think that Snowden should return to the US and face charges, as you did?

Second: at the risk of breaking Reddit, can you help us set up an AMA with Edward Snowden?

ellsbergd1460 karma

I replied to this question over half an hour ago, then waited since then for more questions. Apparently my answer didn't show up; and I've just been shown how to see the 70 questions that piled up while I was waiting. (10:54). In other words, I'm not on top of this process yet.

Here's my answer of half an hour ago, to your question of whether Snowden should come back to this country. Let's see what happens:

No. Unlike me, in 1971, I don't believe he'd be out on bail or bond while awaiting trial. Like Chelsea Manning, he'd be in an isolation cell, incommunicado (Manning hasn't been spoken to by a journalist for the more than three years since she was arrested in Kuwait), probably for the rest of his life. The Constitution hasn't changed--the laws he is charged under, and I faced in 1971-73, would at that time very likely have been held to be unconstitutional in that application (to leakers: I was the first to be prosecuted for a leak, under the Espionage Act or any law). But with the new courts, that's much less likely. I don't think anything or anyone would be served by his suffering that fate.

ellsbergd645 karma

Aha: I see my answer is up now. I didn't hit "save" before. OK, here we go. (10:56 AM) Dan Ellsberg

duckvimes_198 karma

I think you missed the second part of his comment (not meant to sound snarky or anything, but not sure how else to phrase it):

Second: at the risk of breaking Reddit, can you help us set up an AMA with Edward Snowden?

ellsbergd468 karma

That would indeed be great, historic. I'll look into it; but I'm doubtful its feasible, because Snowden can't do e-mail except on a highly encrypted basis. He doesn't want to reveal his exact whereabouts to NSA. But maybe there's some way to get questions to him in advance (I think this is possible) and have him answer them. As I say, I'll look into it. Great idea.

annje42856 karma

I am horrified by the way that the Obama administration and present USG is treating whistleblowers and investigative journalists, not just Snowden but others such as Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Jeremy Hammond & Barrett Brown. This excessive assault on truth-tellers is just one symptom of a government and president out of control in desire for absolute power and control; also so clearly demonstrated by the NSA and Stratfor revelations. What can the average American citizen do to try to bring our government back under our control - to demand and get accountability and true protection of our constitutional rights? It feels hopeless right now. I see no difference among the politicians, regardless of whether they say they are democrat or republican, liberal or conservative. They're all mouthing the same rhetoric.

ellsbergd915 karma

Your "horror" is justified and appropriate, and needs to be communicated to the publc at large. The dangerous alternative is that we accept the government's line, and its acolytes in Congress and the press, that this is all for our good, nothing to worry about, folks, trust us, we know what's best for you and that's exactly what we're doing (and all we're doing), etc...

We're in a constitutional crisis--have been since 9-11, but didn't seem to know it--which has come to the public's attention thanks to Snowden. Manning's revelations were horrifying enough to those who care about what we do to "others," foreigners, "enemies" and their relatives: but humans, not just Americans, generally don't get as upset about that as about what Snowden has shown our government does to "us," at home. We need to remain aware, however uncomfortable and frustrating that is, that what they've been doing is OUTRAGEOUS and intolerable in what we want to preserve as a free society. And then act on the enraging information to demand of our representatives in Congress that they act on their constitutional responsibilities to rein in executive branch abuses that violate the oath to the constitution that both Congresspersons and all officials take.

cobb12110 karma

I doubt anything of consequence will happen before the next revolution.

Can I just say thank you for causing "The Pentagon Wars" to happen? Because that movie version of your experience is freakin brilliant.


(And thank you for your service and sacrifice and all that, but others have already in prettier words than I can summon.)

ellsbergd225 karma

Thank you. You know, in answer to those who've been asking, "what can encourage young people to resist" the executive coup that's occurred and that has been continued under Obama, it occurs to me that that movie, "The Most Dangerous Man in America" by Judy Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, is a good thing for them to see right at this time, along with the Medsger book "The Burglary." Because both of them show acts of non-violent resistance THAT SUCCEEDED! People need examples not only of courage (as I needed benefited from), from draft resisters) but of effectiveness, success (however partial and contingent).

