The Assange Case Could Prove The Most Important Press Case In 300 Years

Below is my column for BBC on the Assange espionage charges. As I have written, I believe that Attorney General Bill Barr is dead wrong on these charges — a view apparently shared by at least two of the prosecutors on the team. Until now, President Donald Trump’s disturbing rhetoric against the media has been disconnected from actual moves against the media with the exception of suspending press passes or changing rules for the White House press corp. This is a quantum leap in the wrong direction. Indeed, this prosecution could easily become the most important press case since John Peter Zenger.

Here is the column:

For over a decade, there has been a raging debate over precisely what Julian Assange is – whistleblower, journalist, or spy. 

Now that question will have to be answered after the United States hit him with 17 new counts under the Espionage Act for receiving and publishing information from Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The Trump administration has now crossed the line that many counselled it to avoid – and may have triggered the most important press freedom case in the US in 300 years.

While the status of Assange has long been hotly debated, his actions in publishing classified information on Wikileaks is a common component of journalism. Indeed, the most celebrated cases in history – such as the failed attempts to stop the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 – were based on the publications of classified evidence.

Assange’s supporters note that his publications revealed alleged war crimes in places like Afghanistan and Iraq that were unlikely to have been exposed otherwise. If it was a crime for Assange to receive and publish such information, much of the journalism in the US would become a de facto criminal enterprise.

In April, the government avoided this threshold question by charging Assange with a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charge related to helping Manning obtain access to defence department computers in 2010. In doing so, the justice department stayed clear of charging him as a publisher as opposed to an intruder. That is until Thursday.

The charges were brought under the controversial Espionage Act of 1917. Passed after World War One, it was used to target anti-war activists and political dissidents. 

The government charged figures ranging from German-American Socialist congressman (and newspaper editor) Victor Berger to anarchist and author Emma Goldman to five-time Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs.

The law has long been denounced as unconstitutional in its criminalising of receiving and publishing classified information. It is no surprise that the justice department had to use this much-ridiculed law to achieve this ignoble goal. 

Counts nine through 17 against Assange concern the publications of “national defence information.” The justice department takes pains to try to argue that Assange is not a journalist and that the publication counts concern the disclosure of not just classified information but the actual names of intelligence sources. That however may establish that Assange is a poor journalist, but a journalist all the same.

If successful, the justice department would have not only the ability to prosecute but to investigate a wide array of journalists. This danger is made all the more acute in an administration headed by a president who routinely calls the press “the enemy of the people”.

However, the danger did not begin with President Trump. The Obama administration used this law to conduct surveillance on mainstream journalists, including a well-regarded Fox News reporter. 

The Obama administration reportedly rejected the option of a criminal charge against Assange under the Espionage Act, in recognition of the danger to press freedom. Mr Trump and Attorney General William Barr have now crossed that Rubicon.

This also comes at a particularly precarious time for journalists around the world. Reporters are being arrested and killed in increasing numbers. Some countries like China and Russia have even taken up the Trump trope of “fake news” to crack down on the press. Most vividly, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is accused of ordering the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – yet has suffered few consequences from the Trump administration.

It is not just the “usual suspects” attacking the free press. Just this week, the French government put three journalists under criminal investigation for disclosing alleged lies by French officials on the country’s role in the war in Yemen.

A couple days later a senior reporter, Ariane Chemin, at the renowned French Le Monde, was called in for questioning after revealing embarrassing details about a former bodyguard to President Emmanuel Macron.

Now the US, once the bastion of free press, is trying to establish that any journalist can be prosecuted for receiving or publishing classified information. Since the government routinely over-classifies a wide array of information, it would leave every journalist at constant risk of surveillance and prosecution.

In the past, government officials have distinguished between those who leak or steal classified information and those who cover it. The person responsible for stealing the information in this case was not only punished but punished severely. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 – the longest sentence for a leak case in American history – but former President Barack Obama commuted most of the remainder of her sentence in January 2017. 

Now however, the Trump administration has used the grand jury system to repeatedly jail Manning for refusing to testify against Assange. As soon as one grand jury was disbanded, and Manning released, the justice department simply called another and arrested her again. 

Adding to this raw coercion, US District Judge Anthony Trenga imposed a daily fine of $500 (£395) for every day that she is in custody after 30 days, and $1,000 every day in custody after 60 days. So Manning will be left in jail and bankrupted until she is prepared to testify against Assange.

All of this can be rightfully considered by the UK court in deciding whether Assange will be extradited to the US. For example, in 2002 British hacker Gary McKinnon argued that he would be denied basic protections if extradited to the US. The case went all the way to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2012, his extradition was denied by the home secretary at that time, Theresa May, on the basis that extradition “would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon’s human rights.”

With the new charges, any extradition decision may have to follow an identification decision of what Assange was doing when he published these stories. If he is a journalist, his case could prove a defining moment for both the UK and the US.

Ironically, Britain has never had as many protections for journalists in a system with Official Secrets laws that give sweeping investigatory and prosecutorial powers to government officials. Yet, it will now be the US that is presented as more hostile to the free press.

Assange has few friends in Washington. The Democrats have been relatively muted in responding to the charges. After presenting Wikileaks as a tool used by Russia to try to help Mr Trump win the presidency, that narrative breaks down if they recognise Assange as a journalist. 

The Republicans have their own narrative of journalists as deep-state co-conspirators. Even mainstream reporters have long kept Assange at arm’s length. For them, he is the symbol of reckless figures emerging in the “new media” of the internet. 