Yes, we do need what amounts to non-violent revolution (starting with restoration of the best parts of what was won 225 years ago). Something as far-reaching, as near-miraculous (in terms of being unforeseeable) as what led to the downing of the Berlin Wall, or majority rule in South Africa. Very unfortunately, we don't have a Gorbachev in sight, or a Mandela (or even de Klerk)m or a Martin Luther King, Jr. I have to hope we can start on this without them. And we do have our Rosa Park's: see Manning, Snowden, the NSA Four, and the anonynous leakers who exposed our torture and kidnapping and warrantless wiretapping (even though in the latter case, Congress--including Senator Obama--covered themselves with shame by "legalizing" it in the FISA AMendment Acts, which should be revoked).

melcheer9293742 karma

What do you think is the most effective way to force the government to change its ways when it comes to the surveillance state?

ellsbergd1269 karma

Snowden has started the process off, by giving the public, through the press, the alarming information about how much we are being spied on by our government, with the help of the telecom companies. (Thus, the attempted reforms of the Church committee in 1975-76--which are now all shown, by Snowden, to have failed by now--had to be started off by the revelations of FBI abuses that came from the break-in to the Media, Pa. offices of the FBI in 1971. The story of that burglary, and what came of it, and the heroes who did it, has just been published in Betty Medsger's book "The Burglary," which couldn't be more timely. I urge everyone to read that, both as an inspiring tale and as a guide to what is needed in the way of a "Citizens committee to investigate the FBI" (and CIA, NSA) as they called themselves, and how reforms can be derailed over time.

We need another congressional investigation like the Church Committee, and to learn from that one how to do better this time. (E.g., don't hire staff directly from the FBI, CIA, NSA!) The so-called Oversight Committees that were created have been a total failure at oversight; they've been coopted into being a PR agency of the intelligence community, and a guardian of its secrets. Their own abuses and obstruction of justice deserves investigation by Congress: fat chance! But a new select committee, which would include types like Conyers and Amash, in the House, or Wyden and Udall in the Senate, would have a chance, and should at least be given that chance: with a long mandate, subpoena powers and a big budget. Meanwhile, we need More Snowdens! (Not fewer, as is said to be the president's misguided focus).

PulvisEtUmbraSumus641 karma

When did you first become aware that there had been an attempt to seize your medical files from Lewis Fielding's office, and what was your reaction to the administration going that far?

In general, how aware were you of surveillance and character assassination attempts against your person, such as the attempts to tie you to communist groups in Minnesota as per this conversation between Nixon and John Mitchell?

ellsbergd646 karma

WOW! That link is absolutely fascinating! (Even though I don't have the time just now to go through it in detail, as I will shortly). Thank you for the link! I have to ask, where is it from, where did you get it (on the White House transcripts)?

Well, in answer to your question, I just became aware of some surveillance on me (BEFORE the Pentagon papers came out) ten minutes ago, from your link. I was being surveilled because I was a witness in a criminal trial of draft resisters, some of the Minnesota Eight. Their very good lawyer has been accused, I don't know on what basis, of having been a Communist. And that allegation was not of particular significance to the DOJ UNTIL, months later, he was associated with me, after the Papers came out. Likewise, the president is heard discussing with Haldeman on these transcripts the need to go back over earlier (illegal, warrantless) wiretaps--of journalists and White House officials, on which I was overheard--to see what might look significant now, in light of the release of the Pentagon Papers.

That's what I've been talking about in earlier answers: the ability of the government to go back to taps collected years earlier to look for material with which to influence potential witnesses in the present. (See their interest in the allegation that the wife of one journalist may have been accused of shoplifting in her past). So people who have "nothing to hide" should ask themselves if that is equally true of their spouses or children, or neighbors, who could possibly be turned into informants by threat of their private lives being revealed. (The Cuban CIA assets who burglarized my psychoanalyst's office were interested in my children and wife as much as me, a reporter who interviewed them was told; they had been told of the precedent of Alger Hiss' step-son who was crucially deterred, at Hiss' insistence, from testifying in his defense at his trial on a crucial point, because he would have been questioned about his alleged homosexuality).

My analyst later apologized to me for not telling me about the break-in--which he was sure was aimed at me, by the White House--because his lawyer had advised him not to "get involved." So I didn't know about it until it came out in my courtroom, thanks to John Dean's revelation. All for the best. If he had told me and we had raised it in the court-room, the plumbers would not have been kept on the White House payroll (via CREEP) and would not have been ordered into the Watergate. Nixon would have stayed in office, and the war would have continued for years.

Questionasker99474 karma

Daniel, what do you think it would take for genuine reform of the NSA?

Does a president today even have the power to prevent public surveillance and if not, do you think this power can ever be returned to an elected position rather than the intelligence agencies?

ellsbergd873 karma

I think getting NSA truly accountable and under democratic control is a VERY challenging, difficult and uncertain problem. The four NSA experts who resigned in protest to its unconstitutional behavior since 9-11--Kirk Wiebe, Thomas Drake, Ed Loomis and Bill Binney--have recently published a list of reforms that they think necessary. To ensure that these are actually carried out--after Congress and the president have (under public pressure) demanded them, they propose a permanent Signals Intelligence Investigatory Body of technical experts embedded at NSA with continuous auditing and access to all NSA computers and databases, reporting to both congress and the FISA Court. Will the president or NSA readily embrace or "accept" such a body? NO. But Congress could create it and empower it, if they were sufficiently pressed to do so by a properly-alarmed public.

filthylimericks418 karma

Do you believe the government has you under close surveillance? Has anything happened to you that might make you believe so?

ellsbergd797 karma

Yes, now that I've been endorsing Manning and Snowden and challenging the "executive coup" that I believe took place after 9-11. No, I can't point to specific harassment. But remember: Snowden has revealed that NSA has us ALL under surveillance. I'm just guessing that I'm one of the many (millions?) that are targeted for special attention.

ESisLH309 karma

As a member of freedom of the press foundation do you have any problems with greenwald and other members of the foundation going into business with pierre omidyar, a man whose company tried to censor chelsea manning, supports the TPP, has booz allen hamilton board members working for it, does business with CIA front IN-Q-TEL, and has spent the last 3 years prosecuting 14 activists?

ellsbergd434 karma

Greenwald has written that he has been promised and expects complete independence--from Omidyar or whoever else--in his journalism, as he had with Salon and the Guardian. I have unusual trust in Greenwald, from his own record, and in his readiness to resist pressure and to quit the arrangement if his independence is threatened. That means I'm ready to wait and see; I don't expect to be disappointed, but it's always possible.

DontYouJustKnowIt272 karma


ellsbergd479 karma

This is truly puzzling: why, in particular, has Obama prosecuted nearly three times as many whistleblowers/leakers than all previous presidents combined? I ask this a lot, and don't get very compelling answers. (Even my friend Noam Chomsky, who is rarely without answers and hardly naive about politicians, has said this has surprised him, and he doesn't know why). Today's news (NYT, Charlie Savage and Peter Baker, p. 1) about what he's likely to say on Friday says that he has to try to "placate civil liberties advocates" (i.e., those advocate observing the Fourth Amendment)"without a backlash from national security agencies" (i.e., those who have been violating the Fourth Amendment, with his acquiescence). Curious language. Unlike the civil liberties advocates--members of the public, evidently, not within the administration--who don't work for him, the national security agencies do, in principle (and according to the constitution) do work for him. Their officials can be given directives, and they can be fired by him (or prosecuted). What exactly is this "backlash" he has to fear?

Well, I'm not naive about how such power and secretive agencies can give even a president real trouble in his programs--and just possibly, worse than that. For whatever specific reasons, Obama does seem to run scared of them. As the NYT reports today, those agencies don't seem to be fearing what they'll hear from him Friday.

richmomz199 karma

For whatever specific reasons, Obama does seem to run scared of them. As the NYT reports today, those agencies don't seem to be fearing what they'll hear from him Friday.

Do you think it's possible that these agencies might be using their surveillance powers to control/manipulate people in positions of power (including the President)? I personally don't think it's that far fetched considering that some of Snowden's disclosures have revealed that the NSA does monitor elected officials and candidates. Not to mention the fact that the NSA didn't even deny it when asked directly a week or two ago.

I think there's been a fear for a long time that some of these agencies might one day become more powerful than the government they allegedly serve - I wonder if that day has already arrived?

ogkushog105 karma

Do you think it's possible that these agencies might be using their surveillance powers to control/manipulate people in positions of power (including the President)?


"They [NSA] went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House–their own people… Here’s the big one… [T]his was in summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator for Illinois.

You wouldn't happen to know where that guy lives right now would you? It’s a big white house in Washington, D.C. That’s who they went after, and that’s the president of the United States now.”

ellsbergd72 karma

Yes, this, by Russell Tice, was one of the examples in the reply I wrote earlier (above) that got lost.

UsedPickle59 karma

Does not seem far fetched at all considering what Hoover did for so many years. Looking at history often shines a light on the darkness of the present.

ellsbergd69 karma


ellsbergd4 karma

I wrote a very long reply to this, which seems to have gotten lost when I had to go off reddit for a minute before i finished. Maybe I'll come back to this and reproduce what I wrote. Sorry.

ellsbergd5 karma

Short answer: I think it's not only possible, it's highly likely (as in Hoover's day).

SueMe_130 karma

Democratic, Republican it doesn't matter. They're ALL funded by the same guys. (there are some exceptions though) That's why the elections of '12 was an utter joke to watch. Obama is as corporatist as Bush was. Period. And I'm already holding my heart (IN FEAR) for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

ellsbergd305 karma

Basically, you're right, especially about the funding, which results in a pretty bipartisan fealty to corporate/Wall Street interests and wishes.