Assange is not the rallying figure advocates for press freedom would choose, but he is the one they have been given. Assange may be the first modern journalist to be prosecuted under this law. However, if successful, he will certainly not be the last.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and BBC legal analyst. He has argued both leading free speech and national security cases in the federal courts.

226 thoughts on “The Assange Case Could Prove The Most Important Press Case In 300 Years”

  1. Tick Tock, & about all those Assange Code Keys. LOL.

    Well, looks like a total complete release of our totally corrupt govt actions.

    What a hell’ve a show we are about to see.

  2. “The Assange Truth Could Prove The Most Important Exposition Of Corruption In 2400 Years”

    To Save The Republic, Assange must be given immunity, “secrets” revealed and the facts and truth obtained

    “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    “Disciples of philosophy … have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen and been satisfied of the madness of the multitude, and known that there is no one who ever acts honestly in the administration of States, nor any helper who will save any one who maintains the cause of the just. Such a savior would be like a man who has fallen among wild beasts—unable to join in the wickedness of his fellows, neither would he be able alone to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore he would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and would have to throw away his life before he had done any good to himself or others. And he reflects upon all this, and holds his peace, and does his own business. He is like one who retires under the shelter of a wall in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries along; and when he sees the rest of mankind full of wickedness, he is content if only he can live his own life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good will, with bright hopes.”

    – Plato, The Republic

  3. Glenn Greenwald tweet:

    “There are more ex FBI & CIA operatives now shaping American news for mainstream outlets than there are at Langley and the J. Edgar Hoover Headquarters combined. The dominance of security state agents in US media coverage is remarkable. It used to be covert. Now it’s not hidden:

    Weekend Edition‏

    “Julian Assange has been indicted by the Justice Department under the Espionage Act. Some think free speech is *not* an adequate defense. CNN Analyst and former FBI Special Agent @AshaRangappa_ tells us more.”

  4. Assange may be the first modern journalist to be prosecuted under this law. However, if successful, he will certainly not be the last.

    Yeah and McDonalds is no longer disclosing the number of calories in their most popular menu items. How do you say in Latin, “get a grip”?

    Violence Against Christians and the Waning of Reason

    There were more Christian martyrs in the twentieth century than in all of the previous nineteen centuries combined. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and many of their lesser-known totalitarian colleagues put millions of Christians to death for their faith in that terrible hundred- year period. One of the saddest features of the still-young twenty-first century is that this awful trend is undoubtedly continuing. By far the most persecuted religious group in the world today are Christians, and they are dying by the thousands especially in the Middle East and in Africa. Though Hindus and Buddhists have indeed been targeting Christians, their most egregious aggressors, by leaps and bounds, have been radicalized Muslims, the recent mass-killings in Sri Lanka being but the most recent example of this kind of violence. I have stated this fact simply and bluntly, because I am convinced that no solution can be found unless and until, at the very least, we speak truthfully.

    As many commentators have pointed out, the cultural and media elites in the West have been comically dissembling and obfuscating in this regard. The statements of former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the Sri Lanka bombings, which referred to the victims not as Christians or Catholics but as “Easter worshippers,” are a particularly pathetic case in point. But little better are the hundreds of editorials, opinion pieces, articles, and books that characterize these attacks as, primarily, economically and politically motivated, or the fruit of cultural resentment. I have no doubt whatsoever that all of these factors have played a role, but we are blind not to see that the chief driver of this violence has been, first and foremost, religion. Now I certainly understand it is to no one’s advantage to stir up religious tensions, especially in pluralist societies, but the denial of religion as the chief cause of these outrages is disingenuous at best, dangerously stupid at worst.

    A good deal of this is due to a theory, still stubbornly persistent among the elite commentariat in the West, that religion is (or at least ought to be) fading away. The “secularization hypothesis,” proposed from the time of Comte, Nietzsche, and Marx, is, despite significant evidence to the contrary, widely subscribed to among Western opinion-makers. On this reading, the religious is never what is “really” going on; rather, it is a super-structural cover for economics or politics or race relations or the struggle for cultural hegemony. But until we see religious disagreement as indeed what is really going on in the present violence, we aren’t going to solve the problem. Hans Kung is a theologian I rarely agree with, but he was dead right when he commented that there will be no peace among the nations until there is peace among the religions. And there will be no such peace until the religions find some common ground on which to stand, some context in which a real dialogue and conversation can take place.

    But what could possibly constitute such ground? Aren’t Christianity and Islam—to stay with the two faiths that are clashing most dramatically today—simply incommensurable and mutually exclusive systems of belief? Aren’t they based on revelations repugnant to one another? Might I suggest an answer to these questions by hearkening back to an earlier time? In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas constructed an intellectual system, cathedral like in its beauty and complexity, on the basis of both faith and reason. As he articulated the meaning of Christian revelation, he used the tools provided by the science and philosophy that were available to him. In constructing this rational edifice, he relied on pagan, Jewish, and Christian philosophers, but among the most important of his influences were philosophers and theologians of the Islamic tradition. Aquinas’ metaphysics is, quite simply, unthinkable apart from the work of Averroes, Avicenna, and Avicebron, Muslim theorists all. During the high Middle Ages, Christians and Muslims did indeed dialogue on the basis of a shared intellectual heritage, but it is precisely the waning of the influence of these great philosophic masters within Islam and the rise of a will-based, positivistic approach that has contributed mightily to the conflicts we witness today. And if we might set aside the passions roused by his admittedly awkward use of an example of a dysfunctional Christian/Muslim conversation, it would be helpful to return to the famous Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI. What the Pope was calling for in that speech was an enthusiastic retrieval of a tradition embedded deep within Christianity—namely, the use of reason, grounded in the conviction that Jesus is the incarnation, precisely of the Logos (reason) of God. As long as religion is marked primarily by will (and he was indeed critiquing contemporary radical Islam on this score), it will tend to resort to violence. And in bringing forward the Logos tradition, he was summoning Islam to return to a perhaps forgotten or underutilized dimension of its own heritage.