However, there are some significant differences (e.g., on race, gender, gays, poverty: however inadequate the Democrats are on these, pitifully so, they're not at war against these groups as the Republicans are). Above all: I believe that if Romney (or McCain) were president right now, we would been at war in Syria and would have attacked Iran even earlier. That's BIG. (Actually, I was expecting Obama to attack Syria in August--but he responded to public pressure on Congress (and the same in the UK) in a way that I believe Romney or McCain would not have. (I wouldn't have predicted the public pressure on Congresspersons during the recess, either--I don't know entirely where that came from (maybe from disillusion with Libya as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, and possibly with skepticism fueled by Snowden as well--and it's a real basis for hope, my kind of "optimism," that the public CAN wake up and make demands on Congress and in turn on the president.

ellsbergd96 karma

Basically, you're right, especially about the funding. Hey, I had more to say, but I have to go be on Huffington Post live (12 PM PST). Back later.

lcogan163 karma

I'm curious how you respond when people tell you that "they have nothing to hide". How do you help them see that this isn't a valid argument for why they shouldn't be concerned?

ellsbergd352 karma

Do they want to live in a democracy, with checks and balances, restraints on Executive power? (They may not feel that they care, though I would say they should; but if they do, it's relevant to the question that follows). Do they really believe that real democracy is viable, when one branch of government, the Executive, knows or can know every detail of every private communication (or credit card transaction, or movement) of: every journalist; every source to every journalist; every member of Congress and their staffs; every judge, at every level up to the Supreme Court? Do they think that every one of these people "has nothing to hide," nothing that could be used to blackmail them or manipulate them, or neutralize their dissent to Executive policies, or influence voting behavior? Is investigative journalism, or aggressive Congressional investigation of the Executive, or court restraints on Executive practices, really possible with that amount of transparency to the Executive of their private and professional lives and associations? And without any of those checks, the kind of democracy you have is that of the German Democratic Republic in East Germany, with its Stasi (which had a miniscule fraction of the surveillance capability the NSA has now, but enough to turn a fraction of the population of East Germany into secret Stasi informants).

Might these "good, honest citizens" with nothing to hide ever imagine that they might feel a challenge to be a whistleblower, or a source to a journalist or Congressperson, or engage in associations or parties critical of the current administration? As "The Burglary" recounts, it was enough to write a letter to a newspaper critical of the FBI to get on J. Edgar Hoover's FBI list for potential detention or more active surveillance. And once on, hard or impossible to get off. (See "no fly" lists today ).

kentrel157 karma

Many people seem to be apathetic about the Snowden revelations. Are you optimistic about society's willingness to fight government surveillance?

ellsbergd265 karma

I'm an optimist: I think there's a chance of it. That's the sense in which I'm "optimistic" about most of the things I work toward: e.g., human survival, in the nuclear age; effective action against catastrophic climate change; the recovery of our constitutional democracy. If you asked me for my private odds, for any of these, they'd be pretty low. But I can keep working on a pretty thin diet of hope, and so, I find, do my friends. If that weren't the case, there'd be little basis for hope at all, in my view.

kmja116 karma

Do you think there is any kind of information that should never be shared?

ellsbergd231 karma

Do I think the government is ever justified in keeping some information secret, for some period of time? Yes.

"Never"; justifies secrecy "forever"? That's pretty doubtful. Nearly ALL classified information--some of which deserves secrecy for a while--is actually kept secret FAR longer, by decades or more, than can be justified in a democracy. And, "secret from all members of Congress"? Very little, if any. The reason that so much is classified, and remains classified unjustifably (from the point of view of democracy, not the bureaucracy) is that those who classify it can't predict just what item of information might appear embarrassing to officials or agencies in the future, or incriminating, or evidence of lying or of awful judgment: so, classify it all and keep it that way.

mikh3l103 karma

I love the work and mission of Freedom of the press Foundation. Specifically, I think that securedrop and tails are steps in the right direction for 1st amendment rights as well as for protecting sources and whistle blowers. However, the system supported by Freedom of the press is both prohibitively expensive and confusing (for those who know nothing of cyber security and encryption). What steps is Freedom of the press taking to make privacy more accessible?

ellsbergd158 karma

I'll refer that to the technical experts on or working for the Board; I'm not one, as I've just demonstrated (by my inability to work with reddit for the last 45 minutes).

ellsbergd94 karma

Hey, I'm enjoying this, but I have a stiff neck from two hours at the computer, and I need some lunch. For those who are interested, I'll get back to more of these a little later. (1:43 PM PST) Dan

Full_Time_Toker79 karma

First of I just want to say thank you for doing this AMA and all you do and have done to support freedom. Now for the question:

I am close friends with someone who used to work in intelligence for the Navy and while he agrees with most of what Snowden has done he believes that Snowden was wrong in releasing info about the U.S. foreign spying programs (being able to tap phone calls of other world leaders was mentioned in our discussion) and for that reason he believes the U.S. should try Snowde for treason, same with Bradley/Chelsea Manning. I was wondering your thoughts / how you would respond to that as he mentioned you by name as someone who "did it the right way".

Thanks again.

ellsbergd133 karma

Two parts to this. First, no human is beyond criticism or evaluative judgment, no human never makes mistakes. Whether the public needs and deserves a particular piece of "secret" information is a matter of judgment (in the first instance, by the classifier, then by whoever has access to it), and judgments will differ, and misjudgments are certainly possible. There were revelations by Manning, and by Snowden, that I would probably not have made myself (though in some cases, with Manning, I've revised my judgment later: remember, there has been NO evidence brought out that anyone was actually harmed by her whole mass of revelations, and benefits--as in Tunisia, and the removal of all US troops from Iraq--that would have been very hard to predict. The same is true so far of Snowden: allegations but NO evidence of specific harm to processes or individuals). The claims of actual or potential harm were made just as strongly for the Pentagon Papers, and NONE was validated. Same, as I've just said, for Snowden, so far. These routine, though sometimes hysterical, accusations should be met with a great deal of skepticism.

As of now, I trust the judgment of Edward Snowden, as to what the public needs to and should be told about what NSA is doing, enormously more than I do the judgment of Clapper or Alexander, or Diane Feinstein or Peter King. It would take very good evidence of extremely harmful misjudgments by Snowden to change my opinion, given what all these others have chosen to conceal from us.

On "treason": neither Snowden nor Manning would ever be charged with that in a court, any more than I. I keep mentioning the Constitution. Read that document on this: treason is the ONLY crime defined there, precisely to keep it from expanded with a Constitutional amendment. It shall be "only" (from my memory) "waging war against the U.S., or adhering to its enemies, giving them aid and comfort." It's absurd to claim that Snowden or Manning (or I) "adhered to" enemies of the U.S. What we did, for good or bad as seen by others, was for the benefit of our country and its freedoms and institutions. (And that includes what our officials are allowed to do to foreigners, in our name).

dr_zayaz67 karma

Mr. Ellsberg, I like you, support jailed CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou. Do you agree Snowden needs to look no further than his case for a reason to resist coming back to the US?

ellsbergd96 karma

I know that Kiriakou's case, like that of Manning and Drake, was in Snowden's mind in his decision to release his information outside the reach of U.S. authorities; and I think he was right to learn that lesson.

ellsbergd47 karma

Well, all, I've greatly enjoyed this opportunity: as you can tell from the length of my comments. I'm running down, after about seven hours. Maybe I'll get back to some of the excellent questions I've had to pass over today; or there'll be another chance. THANKS for your interest!


harrisonweber46 karma

Do you have any advice for young journalists today?

ellsbergd63 karma

Study the output of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, and I could say, Charlie Savage or James Risen of the NYT (and others). Stay out of the corrupting social circle of high officials (as Sy Hersh does, another outstanding example) and maintain your independence of mind and critical, skeptical stance toward their performance. Keep in mind I.F. Stone's dictum: "All government officials lie, and nothing they say is to be believed." Don't succumb to the national ideology: "We are the Good empire," or "We are not an empire."

thrutraffic46 karma

OK, how large of a bombshell leak release is it going to take to change anything in our favor?

Do you think anything in the Snowden bundle will do it?

ellsbergd78 karma

I still believe, partly from Russell Tice, an NSA whistleblower, that the NSA collects and stores a very great deal of CONTENT of phone messages and other electronic communications, not just "metadata." Also, as Tice asserts, does a great deal of TARGETED surveillance of Congresspersons, journalists, activists and even judges. Bernie Sanders has raised this issue for Congress, and so far has been stonewalled. Whether this is documented by Snowden I don't know; I rather doubt it, since it hasn't come out so far. But I think the evidence is there, and that another whistleblower, and persistent Congressional pressure like Sanders', is needed to bring it out. I do think that collection of targeted blackmail material like Hoover's private files had been occurring, and that it could come out. It may take the equivalent of "The Burglary" of the Media, Pa. FBI office in 1971 (see Betty Medsger's new book) to bring it out!

ageisp0lis42 karma

Hi Mr. Ellsberg. Watched the film The Most Dangerous Man in America last night. It was very good.

How might we bring about a new Church-style Committee in the United States?


ellsbergd78 karma

it's what we need, and a) it can't be done by the existing Intelligence Oversight Committees, who are, in effect, totally corrupt and deserve investigation themselves (and I mean, criminally), and (b) it has to learn from the failure, shown by Snowden, of the reforms that the Church committee led to, and do better. Only an informed and deeply concerned and activist public can bring pressure on Congress to undertake that. The odds against success are great, but so are the stakes.

Janus12741 karma

One thank you for everything you have and contiue to do. My question is in regards to the media handling and your opinion of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. I think highly of both of them but it seems that Snowden got far more press from the media and sympathy (in some circles anyway) then Chelsea Manning, who was far more condemed and recived less attention from the media. Can you explain why Snowden recived far more attention then Manning and even praise by some in the press and Manning was mainly forgotten and even ridculed?

ellsbergd56 karma

See my comments below on Chelsea Manning, and why I think her revelations (about our crimes against "others," non-Americans, got less attention.