    Are certain Muslims attacking Christians today on religious grounds and for religious reasons? Yes. Is at least a significant part of the problem a strain of voluntarism and irrationality within Islam? Yes. What’s the way forward? If I might cite a prophet sacred to both Christianity and Islam: “Come, let us reason together.”

  5. JT cries about reporters rights but is silent on Christian genocide
    Jonathan “first world problems Turley

    Christian persecution expected to increase in 2019; believers facing ‘modern-day jihad’

    The persecution of Christians around the world is expected to increase in 2019, with a watchdog group sharing particular concern for believers in Nigeria, China, and India.

    Release International, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, said in a press release that 215 million believers face violence and discrimination for their faith.

    “In Nigeria, Fulani militants look set to continue devastating attacks against Christians in the north and central Nigeria. In the first six months of 2018 alone, they killed up to 6,000 and drove 50,000 from their homes,” the group said of the situation in the African country.

    A Release partner, who wasn’t named, said that there is a “deliberate plan to destroy and take over the predominantly Christian communities in the region.” The source added that Christians are facing a “strategic modern-day jihad.”

    In June, the Christian Association of Nigeria and church denominational heads in Plateau State said that what is happening Nigeria is “pure genocide and must be stopped immediately.”

    Watchdogs, such as the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, separately warned that the Fulani attacks on Christians should not be confused for decades-long clashes between cattle herders and farmers.

    Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman of Intersociety, told The Christian Post in August that believers have seen their churches burned down, and have been driven out en masse.

    “How many Muslim farmers are being killed by Fulani herdsmen? How many Muslim homes have been destroyed or burned? The answer is in the negative. It has nothing to do with herdsmen-farmer clashes. It is false,” Umeagbalasi told CP at the time.

    The Communist government of China was also mentioned among the highest causes for concern, with new rules on regulating religion cracking down on churches, pastors and congregations throughout the country.

    “The government wants to reduce Christianity to just a minor activity by unimportant older people,” another Release partner warned.

    In India, Release pointed to violent radical mobs that have stormed prayer meetings, ransacked churches, and beaten believers.

    “Release is providing Bibles in local languages to replace those the militants destroy and is giving vital legal aid and support to pastors who have been arrested,” the group revealed.

    Other countries of particular concern for 2019 were listed as North Korea, Eritrea, and Pakistan.

    Release’s outlook for 2019 comes in the heels of U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announcing that the British government will carry out a review of Christian persecution around the world.

    Hunt said last week that while the U.K. has long championed international religious freedom, much more can be done to help Christians in troublesome regions in the world, such as in the Middle East.

    “I am not convinced that our response to the threats facing this particular group has always matched the scale of the problem, nor taken account of the hard evidence that Christians often endure a disproportionate burden of persecution. Perhaps this is borne out of the very British sense of awkwardness at ‘doing God,’” the foreign secretary suggested.

    “Perhaps it’s an awareness of our colonial history, or because Britain is a traditionally Christian country some are fearful of being seen to help Christians in desperate need,” he added.

    “Whatever the cause, we must never allow a misguided political correctness to inhibit our response to the persecution of any religious community.”

    Hunt shared that he has appointed the Bishop of Truro, the Rt. Rev. Philip Mounstephen, to lead a global review of the persecution of Christians.

    “With Christianity on the verge of extinction in its birthplace, it is time for concerted action that begins to turn the tide,” he added, referring to Middle East Christians.

    “It is not in our national character to turn a blind eye to suffering. All religious minorities must be protected and the evidence demonstrates that in some countries, Christians face the greatest risk.”

    Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release International, welcomed the planned review.

    “We back the call for the U.K. to do more to support the suffering Church worldwide,” Robinson said.

  6. From below

    ““What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.”

  7. Somewhere downstream: TIA x 8 said the following:

    Has Daniel Ellsburg had an ordinary job at any time in the last 47 years?

    As many have said, “That Ellsberg. What a slacker.”

    You are so freakin’ full of yourself, TIA.


    Christian persecution ‘at near genocide levels’

    A statue of Virgin Mary broken in two parts at the St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade church in Colombo

    The report comes less than two weeks after bombings at three churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday

    The persecution of Christians in parts of the world is at near “genocide” levels, according to a report ordered by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

    The review, led by the Bishop of Truro the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen, estimated that one in three people suffer from religious persecution.

    Christians were the most persecuted religious group, it found.

    Mr Hunt said he felt that “political correctness” had played a part in the issue not being confronted.

    Alarm over China’s Church crackdown
    Religious persecution ‘a threat to everyone’
    Pope decries killing of Christians
    The interim report said the main impact of “genocidal acts against Christians is exodus” and that Christianity faced being “wiped out” from parts of the Middle East.

    It warned the religion “is at risk of disappearing” in some parts of the world, pointing to figures which claimed Christians in Palestine represent less than 1.5% of the population, while in Iraq they had fallen from 1.5 million before 2003 to less than 120,000.

    “Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity,” the Bishop wrote.

    Prince Charles: “It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East”
    “In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”

    The foreign secretary commissioned the review on Boxing Day 2018 amid an outcry over the treatment of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who faced death threats after being acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan.