USDeptOfDroneWar40 karma

Do you feel the US has succumbed to a real, if quiet, military coup? Look at the ineffectual Congress, the clearly unconstitutional decisions being made in the courts, and the pure massiveness of the surveillance state. Don't we need to be more real about what's happening to this country?

ellsbergd16 karma

Butler was a hero of mine when I was in the Marines, as a double holder of the Congressional Medal of Honor. He's a hero now for a different reason: the views he expressed in his book, "War is a Racket," which I recommend.

ellsbergd17 karma

What happened to this country, as I see it, was an Executive Coup (not, obviously, a military one: though the military certainly does have undue influence, as Eisenhower warned, as a key part of the military-intelligence-industrial-corporate-finance-congressional-academic complex). I think that Dick Cheney, who had inordinate influence as vice president, was and is a domestic enemy of the Constitution (in the words of the Oath of Office, the kind we all swore to defend and support the Constitution against), and that he took the opportunity of 9-11 to effectively suspend the Constitution, in his mind and in his secret policies. With George W. Bush's acquiescence, of course, and such legal allies as David Addington, John Yoo and others: and eventually, the Congress, who largely went along with it when word of it leaked out.

tahawus37 karma

Are things better or worse than the early 70's in terms of control of information?

ellsbergd50 karma

Secrecy? About the same, dangerously reliable. Surveillance: enormously worse, due to technological change, the digital revolution. NSA has ability to penetrate our privacy and to collect the details of all our communications that no autocracy in history has been able to aspire to. The East German Stasi, or J. Edgar Hoover, couldn't even imagine having the comprehensive ability to blackmail and manipulate citizens, members of Congress, journalists, dissenters, that the NSA now has.

Something_Funny35 karma

Do you think that there are others currently in the NSA who feel as Snowden does/did? Do you think that the way Snowden has been treated (by both the government and maybe more importantly the media) increases or decreases the likelihood of future whistleblowers?

ellsbergd75 karma

Snowden has reported that he knew of many others who felt much as he did; that's the usual case with whistleblowers. Russell Tice, an NSA whistleblower, has said the same. Most people--nearly all, in fact-- are kept silent by fear of losing their jobs, clearance, access, status, income: real risks. Less by fear of prosecution, since there have been so few prior to Obama; this president is trying to change that, along with other steps, to be announced on Friday, to "prevent more Snowdens." And of course, the imprisonment (and torture) of Chelsea Manning and imprisonment of John Kiriakou. the crushing financially of tom Drake (by malicious prosecution), the effective exile of Snowden, and even of Greenwald and Poitras, are all intended to deter future Snowdens, and will undoubtedly have that effect on many.

However, the fact that Snowden (more than Manning) has actually gotten not only enormous airing of his revelations but actual attention from the president and Congress (whatever comes from it, which remains to be seen) should and I'm sure will encourage some to take the real risks of truth-telling, now that they know that it CAN get attention and possibly make a difference. The depressing conviction that this CAN'T occur is the greatest deterrent of all, and Snowden has undermined that.

JoergR34 karma

Since apparently everyone interprets the Constitution however befits what they are doing anyway, does it even still make sense to talk about "defending the constitution"?

ellsbergd85 karma

The Constitution was a human document, with major shortcomings: e.g., a big one, it tolerated and legitimized slavery. But the Founders (for all their self-interest) had some very good ideas: e.g., Article I, section VIII, which puts the power of declaring (or as they saw it, engaging in) war in the hands exclusively of Congress (except for repelling attacks on our forces). Great idea, which has been almost totally eroded in my lifetime. And the First Amendment, and Fourth, Fifth and Sixth, to pick out some particularly important other inventions. It's really only lately--since some protests about torture, detention, kidnapping ("rendition") and now, especially mass surveillance--that a public debate about constitutionality has really entered our discourse. I don't think most officials give a second's thought about how their oath to defend and support the constitution might actually apply to their own obedience behavior in their agencies. (I didn't). I note that the NSA Four did have that on their conscience, when they found their agency gutting (ignoring) the Fourth Amendment. Snowden, too. I do think there's still a chance to awaken Congresspersons and officials to responsibilities that the Constitution puts on them.

jeff_says_relax30 karma

Mr Ellsberg would you say that the general public's reaction to Edward Snowdens actions have been harsher than the public's reaction to your release of the Pentagon Papers? It seems to me that America is generally opposed to Mr. Snowden being given amnesty and being allowed to return to America. Do you think the public's reaction to your actions would have been much different had it happened today?

ellsbergd58 karma

Interesting question, about the public's reaction to the Pentagon Papers today. I think it would be about the same, generally favorable, because people are about as disillusioned with Iraq and Afghanistan (and Libya) as they were about Vietnam in 1971. We still await the Pentagon Papers of these recent wars, and I hope someone will leak them. I think they would be welcomed, and I hope used, by the public.

But I think Obama's reaction to me today would also be the same as Nixon's to me in 1971: Lock Ellsberg up for life. He wouldn't have to do what Nixon ordered done to me in May, 1972, when I was exposing and attacking his policies while out on bail during my prosecution: order a team of ex-CIA "assets" under direction of "former" CIA and FBI agents "to incapacitate Ellsberg totally." He wouldn't have to do that because I wouldn't be out on bail; I'd be in isolation, incommunicado, like Manning was and Snowden would be.

ellsbergd20 karma

1:56 PM OK, I'm back. (Sandwich is on the way). Let's have at it!


RhythmAndHughes15 karma

Hi Daniel - I saw you and Julian Assange at a talk in London as an enthusiastic 17 year old, and was hugely inspired. However, the NSA's spying has not seemed to grab the attention of today's youth - what needs to change in order for young people to get passionate about issues like this?

Keep up the good work!

ellsbergd25 karma

Young or old, but I suppose especially for the young, a sense of the history of abuse in this country of exactly the same sort of secret surveillance as we're discovering right now, should inspire passionate concern about saving, or recovering, our democracy. I keep mentioning Betty Medsger's book "The Burglary" about what J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was doing--the CoINTELPRO operation, efforts to get Martin Luther King, Jr. to commit suicide, to get black activist groups to war on each other, to smear and dmoralize dissenters, to assure the FBI's own budget in Congress and Hoover's retention of office by blackmail power against Congress and the White House--has the power to inspire young people to take courageous, conscientious acts of non-violent resistance like those who risked prison by breaking into the FBI office in Media, Pa. That's not, until now, even been in the memory of older people, since the burglars were not caught and have not been identified until now. Watch their interviews on Democracy Now and the NYT video about that break-in; I strongly recommend that.

jesucont0113 karma

What do you think would be the best way to restore our checks and balances when it comes to the overreach of the executive branch? It seems like our judicial branch has lost some of its balance to the executive branch.

ellsbergd38 karma

I have very little to say in favor of the Democrats vs. the Republicans (save our not being at war with Syria and Iran right now: see my earlier answer on this), but judicial appointments are an exception to this. Not that the Democrats' appointments are that wonderful, but they're a lot better than (at various levels, S.C. as exemplary) Alito, Thomas, Roberts, Thomas. A couple more of those, under a Republican (Romney, or someone worse) and you could write off the judiciary for a generation, as protector of our liberties or restraint on corporations.

That's only a partial answer, obviously. It applies to Congress, as well. But I would like to see progressives work to take over the Democratic Party the way that Goldwaterites did to the Republicans after 1964. I say that because I'm persuaded that, thanks to our electoral rules and processes, this is solidly a "two-party system" (look up on the web, "two-party system" and "third parties" and "Duverger's law" for obstacles to third parties under our rules--which could and should be changed, but are the reality now--that are unfamiliar to most of my friends who put their hopes in third parties. (I know this answer will evoke a storm of outraged challenges from people who are, on nearly every other issue, allies of mine. But I do urge them to look up the references I mention above). I yield to no one, NO ONE, in my criticisms of the Democratic Party; but I think that those who say that "there is NO significant difference between them" are saying that the Republicans are not EVEN WORSE, in some important respects and on balance: and I think that is unrealistic and dangerous apologetics for the Republicans. (OK, I've said it. I don't think I'll have time today to veer off onto this subject to answer all, if any , of my furious critics on this one).

smdxs12 karma

What do you see as the difference between a whistleblower and a traitor?

In other words, what makes one person that reveals state secrets a traitor versus another that reveals state secrets a whistleblower?

ellsbergd5 karma

The Espionage Act was originally intended by Congress--in 1917, and in 1950 when it was amended--to prosecute spies: those who clandestinely provided protected defense information to a foreign power, especially an enemy in wartime (though not only that) with intent to harm the U.S. or to help a foreign power. For over half a century, until 1971 (my case) it was used exclusively for that purpose; mine was the first use of the Espionage Act in a non-espionage case (my prosecutor moved that the words "espionage" or "Espionage Act" not be used in front of the jury in the court-room, fearing that its absurdity would prejudice the jury against him). A whistleblower, who reveals wrongdoing (that may have been wrongly protected by classification) is one who clearly lacks that intent to harm the U.S., but rather intends to benefit his or her fellow citizens or preserve our constitutiional framework. Nor does he or she--even if their leak is not strictly whistleblowing, aimed at revealing wrong-doing-- "adhere to an enemy" of the U.S., a necessary element, in our Constitution, of the charge of "treason."

fsjja19 karma

Thank you for this and everything you've done, Mr. Ellsberg.

Q: Do you think that it's not the President that controls the NSA/Military Industrial Complex, but rather the other way around?