    Sri Lanka attacks: What we know
    Who are the victims of the Sri Lanka attacks?
    London hate crime soars since NZ attacks
    Its findings come after more than 250 people were killed and more than 500 wounded in attacks at hotels and churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

    Asia BibiHandout
    Asia Bibi’s husband pleaded for asylum from the UK, US or Canada
    Mr Hunt, who is on a week-long tour of Africa, said he thought governments had been “asleep” over the persecution of Christians but that this report and the attacks in Sri Lanka had “woken everyone up with an enormous shock”.

    He added: “I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers.

    ‘Atmosphere of political correctness’

    “That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue – the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic.

    “What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.”

    In response to the report, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, said Jews had often been the targets of persecution and felt for Christians who were discriminated against on the basis of their faith.

    “Whether it is in authoritarian regimes, or bigotry masked in the mistaken guise of religion, reports like the one launched today remind us that there are many places in which Christians face appalling levels of violence, abuse and harassment,” she said.

    The review is due to publish its final findings in the summer.

    I’ll re-post a link that “bad anonymous” posted above.
    At the bottom of the page are the U.S. casualties in Vietnam listed by year.
    Ellsburg isn’t the only example of this, but there were people who didn’t raise a peep at the peak of the slaughter in the 1960s who decided to jump on the anti- war bandwagon as the U.S. was withdrawing and casualties were far lower.

    1. In “The Most Dangerous Man in America” Ellsberg expresses his deep regrets about not acting sooner. The following will perhaps shed some light…

      Secrecy and National Security Whistleblowing

      By Daniel Ellsberg (originally published in Social Research)


      But the habits and reflexes of an experienced national security bureaucrat will be strong and reliable with respect to observing the “real” rules, against revelations to potential adversaries or rivals of the policies or agency or bosses one serves: whether in other agencies (or within one’s own), or Congress, or the public. (Keeping information from foreign adversaries-the official rationale for the whole secrecy system-is actually a less salient consideration for the larger part of the classified material, especially that which is “only” top secret or lower. Since foreign states neither control the agency’s budget nor do they vote in elections or in Congress, they are not the parties who must be excluded from much of the most “sensitive” information.) .

      Thus, a readiness and ability to keep secrets reliably is a prerequisite for these highly prestigious and powerful positions in our political system. But in this area as throughout human endeavor, it is a fundamental truth that wrongful secret-keeping is the most widespread form of complicity in wrong-doing. It involves many more people both within and outside an organization that is acting wrongfully than those who give wrongful orders or who directly implement them, though it includes these.

      Since wrong-doing virtually always requires both secrecy and lies, and further secrets and lies to protect the secrets and lies, the wrongful operation-especially in a regime that approaches democracy–is commonly highly vulnerable to a breach of secrecy by any one of the many who share the secret. Yet typically in the national security field (and to a striking degree even in corporate and private associations without a formal apparatus of secrecy) even the “weakest links” do not break. No one tells.

      And this is true even as important laws are being knowingly violated, or when many lives have been and more will be harmed by ignorance of the information being withheld. Think of the many situations in which whistleblowing was either wholly absent or very belated: the internal buildup to the Vietnam and Iraq wars; the tobacco industry; Vioxx; the accounting scandals of Enron or Worldcom, with its widespread effects on retirement accounts; child abuse by Catholic priests and cover-up by bishops; NSA warrantless wiretaps and White House-directed torture and kidnapping, after 9-11.

      In each of these cases, there were many insiders aware of the abuses and danger to outsiders, indeed ultimately to the organization itself. Yet there was virtually total silence, for years, to outside authorities or the public, total lack of warning to potential victims. Careerist incentives undoubtedly explain most of this: but all of it? The extraordinary lack of any break at all in the discipline of secrecy, no matter the human stakes?

      The examples above make clear that this is not only a phenomenon of government, or of the national security bureaucracy. The following reflections derive from my own experience in that bureaucracy, where large-scale unauthorized disclosures have been very rare (the Pentagon Papers, and the recent Wikileaks releases: two cases in forty years). But they apply as well, in some degree, to any organizations or groups that effectively demand some secret-keeping as a condition of membership. That is, to nearly every human group.

        The fact remains that Ellsburg was part of the Pentagon machinery and didn’t seem to feel compelled to speak out when the U.S. was ramping up to over 500,000 men the n Vietnam and about 40,000 men were killed in action over a 3 year period on the 1960s.
        Then, as U.S. forces are being rapidly withdrawn, and casualties are way down from those peak levels, he then becomes an anti-war activist and spills tons of classified material.
        Yeah, I’d say he has reason to have “deep regrets”.

        1. About Ellsberg “spilling tons of classified material” — and its impact — this is what happened:

          It wasn’t all about the war. And there were plenty of redactions.

          “After 40 Years, Pentagon Papers Declassified In Full”

          Forty years ago, on June 13, 1971, The New York Times published portions of these documents, better known as the Pentagon Papers. On Monday, for the first time, the government released all 7,000 pages of the report with no redactions.

          Tim Naftali, director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, says there wasn’t a document that was a bombshell. “In a sense, it was the cumulative effect of seeing how the U.S. government put itself on this road to a foreign policy quagmire,” Naftali says.

          The impact of the release of the papers back in 1971 on the course of the Vietnam war has been debated. But Naftali says its impact on Nixon is more of a straight line.

          Forty years ago Monday, Nixon woke up and looked at the front page of The New York Times. The day before, his daughter had gotten married.

          “The New York Times had a picture of the president with Tricia Nixon Cox. It was on the left-hand side. And on the right-hand side there was a large headline about the release of a secret Vietnam archive,” Naftali says.

          In a phone call at around noon on June 13, Nixon spoke with Alexander Haig, assistant to the national security adviser.

          Nixon asked about casualty numbers from Vietnam, and then inquired, “Nothing else of interest in the world today?”

          “Yes, sir, very significant,” Haig responded. “This g–damned New York Times expose of the most highly classified documents of the war.”

          “Oh, that? I see,” Nixon said. “I didn’t read the story, but you mean that was leaked out of the Pentagon?”

          Nixon was clearly surprised. His relaxed tone in that conversation hardened over that day and in the days to come. The administration tried to block the Times and other papers from publishing, but the newspapers ultimately won in the Supreme Court.

          Nixon created a special White House unit, known as the Plumbers, to investigate the leak, and Naftali says their break-in at the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist was the beginning of the end for Nixon.

          “That’s where he puts himself on the road to resignation,” Naftali says, because the Plumbers were a precursor to the Watergate break-in a year later.

          [End of excerpts]

        2. ‘Yeah, I’d say he has reason to have “deep regrets”.’

          Good to know. (Critics abound. And we know about the benefits of hindsight.)

          A bit more about the timeline:

          Driven “by an urgent sense that [President] Nixon was about to escalate the war,” Ellsberg gave the documents (known as the Pentagon Papers) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1969 and, two years later, to the New York Times, Washington Post, and 17 other newspapers.

          He explained that he did this in order “to reveal patterns of official deception.”

          1. Anyone can look at the American troops levels and casualties by year to see if Ellsberg’s concern that “Nixon was about to escalate the war” was valid.
            The drop in both American troops and casualties from the time Nixon took office in 1969 to the 1971 levels is obvious.
            Actions of those like Ellsberg, or Hanoi Jane, or John Kerry seemed to be driven more by a concern that South Vietnam might survive than anything else.

            1. “Ellsberg gave the documents (known as the Pentagon Papers) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1969.”

              Fact-check that.

              1. Sen. Fullbright was one of those approached by Ellsberg.
                Fullbright, as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was instrumental in ramming through the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964.
                With virtually no dissent from Congress.
                He got the reputation as an early opponent of LBJ’s massive escalation after he helped to give Johnson a blank check.

            2. It’s true, as mentioned elsewhere in this thread, that the theft and release of the Pentagon Papers resulted in the start of the plumbers unit.
              At the time (1971) Nixon had withdrawn most of the American troops……the U.S., at that point, probably had c.50,000 troops there as opposed to c.550,000 when Nixon took office in 1969.
              U.S. casualties were also a fraction .of what they had be at the height of American involvement in the 1960s.
              We had been negotiating with the North Vietnamese, off and on, for a few years at that point.
              There was a chance that South Vietnam could survive with continued, and relatively minor, U.S. assistance.
              It’s not as if the actions of Ellsberg (and John Kerry, who launched his political career with Congressional testimony at about the same time in 1971) came too late in the war to have an impact.
              An administration attempting to keep South Vietnam out of Communist hands while withdrawing most of U.S. troops, and negotiating for a peace settlement at the same time, found these goals complicated by people like Ellsberg and Kerry.
              At that stage of the war, I don’t think either one would have been satisfied with total U.S. withdrawal if it was done in a way that allowed South Vietnam to survive.
              They were not alone, of course. Others like Hanoi Jane did her part, too

    2. Say/think what you will about Ellsberg; it’s always easy to judge…especially decades down the road.

      Consider this though:

      “The consequences of Mr. Ellsberg’s leak reverberated well beyond the court, too.

      “Furious about the publication of the Pentagon Papers, Mr. Nixon created a team of “plumbers” to prevent similar leaks in the future. The next year, the team broke into the Watergate offices of the Democratic Party, setting off a scandal that would end with the president’s resignation.”



    I have been commenting on the blog for about 18 months. From the very start I was accused of being a ‘paid troll for David Brock’. That accusation has been repeated on an almost daily basis since my first post.

    Ironically I didn’t know Brock’s name at first! I was familiar with Media Matters but not the Brock name. What’s more I honestly question if Brock really funds ‘paid trolls’ to monitor comment threads. One struggles to imagine funding is needed for that.

    But this ‘paid troll’ narrative appeals to conservatives. Especially Trump supporters who view the world through conspiracies. Trumpers can’t believe that liberals are capable of making credible arguments. ‘So any liberal who sounds ‘halfway’ credible must be a paid troll’.

    And again it’s ironic. Because I strongly suspect the commenters making these accusations enjoy Special Status on this thread. Like they know they can write any abusive comment ‘without’ getting blocked by the moderator.

    But liberals on this blog understand that a debate on abortion, for instance, can easily get us blocked. Merely by rejecting the label of ‘murderer’ we risk getting blocked. Debates on gun rights are another. Us liberals could be blocked for making credible arguments.

    Does that mean I think the moderator is a ‘creep’ as I once suggested? Not necessarily. I have come to believe our Moderator must play politics. Professor Turley must play politics. Conservative commenters here could include the Lieutenants of Political Non-Profits.

    They might be the ‘real professionals’ regarding comment threads. And they could work for ‘Charities’ dear to Republicans. Folks Professor Turley has to play nice with. So Professor Turley tells our Moderator to play nice with these commenters.

    This may explain why certain commenters can write stupid, abusive comments several times per day. While labeling the liberals ‘murderers’ and ‘trolls’. These far-right commenters are linked to proxy groups. Folks Professor Turley sees at ‘power gatherings’.

    1. It’s “appeal to conservatives” may stem from the repeated use of words and phrases like “right wing media bubble”, or “Fox News” , or “Hannity”, etc. that appeal to liberal simpletons.

      1. Yeah Tom, fortunately the righties on this board don’t constantly refer to the MSM, WaPo, NYT’s, etc and so your criticism is not the brainless mind numbing partisanship it appears to be on 1st glance.

        It’s worse.

        1. When I have referred to those sources and linked them, I often get reasons from the left-wing media bubble crowd that the publication or network is flawed, or that it’s not appropriate for a conservative to use those sources.
          Those are both extremely stupid observations.
          You can also go back and see how many times I’ve used Fox News as a sources v. publications like the ones you mentioned.
          I’ve also noticed that some who complain about right wing bias of Fix will turn around and repeatedly use sources like Axios, or the intercept, or ShareBlue, the Atlantic, or any number sources with a clear left- wing bias.
          And they are too dense to see the irony in that.

          1. Tom fails – for obvious reasons – to acknowledge the symmetrical and constant refrain here from righties on the “MSM”. That makes his complaint invalid and based on pure partisanship, not principle.

            1. There is an unusually high volume of the mention of Fox News in these threads, and the vast majority of those come from those in the right wing media bubble.
              As far as Jan F/ Anon’s comment about pure partisanship, it shows that Jan.F/ Anon has a sense of humor. Changing usernames here or using sockpuppets does not conceal the hyper-spin partisanship of Jan F/ Anon.

    2. Trumpers can’t believe that liberals are capable of making credible arguments.

      Pro-tip: You might try dispelling us of that ‘illusion’ by making defensible arguments.

      1. Tabby, you’ve been blocked enough that you’re in the clear. You’re not linked to any Proxy Group. But commenters who post much stupider things than you never seem to get blocked. That strikes me as odd.

        1. Peter don’t confuse the computer program that has probably blocked everyone at one time or another with actual human intervention which if it occurs (there are reasons for that to happen) seems to be seldomly used. For the past month or so my details had to be rewritten each time I posted so I had a generic icon that suddenly corrected itself. I have had to add a “.” after my name, change my address and/or add extra words to a posting that was blocked in order to get it posted. That is a sign of a computer program, not a human.

          1. Peter, I should add that I think you are being a bit paranoid though I believe blocking might occur. I am willing to be that you have not been blocked by the moderator though it sounds like you think you were. These are typical computer gliches though one can never be entirely sure.

            By the way I am always waiting for credible arguments from you which are few and far apart. If one fights against infanticide then it would not be wrong to state that they are supporting murderers or are murderers themselves.

            1. Recent CBS Poll On Abortion.

              More than 50% of Americans support some form of legal abortion. While less than 30% wants a total ban.

              This poll is fairly typical of most seen on the issue. Total abortion bans have never polled above 30% since Roe Vs Wade.

              Do Polls Like This Suggest Most Americans Support Infanticide?

              Of Course Not! People using ‘infanticide’ wield it as a political weapon; labeling as ‘murderers’ more than half of the country! It’s scorched earth politics in an almost literal sense.


              1. Peter, the spectrum on abortion is pretty wide and there are good arguments on all sides for most portions of the spectrum. Northam’s statement was one that did not take issue with infanticide thus seemingly agreeing with it and numerous others have been heard to say similar things. The left was foolish in not creating a line that stopped at late term abortion. Instead many acted in denial and some approved.

                Look at your own question Peter: “Do Polls Like This Suggest Most Americans Support Infanticide?”

                Focus on the word most. That means even in this question you recognize that infantiide is an issue and is supported not by MOST but by SOME. That means SOME support murder if they aren’t murderers themselves.

                Abortion will not disappear. It didn’t even disappear where it wasn’t legal. Drinking alcohol didn’t end with alcohol being made illegal. Society cannot force all its members to comply with rules that are heavily disputed. Therefore, unless society changes some compromise has to be made (right or wrong). I don’t think the Supreme Court was the place to mke such a decision but it was made. Did that solve the problem? No.

  11. Ellsberg was in the Marine Corp in the mid-1950s. I don’t I know if he was ever sent overseas…….we had a very small presence in Vietnam of maybe 500-1000 American military personnel during the Eisenhower Administration.
    Prior to 1959, there were no Americans killed in action.

    1. In addition, Eisenhower was president during the start of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, the names of the fallen begin with Air Force T-Sgt. Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr., with a casualty date of June 8, 1956. The number of casualties in Vietnam remained much smaller than the number during the final part of the Korean War. The first battlefield fatality came in late 1961, almost one year into the Kennedy Administration.

        1. Vehicle accidents, plane/ helicopter crashes, accidental discharge of weapons, etc. are all examples of non- combat related casualties.
          So there may have been American servicemen deaths before the first combat- related death, listed as 1961.

          1. I understand. I should have clarified… Thanks.

            His extended bio says this:


            In 1953, I volunteered to enter the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidates program, having been granted deferments earlier for my studies. I spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, 1954-57, serving as rifle platoon leader, operations officer, and rifle company commander, including six months with the Sixth Fleet during the Suez Crisis, for which I had extended my tour of duty.

            From 1957-59 I was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows, Harvard University, which provides three-year fellowships for independent graduate study. Later, while at the RAND Corporation, I earned my Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard in 1962…

            Later, he says:

            Unfortunately, by decisions of President Johnson and McNamara, these plans were carried out in the spring of 1965. With my country at war, I then volunteered to serve in Vietnam, transferring to the State Department in mid-1965.

            Based at the Embassy in Saigon, I worked under retired General Edward Lansdale and later Deputy Ambassador William Porter, evaluating pacification on the front lines throughout South Vietnam. I relied on my Marine training to see the hopeless war close up, walking with troops in combat. After contracting hepatitis, probably on one of these operations in the rice paddies, I left Vietnam in June 1967.

            He continues:

            Writing this retrospective summary has made me unusually aware of how much of a piece my professional life has been with respect to my several ongoing concerns, as they extend into the present and future. That really begins fifty-five years ago, with my academic work on decision-making under uncertainty. Even my years in the Marine Corps played their part, re-directing my intellectual interest in decision theory toward questions of national security. That led me to the RAND Corporation and the Defense Department, where I became aware of the dangers of our nuclear posture in concrete, terrifying detail known to very few other civilians, including even high-level officials and dedicated anti-nuclear activists. And it led me to Vietnam.

            He closes with this:

            There has never been a greater need for such civil courage in our citizenry and officials. Will it, can it be evoked in time? To have a basis for hope, we must speak and act as if it can. That is what my life and work are about.

    2. Correct.

      Thanks for correcting my mistake, down-thread, when I said that he’d been a platoon leader in Vietnam.

    3. He was evidently in Vietnam long before Sen. Blumenthal was there.

        Evidently, in the mid-1960s Ellsburg was there as State Dept. official. That would have been about 10 years after his Marine Corp stint.
        At the time that the Pentagon Papers were published in 1971, U.S. troop levels in Vietnam were a fraction of what they were under President Johnson.
        As were American casualties. In 1964, Ellsberg was in a position at the Pentagon where he actually saw the questionable cables coming in related to the Gulf of Tonkin incidents.
        If he was there in the mid-1960s as a State Dept. official, he likely got a good picture of what was going ilon over there.
        But he waits until 1971, as the war is winding down, to hand over the Pentagon Papers.

  12. They should not prosecute Assange for publishing information. If they try they will fail. If they claim he aided and abetted actual theft, then they’d better be able to prove it.

    Releasing names of sources was irresponsible, and may lead to real damage. People can be killed who are made, in some circumstances. You cannot count on people doing the decent thing.

    Illegality is another matter.

    There were channels in place for whistleblowers. One of the aspects of this case that intrigues me is if information is revealed that supports their claim that such channels were not open to them.

    The light of day can be cleansing.

  13. “Daniel Ellsberg on Chelsea Manning | A Hero’s Hero: The Courage We Need”

  14. The year 2019: the year America went South and by South I mean back to the age of slavery.

  15. Let’s hope that Assange is not extradited; I hope the U.S. never gets its hands on him — though it likely will.

    Let’s also hope that Assange survives.

    1. It’ll be up to the British. After Assange finishes his prison sentence to there, it might be extradicted to Sweden, instead, to face the rape charges.

        1. Yes. And then Sweden could extradite him, which was Assange’s fear all along.

          Sweden doesn’t extradite in certain cases, which is true of the UK as well, as I understand it.

          “Extradition may not be granted for military or political offences. Nor may extradition be granted if there is reason to fear that the person whose extradition is requested runs a risk – on account of his or her ethnic origins, membership of a particular social group or religious or political beliefs – of being subjected to persecution threatening his or her life or freedom, or is serious in some other respect. Nor, moreover, may extradition be granted if it would be contrary to fundamental humanitarian principles, e.g. in consideration of a person’s youth or the state of this person’s health. “

  16. To even think for one second that Assange is just a honest whistleblower trying to right a wrong then you have to know he whistles only, if and when he wants too. Assange knows true independent investigated journalism is dead, the 6 corporate conglomerates that own over 90% of all media in this country do not want or need it. Assange and his type of selected “Leaks” is more a business model than journalism. Besides we have a authoritarian President that wants state controlled media only when it suits him and him only, but I digress. The point being, if we as a nation really had true freedom of the press, then we wouldn’t need Assange, or corporate controlled media that pretends to be journalism.

    1. The initial indictment involves events surrounding the Wikileaks Iraq war document dump — which embarrassed a Republican administration. The big hullabaloo lately involves a document dump that supposedly hurt a Democrat and helped Trump. How is this “selective”?

    2. FW, Assange is a publisher/journalist who has published information which courageous whistleblowers have given him. In the case of Manning, she asked the MSM to publish the information of USG war crimes and they refused to do so. It was only after wikileaks published that information that they began to publish it as well.

      Further, wikileaks has a 100% accurachy rate of their publications. Really, they are considered such a pristine source of information that their info has been used in courts of law. The MSM has knowingly published lies in order to pump up wars (NYTimes is egregious in this matter, as is The Guardian and WaPo. They will not, in many cases, retract those lies and correct the deliberate lies. So, truly there is a big difference in how MSM outlets publish and how wikileaks publishes.

      1. “Further, wikileaks has a 100% accurachy rate of their publications.”

        Doubting the accuracy of Wikileaks is not part of the claim esepcially since the information was released off of US government computers. Manning committed treason (I don’t know if that would be considered the correct word) and it appears that Assange helped him with passwords and other things so that Assange can be found guilty of the same thing.

        This is not a whistle blower event committed by Manning. He should still be in jail and still be a he.

        1. Daniel Ellsberg Calls Chelsea Manning “an American Hero”

          “Like Ellsberg’s disclosures, Manning’s revelations actually saved lives. “After WikiLeaks published [her] documentation of Iraqi torture centers established by the United States, the Iraqi government refused Obama’s request to extend immunity to U.S. soldiers who commit criminal and civil offenses there. As a result, Obama had to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq,” I wrote in 2013.

          ‘“Manning knowingly risked her freedom then for truth-telling and actually suffered seven-and-a-half years in prison. I regard her as an American hero, and I admire her for what she is doing, risking and enduring right now,” Ellsberg said. No one understands better than he does.’

          “Bradley Manning’s Revelations Saved Lives”

          By Marjorie Cohn, Contributor July 30, 2013, at 6:11 p.m.

          Marjorie Cohn, Contributor
          Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law

          1. Has Daniel Ellsburg had an ordinary job at any time in the last 47 years?

            1. When he was young, Ellsberg was a platoon leader in Vietnam. You? (We know the answer.)


              Ellsberg graduates from Harvard University summa cum laude and receives a fellowship to study economics at Cambridge.

              1954 Ellsberg voluntarily enters the U.S. Marine Corps and serves as a platoon leader. He then resumes his graduate studies at Harvard, where he earns his Ph.D.

              1950 Specializing in crisis decision-making and the command and control of nuclear weapons, Ellsberg is hired as a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation, a California think-tank.

              While at RAND, Ellsberg consults with the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during the Kennedy administration. Ellsberg visits South Vietnam with a research team to examine problems with non-nuclear, limited warfare.

              August 1964 Ellsberg starts working for the Defense Department as assistant to John McNaughton (assistant secretary of defense and a close advisor to McNamara).

              Refer to the linked posting for more of the timeline.

              …and then things began to come undone — something that Absurd x ? could never begin to understand. Being a whistleblower has a way of changing the course of one’s life and nothing is ever “normal” again.

              You pompous a$$.

              1. Correction:

                When he was young, Ellsberg was a platoon leader the U.S. Marines. You?

                …all the rest of it.

                And I stand by this:

                You pompous a$$.

                1. More about Ellsberg:

                  ” In 1954, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and earned a commission.[3] He served as a platoon leader and company commander in the 2nd Marine Division, and was discharged in 1957 as a first lieutenant.” [Wikipedia]

                  He was also a “company commander” apparently.

                  We know, according to Kissinger, that he was once “the most dangerous man in America.”

                  “The Most Dangerous Man in America”


                  After The New York Times became the first newspaper to begin publishing “The Pentagon Papers” on June 13, 1971, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger told his staff that Ellsberg was “the most dangerous man in America who must be stopped at all costs.”

                  With a photo: “Daniel Ellsberg in Vietnam as seen in The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Photo courtesy of Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg.”

                  I’d trust him to watch my back.

          2. “Daniel Ellsberg Calls Chelsea Manning “an American Hero””

            So? Next thing you will be telling us is that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were heros.

            1. Ellen Schrecker described then as purveyors of ‘non-traditional patriotism’. Schrecker served a term as president of the Organization of American Historians about a dozen years back. It all makes you wanna holler.

                1. Schrecker is a Harvard graduate and a professor at Yeshiva University. Her statement about communists spies: “internationalists whose political allegiances transcended national borders” and of the Rosenbergs: ““non-traditional patriotism”. In other words patriotism to our enemies like Stalin. You, anonymous might find a deep friendship with her.

                  She is a typical left wing academic whose real world experience comes from picking lint out of her navel.

    3. Fishwings, I half-agree with your comment here. But this statistic that ‘6 corporate conglomerates own over 90% of the media’ is somewhat misleading. That statistic applies primarily to broadcast media. Of the 700 channels one might get on a typical Cable TV system, about 90% are owned by the same 6 companies. Radio as well is now controlled by a limited group of key players.

      But if one considers the news media, including magazines and newspapers, there is still some diversity of ownership. The New York Times and Washington Post, for instance, are owned by rich-but-independent entities. PBS and NPR are still independent of the major broadcasters. Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, New York Magazine and The New Yorker are still independent of those 6 conglomerates. So it’s not like a few giants are deciding what is really news. For ‘now’ at least there remains some diversity of ownership.

  17. No that indictment did not involve helping a source do hacking. That was a headline released by the DOJ but it was not what is written in the indictment. It was very effective propaganda though, as that is still what most people believe is in that indictment. This concerned many reporters as they do the very same thing alleged in the first indictment. The current indictment under the espionage act gives universal ownership of USG “laws” over every nation. It will stifle dissent in the US of journalists, whisteblowers and critics of the govt. It will allow other nations, such as BoneSaw arabia to come and take our journalists for prosecution and beheading for revealing S.A. state secrets. In other words, this is mass repression with death for disobedience.

    1. The initial indictment charges Assange with computer hacking and nothing more. It carries a sentence of about 5 months.

      1. SteveJ, This is incorrect. I urge reading that indictment. Of course, anyone who knew USGinc. knew that would not be the final indictment. The current indictment is incredibly dangerous for freedom of speech of every person around the world. This indictment has been in the works for years and now is the time we must make our choice-do we side with injustice or do we uphold our own Constitution. This calls for an actual resistance to unjust authority and will require great courage to oppose as it is a profound curtailment of our rights. This govt. means to end the first amendment and to oppose exposure of its wrongdoing and to end opposition to it.

          1. JT’s remarks about the first indictment:


            Rather than exploring reasons and effort to reveal controversial intelligence operations, Assange could be forced to confine his defence to the more mundane charge of “computer intrusion”.

            Yet, the indictment is conspicuously thin on the evidence of that role. The government alleges that Manning gave “a portion” of a password “to crack” which “was stored as a ‘hash value’ in a computer file that was accessible only by users with administrative-level privileges”.

            However, the government then says not that Assange arranged to crack the code but only that “cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log onto the computers under a username that did not belong to her”.

            Such a measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to identify Manning as the source of disclosures of classified information.

        1. Well let’s just say that you and I have concerns about the Barr indictments and leave it at that.

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