Q: With the NSA's ability to find dirt on everyone isn't it concievable that whenever a new President takes office the first thing the head of the NSA does is sit them down and blackmail them into being their puppet?

ellsbergd8 karma

It's highly unlikely that someone who fundamentally disagrees with the priorities and interests of the Military/Industrial/Intelligence/Financial/Corporate (Energy, Big Pharma, Insurance...)/Complex will be able to get the nomination for president in either the Democratic or Republican Party. (and we have a two-party system--see articles on the web--thanks to electoral rules, not only or mainly the electoral college but the single-member districts, that make it virtually impossible for a third-party candidate to come close to winning: unless a major party splits, as happened in 1860, for the last time). (Now if the Tea Party split off from the Republicans...! Encourage that!)

So they don't need to be blackmailed, except in exceptional circumstances; but I'm sure they're made aware of what COULD be revealed about them, if they crossed the intelligence agencies: as Hoover always made politicians and presidents aware of what had been "reported" to him about them, which he was "holding securely" in their interest...

ellsbergd8 karma

Another hot off the press, minutes ago, very relevant to this discussion. Note: I am a voting member of the Sam Adams Associates (look it up):

January 16, 2014


Contact: Coleen Rowley (email: [email protected]; cell: 952-393-0914) Annie Machon (email: [email protected])

Chelsea Manning Awarded Sam Adams Integrity Prize for 2014

Announcement by Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII)

The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) have voted overwhelmingly to present the 2014 Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.

A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, U.S. Army Pvt. Manning is the 25 year-old intelligence analyst who in 2010 provided to WikiLeaks the "Collateral Murder" video – gun barrel footage from a U.S. Apache helicopter, exposing the reckless murder of 12 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists, during the “surge” in Iraq. The Pentagon had repeatedly denied the existence of the "Collateral Murder" video and declined to release it despite a request under the Freedom of Information Act by Reuters, which had sought clarity on the circumstances of its journalists' deaths.

Release of this video and other documents sparked a worldwide dialogue about the importance of government accountability for human rights abuses as well as the dangers of excessive secrecy and over-classification of documents.

On February 19, 2014 Pvt. Manning - currently incarcerated at Leavenworth Prison - will be recognized at a ceremony in absentia at Oxford University's prestigious Oxford Union Society for casting much-needed daylight on the true toll and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq; human rights abuses by U.S. and “coalition” forces, mercenaries, and contractors; and the roles that spying and bribery play in international diplomacy.

The Oxford Union ceremony will include the presentation of the traditional SAAII Corner-Brightener Candlestick and will feature statements of support from former SAAII awardees and prominent whistleblowers. Members of the press are invited to attend.

On August 21, 2013 Pvt. Manning received an unusually harsh sentence of 35 years in prison for exposing the truth -- a chilling message to those who would call attention to wrongdoing by U.S. and “coalition” forces.

Under the 1989 Official Secrets Act in the United Kingdom, Pvt. Manning, whose mother is British, would have faced just two years in prison for whistleblowing or 14 years if convicted under the old 1911 Official Secrets Act for espionage.

Former senior NSA executive and SAAII Awardee Emeritus Thomas Drake has written that Manning "exposed the dark side shadows of our national security regime and foreign policy follies .. [her] acts of civil disobedience … strike at the very core of the critical issues surrounding our national security, public and foreign policy, openness and transparency, as well as the unprecedented and relentless campaign by this Administration to snuff out and silence truth tellers and whistleblowers in a deliberate and premeditated assault on the 1st Amendment."

Previous winners of the Sam Adams Award include Coleen Rowley (FBI); Katharine Gun (formerly of GCHQ, the National Security Agency’s equivalent in the UK); former UK Ambassador Craig Murray; Larry Wilkerson (Col., US Army, ret.; chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell); Julian Assange (WikiLeaks); Thomas Drake (NSA); Jesselyn Radack (former ethics attorney for the Department of Justice, now National Security & Human Right Director of the Government Accountability Project); Thomas Fingar (former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, who managed the key National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that concluded Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon four years earlier); and Edward Snowden (former NSA contractor and systems administrator, currently residing in Russia under temporary asylum).

The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence are very proud to add Pvt. Manning to this list of distinguished awardees.

pistolwhip_pete6 karma

I am in the process of completing a Master in Education with the goal of becoming an English teacher. I prescribe to the Progressive view on education, in that my goal is turn my students into contributing members of our society.

That said, where should I start in showing my students that everything we have discussed here is a very real part of their lives and will shape the world they will soon be a part of? I've already created a unit on 1984, what can I have them read to show them the real life effects of this growing survailence state we are becoming?

ellsbergd6 karma

Read "The Burglary," by Betty Medsger, just out. See the documentary, "The Lives of Others," and the film (fictional, but close to the capabilities and dangers of the NSA today) "Enemy of the State." "Stasiland," by Anna Funder. Read Glenn Greenwald's past columns in Salon and the Guardian on this subject. (For current op-eds, I follow antiwar.com and Common Dreams.org, among others). The Snowden revelations, as they come out in various media.

ellsbergd4 karma

5:37 PM Hot off the press: A good column with the recommendations of the NSA Four: