Beyond Orwell: Ellsberg, Greenwald, Drake, Rowley, Radack and McGovern panel at Georgetown, April 22, 2014 - transcript
SURVEILLANCE, SECRETS AND WHISTLEBLOWING IN THE SECURITY STATE
Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice
April 22, 2014 – Gaston Hall – Georgetown University
Daniel Ellsberg, Keynote
Co-founder, Freedom of the Press Foundation
Glenn Greenwald, by video
Investigative reporter, The Intercept
Anthony Arnove, Moderator
Editor, author, and co-producer, Dirty Wars
Former senior NSA executive and current whistleblower
Retired CIA analyst turned political activist
Founder, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Former ethics advisor to the U.S. Department of Justice and whistleblower
National security and human rights attorney
Director, National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project
Former FBI agent and whistleblower
Glenn Greenwald video address
Anthony Arnove, moderator
CAROLYN FORCHÉ: I’m Carolyn Forché and I’m the Director of Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University, and I welcome you tonight to Lannan Center’s Matters of Urgency event, “Beyond Orwell: Surveillance, Secrets and Whistleblowing in the Security State.”
Our discussion convenes a gathering of men and women who acted upon their principles and in the light of conscience to bring information vital to the health of a democratic republic to the attention of her citizenry.
Our program begins with a video address to the Georgetown University community by journalist Glenn Greenwald, who published a series of reports in the Guardian newspaper based on documents shared with him by Edward Snowden.
Daniel Ellsberg, former United States military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, will then give our keynote address and will be joined on stage by Tom Drake, former NSA executive and current whistleblower who has reported on waste, fraud, abuse, and violations of the Fourth Amendment; Jesselyn Radack, former ethics adviser to the United States Department of Justice who turned whistleblower and revealed that the FBI had behaved unethically in interrogating John Walker Lindh, who was called the American Taliban, captured in 2001 in Afghanistan; Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst who received the Intelligence Commendation Medal, which he returned in 2006 in protest of the CIA’s involvement in torture; and Coleen Rowley, noted for her work documenting how FBI headquarters personnel in Washington, D.C., failed to take action on information that rendered the United States vulnerable to the September 11th attacks. The discussion will be moderated by Anthony Arnove, author and co-producer of the film Dirty Wars, about the war in Iraq, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2013. Fuller biographies are available of our speakers in your program if you’d like to consult them.
We’d like to offer our deep gratitude to Patrick Lannan and Lannan Foundation for making this event and all else we do at Lannan Center possible. We also would like to thank our co-sponsors for their support, resources and encouragement, the Georgetown Lecture Fund, the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and in particular Professor Jonathan Brown, the GUSA Fund, the Department of Government, the Program on Justice and Peace, the Student Lecture Fund, the Department of History at American University, Project Censored, and the Media Freedom Foundation.
I would like to open our evening with this from Edward Snowden. “Every person remembers some moment in their life where they witnessed some injustice, big or small, and looked away because the consequences of intervening seemed too intimidating. But there’s a limit to the amount of incivility and inequality and inhumanity that each individual can tolerate. I crossed that line and I’m no longer alone.”
You’ll now see the address of Glenn Greenwald.
GLENN GREENWALD, by video: Hello, everyone, and thank you very much for coming today, and thank you so much to the conference organizers for inviting me to speak. It’s always great to participate in any event at Georgetown, and I’m particularly honored to be speaking to you before you’ll hear from one of my longest and most important political heroes, Daniel Ellsberg.
It’s really kind of remarkable to me to think about how we think now about what Daniel Ellsberg has done in light of how we think about more contemporary examples that are really quite similar. One of the reasons why Daniel Ellsberg became my political hero is because I remember when I was growing up, and sort of 9, 10, 11, 12 years old, I became obsessed with things like All the President’s Men and the entire Nixon era, and the fact that there was somebody who stood in such a brave and dissident posture to the prevailing orthodoxies of that time, and who did so by sacrificing all of his liberty, was always something that was so remarkable to me and had this great allure to me, even when I was too young to understand exactly what made it so significant.
And one of the things that I think we don’t fully appreciate about Daniel Ellsberg is that he came extremely close to spending the rest of his life in prison. I think there’s almost no question, and I bet you that he himself would agree, that if he were to do what he did back then now, he probably would spend the rest of his life in prison. I think it’s inconceivable to imagine an American court in the post-9/11 era dismissing an indictment, a criminal indictment, which it otherwise views as valid, because of wrongdoing on the part of the executive branch. Perhaps if you stretch the contours of your imagination, you could envision a federal court speaking critically of some action taken by the president. Even that, just uttering criticism of the president, is almost impossible to imagine, given how incredibly subservient the U.S. judiciary has become in the post-9/11 era, but it’s impossible to see, to envision that criticism, even if it were to happen, translating into the dismissal of charges against somebody who has been accused by the U.S. government of endangering American national security and engaging in espionage, and I think if Daniel Ellsberg had done what he did in 2011 or 2001 rather than 1971, he would certainly have spent his life in prison, and that’s what makes his sacrifice so incredibly remarkable, that he brought information that he believed in his good conscience the public should know, even knowing it might send him to prison forever.
And what I find really fascinating to do, and I’ve done this a lot actually in the past 10 months, is to understand what actually was said about Daniel Ellsberg, not now when it’s easy to praise him, but back in 1971 and 1972, and I’ve been able to do this in part because I’ve had the great fortune of becoming friends with Daniel Ellsberg. I sit on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation with him and so he’s my colleague as well, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak to him a lot about that time period, but you can just go back and look through Google and other research means as I’ve done as well to what was being said contemporaneously about the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, and it’s radically different from what is said now. At the time he was widely vilified as somebody who had recklessly violated his oath, who had broken the law and committed felonies, who had put the men of the American military, and to a far lesser extent than now the women of the American military, in harm’s way, and was even accused, continuously, by people by John Ehrlichman and others, of being a Russian spy, of being an agent for the Kremlin. Essentially everything that is said now about Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers was said virtually down to the letter of the script about Daniel Ellsberg 40 years ago. And history has vindicated Daniel Ellsberg in such a way that almost nobody is willing to stand up in public any longer and contest the fact that what he did was noble and heroic.
It’s really remarkable, given how much vindication he has received, and I know this because when I engage in debates about Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning and I invoke Daniel Ellsberg and what he did, and mention the fact that he has become their most ardent advocate – he has lavished praise on both Manning and Snowden, calling them heroes and saying he waited 40 years for someone to be brave enough to do what they did – nobody responds to that, including the most aggressive NSA defenders, by saying, “Well, I don’t agree with you that what Daniel Ellsberg did either is heroic and noble.” Everybody has to accept that premise because it’s become orthodoxy that what he did was justified, and they try instead to distinguish what Ellsberg did from what Snowden and Manning did. Something that’s made very difficult, a task that’s very difficult, by the fact that Ellsberg himself says the acts are identical.
But it wasn’t that way at the time, and I think that the reason for that is that when a whistleblower comes forward and brings transparency to the most powerful factions, which is what whistleblowers do, the nature of a faction being powerful is that it has extremely influential defenders and loyalists and apologists, and the function of those defenders and apologists and spokespeople, whether they’re working directly for the government or parading around and masquerading as journalists, or simply people who are devoted to the party in power, is that they not only defend those who wield power but they attack and try and demonize anybody who challenges or threatens to undermine the people who wield that power, and that’s why whistleblowers are instantly attacked and demonized the way that Daniel Ellsberg was back then.
Once enough time passes, the incentive to demonize that person dissipates, because the people whom it undermine no longer wield power, and then we can all acknowledge and admit that what that person did was actually courageous and heroic and noble. And I have zero doubt, zero, that 30 years from now, when nobody has an interest in devoting themselves to defending Barack Obama and his top-level national security officials, or prior to him defending George Bush and his top national security officials, because they no longer wield power and they’re historic figures of the past, that the acts of the whistleblowers of our generation, most notably Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, but others who have been persecuted quite harshly for far more restrained acts, such as Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack and others, will be regarded exactly as Daniel Ellsberg’s acts, which is as an act of nobility and self-sacrifice in pursuit of legitimate goals of transparency and accountability.
I want to talk a little bit about why whistleblowing of the type engaged in by Ellsberg 40 years ago, and then Manning and Snowden today, are justifiable. Because sometimes people will say, in fact often people will say who want to criticize the acts of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and other whistleblowers, nobody likes to stand up in public and say, “I am opposed to transparency,” or “I am against whistleblowers.” Nobody ever wants to say that. They like to pretend that they’re actually in favor of transparency and defenders of whistleblowers, even if they want to attack all the people who bring transparency and engage in whistleblowing. And so the tactic that they use is they pretend that they favor whistleblowing when done in a more responsible manner, that there are systems within the government that are set up to accommodate whistleblowers, that if you are working inside the government and discover that something has been done that’s wrong there are responsible ways to bring this to the attention of overseers or courts or the public without simply running to journalists and handing over large amounts of information that the government has said should be kept secret.
And the reason why that’s I think such a deceitful and damaging proposition is grounded in the nature of what transparency was supposed to do. If you go back and read just the basic writings of the American founders, which I think we don’t do nearly enough of, what we find is of course that the central project of the founders was to figure out a way out of their dilemma. Their dilemma was that they wanted to create a new centralized government that would exercise great power, all the power that you need to vest in a government for it to be a functioning government, the power to raise taxes, to assemble a military, to pass laws, to put people in cages, to take their property, to do all the things a government necessarily has to have the power to do to be a properly functioning government, but the question was, how do you create an institution that vests human beings with all those powers without replicating all of the abuse of power that they had just waged this incredibly risky and difficult war to free themselves from?
And their central answer, of course, was that power can be reasonably exercised, that we can trust human beings to exercise that kind of power, only if there are very robust checks and limits on how that power is exercised. And they created various institutions that were designed to check the exercise of that power to ensure that those abuses were difficult.
And one of the primary tools that these institutions were supposed to have was the power of transparency, based in the understanding that human beings were willing to abuse their power, or at least far more willing to abuse their power if they could do so in the dark without anyone knowing than they would if the light was shown on what it was that they were doing. And the problem is is that the institutions that were created and protected to bring transparency and to limit that abuse of power are the very institutions that have most radically failed, especially in the post-9/11 era. So you have Congress that instead of bringing transparency and imposing checks on what the intelligence community and the military are doing, have done everything to shield those activities from scrutiny, have done everything to legitimize and endorse their abuses. You have the American media that instead of being an adversarial check on that power and investigating it, have become its greatest cheerleaders, the ones who lead the way calling for those who bring transparency. You have the court system, which in my view has been the most shamefully failed in the post-9/11 era, the institution that was supposed to protect basic rights and ensure transparency even when doing so was most politically unpopular, which is why they were shielded with life tenure, that has become as subservient to the U.S. government, especially when it claims that there’s national security at stake, as any institution we’ve ever seen. And so all of these institutions haven’t just failed in their function to impose checks and accountability through transparency, they’ve done the opposite. They’ve actually emboldened and strengthened and enabled the regime of secrecy that enables this systematic abuse of power.
And so one of the very few ways, in fact I would argue the principal way, that we have learned about government abuses over the last decade, whether it be the abuses at Abu Ghraib or at Guantanamo or in the rendition program or in the torture program or through NSA warrantless eavesdropping or through the “collect it all” NSA regime, has been not through any of these institutions that were designed to provide checks, but has been through people of conscience in the government who could not allow this information to remain secret any longer, and against the mandates of the law, but in accordance with their own oath to the Constitution and their conscience, have decided to risk their own liberty to bring this information to light and make sure the public learns about it. It’s really the sole avenue that we have left to enable there to be meaningful checks on those who wield the greatest power.
And that’s precisely why we have seen what I think everybody across the political spectrum recognizes is this unprecedented war on whistleblowers. The fact that they have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act in greater numbers than all previous administrations combined, under the Obama administration, that there has been this chill, this fear that has been deliberately imposed on the source-journalist relationship to prevent this kind of disclosure from taking place, precisely because it’s one of the few if not the only effective avenue remaining for understanding what the government is doing and for imposing limits on those in power, and the way that you know that it’s one of the few effective means is the fact that it’s being so vindictively and aggressively attacked, and that’s the reason that it is.
And so this idea that Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning could have brought their materials to people in Congress and obtained accountability that way is simply misleading on its face. And one great way to see that is to look at the actions of even those powerful senators who sit on the intelligence committee who have been critics of the NSA, namely Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, two Democratic senators on the intelligence committee who knew about all of these NSA abuses, who understood that they were dangerous, who wanted the American public to learn about them, who actually ran around the country for three years winking and hinting and doing everything they can to imply and suggest that something was very awry in the U.S. surveillance state. They were saying things like the Obama administration is interpreting the Patriot Act in ways that are so radical that Americans would, quote, “be stunned” to learn about what it was that was being done under these theories. And yet Americans didn’t learn about what was being done because Mark Udall and Ron Wyden lacked the courage to do what they should have done, which is gone to the floor of the Senate and invoked the immunity that the Constitution gives them and revealed this information. They were too interested in keeping their power and prestige within official Washington and so they hinted and winked that these things should be disclosed but they took no steps to disclose it themselves. It took Edward Snowden to come forward to journalists and with great risk to himself reveal this information because he saw that most of the entities that exist within the government that are supposedly designed to enable whistleblowers to bring incriminating information to the public are actually designed to do the opposite, which is to stifle it and muffle it and to make sure it doesn’t see the light of day, and saw that even the very few political officials who do view these programs as menacing were limited and constrained by both the law and their own cowardice to bring it to light. And so the only choice that he had for bringing these things to light is exactly what it is that he did, which is meeting with journalists who he knew had reported aggressively and would then publicly disclose it, and that’s what makes the act of whistleblowing so remarkable.
I think in general what that really underscores is that there has been a climate of fear deliberately created by the United States government to prevent exactly the transparency and accountability and checks and limits that the founders understood was so central to a healthy and functioning republic. You don’t need to have a government that rounds up thousands or even hundreds of journalists and puts them in prison if you have just a handful of cases where journalists are clearly being threatened with criminal prosecution for the reporting that they’ve done. One of America’s greatest investigative journalists, Jim Risen, who exposed the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program in 2006 and reported on a whole variety of other systemic abuses within the American intelligence community, is being threatened with prison right now because of the reporting that he did and his refusal to tell the U.S. government who his sources are. The journalists who have worked on the Snowden revelations, including myself, have been repeatedly called criminals, not by fringe figures like Peter King only but by the top national security officials in the U.S. government including James Clapper and Mike Rogers and Keith Alexander.
And the point of this is to make certain that journalists face the same mindset as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are supposed to look at the string of people who have been prosecuted, at what was done to Chelsea Manning, a 35-year prison term, being forced to stand naked in her jail cell, abused and subjected to treatment that the UN found was inhumane and cruel, as a way of telling whistleblowers, “If you are going to think in the future about disclosing what it is that we’ve done in the dark that was incriminating, think twice, look at what it is that we’ve done to all of these other whistleblowers." That too is what they’re trying to do now to journalists, to say, “If you want to report on things that we’ve done, that we have formally said should remain a secret, look at how we’re able to threaten even somebody like Jim Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter with the New York Times, or these other journalists in the Snowden case, look at how we can threaten them with prison, put them in fear of what it is that we can do to them, and you too should think twice, at least in the back of your minds, about whether or not this is what you want to do." They’re relying on a climate of fear, the same climate of fear that was established by dressing people up in orange jumpsuits and putting them in shackles and putting them on an island in the middle of an ocean thousands of miles from their home and imprisoning them for over a decade without trials, or torturing people. All of this is a way of sending a signal that we the U.S. government can operate without any accountability, without limits on what it is that we can do to those who challenge us.
And I think one of the central purposes, the goals of the reporting we’ve done in the Snowden case, has been to defy that climate of fear, to say that there are certain rights that we have under the Constitution, a right to a free press, a right to free speech, a right not to be imprisoned without due process, a right to have transparency and accountability for our highest political officials, that we’re going to insist upon even in the face of your threats. And it’s one of the reasons why I have great optimism, despite all of these trends to increase the powers of secrecy, to punish whistleblowers and journalists, to erode civil liberties, is because there are so many people who are increasingly devoted to the idea that these basic rights need to be defended. And I think conferences like this where we gather and we talk about the importance of civil liberties and privacy, the threats posed by secrecy, hearing from people like Daniel Ellsberg who have lived and led by example, are so vital, because I do think that the more people who get emboldened about defending these core liberties and the need for transparency and accountability, the harder it is for these abuses to continue unchecked. So, with that, I thank you again for convening this conference, for inviting me here to speak, and for attending as well. Thanks very much.
CAROLYN FORCHÉ: I’d like to introduce my colleague and friend, Peter Kuznick, who worked with me to organize tonight’s event, and he will introduce Daniel Ellsberg. As director of American University’s award-winning Nuclear Studies Institute, Peter Kuznick spearheaded the Committee for a National Discussion of Nuclear History and Current Policy, and co-founded the Nuclear Education Project. Peter Kuznick, who has written several books, most recently co-authored with filmmaker Oliver Stone the book and 10-part Showtime documentary film series, The Untold History of the United States. Peter Kuznick.
PETER KUZNICK: Glenn Greenwald’s moving tribute to Dan Ellsberg tells us precisely what we need to know about Dan. To the bravest among us, those like Glenn and Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and the members of this panel, people who have risked so much to expose the lies and crimes of the American government as it pursues its empire and erects its national security state, Dan Ellsberg has been a role model and an inspiration, a paragon of integrity who was willing to sacrifice everything in order to stop a cruel and vicious war.
Dan didn’t start off as a whistleblower and antiwar activist. In fact, he was a staunch Cold Warrior. From 1954 to ’57 he served as a rifle company commander in the U.S. Marine Corps. From 1958 to ’64 and then again from 1967 to ’70 he worked as a strategic analyst for the RAND Corporation. From ’61 to ’64 he served as consultant to the Defense Department, State Department and White House on command and control of nuclear weapons and on strategic nuclear war plans, and from ’67 to ’69 on Vietnam options and lessons. From 1964 to ’65 he was Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. In August of ’65 he volunteered to go to Vietnam and transferred to the State Department as a senior liaison officer under Major General Edward Lansdale. He visited 38 of Vietnam’s 43 provinces and participated in frontline combat as a civilian observer. Upon his return to the United States in 1967, he worked on a top-secret history of the Vietnam War known as the McNamara study. When McNamara himself began reading it, he told a friend, quote, “You know, they could hang people for what’s in there.”
In 1969, fearing that the Nixon administration was about to not only repeat some of America’s most egregious past mistakes but to commit new ones, new atrocities, including the use of nuclear weapons, Dan copied and gave the entire study to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but that didn’t work, so in 1971, in what historian William Manchester described as “perhaps the most extraordinary leak of classified documents in the history of governments,” Daniel Ellsberg turned the Pentagon Papers over to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and 17 other newspapers. The report showed conclusively that administration after administration had been systematically lying to the American people about what was happening in Vietnam. Nixon wasn’t really concerned about the Pentagon Papers, which detailed the lies of the previous Democratic administrations; in fact, Nixon wanted to release additional documents that would make the Democrats look even worse. What he feared was that Dan had documents that would incriminate him and expose his own savage plans for Vietnam. Henry Kissinger egged Nixon on, calling Dan “the most dangerous man in America.” The Nixon administration tried to destroy Dan, harassing him, burglarizing his psychiatrist’s office, charging him with treason, theft, conspiracy, 12 felony counts in all, and planning to “totally incapacitate” him. Dan faced a jail sentence of 115 years if convicted. Fortunately the prosecution failed. The charges were thrown out due to government misconduct. In fact, Nixon’s vendetta against Dan backfired. The efforts to silence Dan figure prominently in the conviction of several White House aides and impeachment proceedings brought against Nixon himself.
While Dan has come a long way from his days as a Cold Warrior, the United States has not. Dan was willing to sacrifice everything to stop the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, but even that war is being forgotten and sanitized. Some Americans know that there are 58,272 names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. When I ask people how many Vietnamese died in the war, few have any clue. Several years ago the architect of that war, Robert McNamara, told my students that he accepts that 3.8 million Vietnamese died in the war. Even McNamara was appalled. But I was shocked to recently see the results of a Gallup poll reporting that 51% of 18- to 29-year-olds in this country think the Vietnam War was justified, that it was necessary to fight. And Obama is doing his part to encourage this historical amnesia, calling for a 13-year [50-year?] commemoration of the war. But the Vietnamese haven’t forgotten. When Dan accompanied my students and me to Vietnam on a spring break trip a few years ago, his first visit to Vietnam since the 1960s, the Vietnamese accorded Dan a hero’s welcome and gave him the nation’s highest friendship award.
Dan Ellsberg is known today, along with Edward Snowden, as the world’s most famous whistleblower for what he did in 1971, but his efforts didn’t stop there. For the past four decades he’s been one of the world’s most dedicated and tireless antiwar and antinuclear activists. He’s been arrested scores of times. To the proponents of war and empire and surveillance, he truly has been the most dangerous man in America. Bu for those of us opposing the crimes of the American empire national security state, he has been America’s conscience. I’m honored to present Dan Ellsberg.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Thank you very much. Thank you. Well, that’s, that’s very gratifying, of course. You’ve heard a lot about me and I could spend my entire time here with similar expressions of respect for the people up on this stage and the people who have invited me here, and I won’t do that because I know the people organizing this conference are very concerned, very worried that I might go over my time. We have a lot of people to hear from here, and we have a wonderful technical gadget here, which I’ve never seen before, which tells me exactly as the minutes go by, which is very useful to me because I often will look at my watch during a talk so I don’t go over time but I can never remember when I started.
(laughs) And so this, this is very good. And therefore I will not spend the time on that.
I’m here with a stageful of people that I have the greatest administration for, and for that matter, again thanks to wonderful technology, Glenn Greenwald, I have the same feeling of admiration for, and it’s partly because I go out of my way to meet whistleblowers when they’re exposed or when they’re prosecuted or whatever, because I do feel we’ve come through the same trajectory as insiders, have had similar experience, and I respect what they’ve done, and I want to thank them and let them know that I congratulate them for what they’ve done and will help them as much as I can in the pressures that are brought to bear on them.
Among the things we’ve all shared is in fact the loss of respect from people that we had worked with and respected ourselves. When I say that it’s wonderful for me to be on a platform like this and to hear encomiums like that from Peter Kuznick or from Glenn Greenwald, it’s because to be respected by someone that you respect and admire yourself is very, very gratifying, a wonderful human experience. And by the same token, what makes the number of whistleblowers as small as it is, is that they all, I think we all, experience the fact of the very disconcerting, almost unanimous loss of relationship with the people we’ve worked with for years. In many cases we respected them, they respected us, we all grew to have access to the kind of information that we revealed later at some point by earning trust and respect and promotion in various times.
And, speaking for myself anyway, I was a Cold Warrior, as Peter Kuznick says, at that time; I felt I had been, later, thanks to historians like Peter and Anthony Arnove and others, come to understand how much I had been misled. When Edward Snowden says here that he enlisted in the Special Forces, was a Special Forces enlistment in 2004, a year after the war had started in Iraq, it was with the belief that he wanted to help humans from oppression, which was very far from the reality that he was participating in in Iraq, but it was one of the many times in this article which Carolyn referred to, Vanity Fair, where I felt I had to write “me” in the margin here, feeling how much I identified with him and how our experiences were the same. That was the mood I went to Vietnam in in 1965, essentially, and without even much hope that we would be very successful there, but with a feeling that we had a just cause, as I’m afraid President Obama may be in the process of encouraging misinformation on this in this course that Peter spoke about.
Anyway, that was wrong. I was misled. But the motives were very similar, and in many cases here, I notice both with Greenwald and with Carolyn, the speech that I had in mind here – and my time has been preempted by some of the stuff that’s been said. For example, I was going to quote precisely the same quotation from Vanity Fair, that’s why I brought it here, and it deserves repeating actually, so I will go ahead anyway in this case, where Snowden says – oh, I recommend this article, by the way. It came out quite well, better, Snowden told me yesterday on a Google+ Hangout –
– with our fellow Freedom of the Press Foundation board members – there’s nine or ten of us, which include Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden, and me, and a number of others, distinguished, again, people that we respect each other very much. Well anyway, Snowden said the article came out better than he had expected from the questions they were asking earlier, and they quote him as saying, as Carolyn said, “Every person remembers some moment in their life where they witnessed some injustice big or small and looked away, because the consequences of intervening seemed too intimidating.”
He says everyone. Is he right? How many people here have had that experience in your life? Can I see hands, honestly?
How many have not, interestingly?
I see. Very good.
How about up here? We’re all whistleblowers (laughter), but have we all had that – they’re all experiences before we told the truth about some things that our superiors didn’t want told. There were other occasions when we had not. Ray McGovern has been very eloquent on this point, very unusually so, in talking about himself. So he’s talking about nearly everyone at that point.
But then, speaking of everyone, Snowden goes on to something that I, almost three times as old as he is, or twice, would no longer, could no longer agree with as applying to everyone or even very many people. That’s the statement, “But there’s a limit to the amount of incivility and inequality and inhumanity that each individual can tolerate. I crossed that line, and I’m no longer alone.”
I’m sorry to say that what I’ve learned, I’m 83 now, what I’ve learned in the many years both before and after the Pentagon Papers is that most officials who were my colleagues at that point, and people in Congress and people in the media, in other words, never do find a degree of wrongdoing or injustice that will lead them to cross the line of exposing it or resisting it or putting themselves on the line, in effect.
When I asked Snowden just yesterday, I said I was going to be speaking here tonight, and I asked him, “What message would you think I should give on that?” And he said, “If you believe something, stand for it, stand up for it.”
Well, that makes yourself a target, for one thing. And in a way that sounds like a platitude, and who would not agree with that, exactly, would say, “No, don’t stand up for it,” except those people who give you the advice as an adult, “To get along, go along,” which is what people in Congress hear when they come in, or your mother, perhaps, or father may give you that warning. But in general, they will say, “Of course, stand up for something,” and it seems almost, you know, self-evident. That is so dramatically untrue that people actually do that, cross the line, and I’ll define the line in a moment a little more, that it even reminds me of – I’ll give a very dramatic example.
Long ago I read Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews, and he has a marvelous last chapter. By the way, he says, “This is not a – ” The beginning of the book is, as I recall it from many years ago, “This is not a book about the Jews. This is a book about the people who destroyed the Jews.” And oddly enough, as a Jew here, I remember that I always, and I read this book several times, read it from the point of view of the people who destroyed the Jews, especially after I’d been in Vietnam, but after I knew nuclear planning, our nuclear planning at this point. How could they have done it? How could this have happened? And in this last chapter he goes in, in great detail, with many specific examples of the motives and the rationales and the reasoning of the people who implemented this policy, of course who were legion, very many people, many, many of whom thought this was not clearly a good idea or even was a very bad idea.
So again, the question is, how could they have been part of it? What Hilberg reports is that virtually every one of them had a feeling, “I’ll go this far, but there’s a line I will not cross. I will not go that far.” They all had a self-image, and I put it to you that humans have this self-image: “Too much is too much. I will go along with certain things for various reasons, consequences, but there are things I won’t go along with. There’s a line I won’t cross.” And Hilberg says, but the line was movable. And as they came up to that point that they had earlier defined as the line that no one should cross and they wouldn’t cross, it moved, in virtually every case, in nearly every case. And in the case of Iraq, and as in Vietnam, there were hundreds if not thousands of people who knew that what they were participating in would be, before the war, and was, disastrous. He says, “Inhumanity.” This country has not come to terms, has not faced up to what we did to Iraq or Afghanistan over the last 30 years –
– any more than we have ever, young and old here, faced up to the meaning of slavery in this country. And that’s why –
– that’s why I jumped up, and I bet I was not alone watching the Oscars, when 12 Years a Slave got the Oscar, at the thought that my country was really giving credit to, and was exposed to, almost for the first time, to the real meaning of what slavery was. And in that connection, I don’t want to go on on this, but I read more about it, as many people did, including, by the way, the original book from which that was taken, which I recommend to you, Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup, and to realize that eight of our first ten presidents had owned slaves. Lincoln had not owned slaves but was in a White House where the servants were slaves in District of Columbia. Another very good movie is The Butler, isn’t that the name of it?, which I don’t know why it didn’t get more appreciation in the Academy Awards. I thought it was very good. But to realize that the – it was the story of a black person who had learned to be a good black butler in the White House, but he was serving in a house that used to be where the people were slaves, and of course the movie starts with his own mother having been raped and then his father killed for protesting the rape, at the beginning, in his lifetime well after slavery.
Well I mention that just to say that this country, this country, was capable of evil. Not just mistaken. As Lincoln put it, even though he was not an abolitionist, “If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.” And that’s why the South was so distrustful of him and led to secession right from the beginning, that he had that moral judgment.
We today are living with two threats to the survival of humanity, civilization, and really of most other large species, larger than primates and what not, the climate problem on the one hand, the nuclear danger, where we persist in the maintenance of a doomsday machine, which we’ve known for 30 years would lead to a nuclear winter if we executed almost any of the options, options that I worked on in the Pentagon, would lead to smoke from burning cities that would blot out sunlight and extinguish life on earth, and that’s true not just of the 1500 warheads we maintain on alert, but the thousand that Obama has talked about going down to. I am sure that to this day President Obama, and no other president, has never been told what the consequences would be in climatic terms of executing any of the options that he has exercised no doubt in practice, choosing among, in the case of a warning of attack, which could be a false warning. That is to say that our media, our historians – most of the historians, not all of them – our Congress, has failed to educate the public to the nature of the existential danger, as the Israelis like to say, in the very most real sense. Yes, Israel faces an existential danger from a handful of warheads, one, two, three. Humanity, it would take 50 to 100 thermonuclear warheads, maybe 200, to extinguish it. But we have 5,000 thermonuclear warheads, and the Russians have about 5,000, a little less in both cases, almost 1500 on alert. That has no relation to the danger we’re facing. Okay? On the climate issue, we know, we’ve been told, and yet people, in Congress in other words, are able to say, without shame and without being shamed, that they just don’t believe that there is a consensus among scientists on this – which is a fact, there is a consensus among scientists on this – and they don’t get challenged.
Let me turn to the point that, and it’ll be clearer how this relates to this evening’s event, I think, if I refer to something I just saw in Snowden’s point here. Several things that I have actually mentioned to talk about, but I can take off from – I meant Greenwald, from Greenwald’s comments. Clapper contributed to the education of the public, of course, as we all know, by lying when he was asked the question by Senator Wyden, “Are you, NSA, is NSA under you, collecting data, any kind of data at all, on millions of Americans?” He could have said, “Millions of Americans...of whom there is no suspicion prior to this collection.” And of course he said no. Now, thanks to Snowden via Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, we know some months later, what was unusual about that lie was not the lie but the fact that it was exposed in documents months later. Very rare. We didn’t hear it from Wyden.
But here’s the point, and I want to build a little bit on what Glenn was saying. Wyden knew that that was a lie. He was on the intelligence committee. He asked that question – I’d like to ask him what he thought the answer might be. But he was asking the question, which Feinstein if she had foreseen it probably would have forbidden him to ask. But he had given warning to Clapper, and when Snowden revealed that this was a lie, yes indeed they were collecting data on many millions, hundreds of millions of Americans and others in the world, Clapper said, “Well, it was not true, what I’d said, but it was the least untruthful statement I could have made.”
Now, a lot of people sort of mocked that. You know, it looked very slippery kind of talk. But I hadn’t seen anybody ask the question, what would have been a less untruthful statement?
What would have been a – I’m sorry, I said that wrongly. What would have been a more untruthful statement than no on that?
Well, he had three possible answers. He could tell the truth; he could say yes. That would incriminate and show that we were acting, that NSA was acting unconstitutionally, and in the period from 2001 to at least 2006, unquestionably illegally as well as unconstitutionally, against domestic law. Or he could have said, “I have to go into closed session to answer that question.” Which would of course have hinted at what the answer was, the truthful answer. Or third, no, which is what he said. What he said was the only untruthful statement of those three [laughter] that was possible, and it was the only one that would succeed in maintaining the lie, keeping the public ignorant of the reality.
Now Wyden did not say, “Sir, you and I both know that statement is false. You know it. You have committed perjury.” I won’t suggest that he should have been rhetorical – “How dare you, etcetera etcetera,” just say, “Miss Chairman, I submit that this witness has committed perjury in front of us and that we take appropriate action in this case.” Clapper of course was not subject to prosecution, and remains in office as a matter of fact, but I put it to you, in contrast to some people probably, he didn’t mean to deceive the committee, nor did he deceive the committee. They knew the reality here. It was the committee that joined him, including Wyden, by not challenging him on this, who joined him in the deception of the American public.
In this case, in this case, Wyden was very conscious that we had here a violation of the Constitution. And was it some minor part or some outmoded part of the Constitution like the support for slavery in the original Constitution? The founders were not perfect people. The Constitution was not perfect, and it had to be amended, and in fact it took a war before there was such an amendment on slavery. But they had some very good ideas, and one of them was the Fourth Amendment, which frankly I had never given a lot of attention to myself, but it isn’t usually related to the First Amendment, which I have had occasion to think about quite a bit, and it’s very simply this: If one branch of government has full knowledge of the private conversations and the private lives, the whereabouts at every moment in time if they’re carrying an iPhone like me, the digital data, the credit card data, the conversations, the internet, the chat logs, everything else, the log that I was on with Snowden the other day, yesterday, can it be that journalists can offer confidentiality to a source with any confidence? I would say no, that’s gone at this point. My organization, Freedom of the Press Foundation, is offering encryption devices that may make it somewhat more costly and difficult for NSA to get after this, but for most people they really can’t offer that. And without that, can you have investigative journalism very long without that confidentiality, where every source has to face now since Obama a likelihood of prosecution that’s much, much higher than it ever was before? Eight prosecutions for leaking so far, some for whistleblowing, some for non-whistleblowing leaking, but eight prosecutions. Mine was the first, actually, in this country, ever, because such a prosecution was regarded as incompatible with the First Amendment.
If in fact you can’t have that investigative journalism, you can’t have sources telling the truth about the lies of government or wrongdoing or crimes or unconstitutionality, do you have oversight? Can you have oversight in the Congress? Yes, they knew about those particular lies that many others, many members of Congress learned about them only from the newspaper when they did come out, thanks to Snowden.
Again, if one branch has that kind of power over the Congress, over the courts, over the press, can you really have separate branches of government, independent, the checks that Glenn Greenwald talked about? I would say no. Which means that there has been regime change in this country, no later than 9/11, I would say. A kind of executive coup.
One of the founders, Benjamin Franklin, was asked at the end of the constitutional meetings by a woman, “What kind of government is it?” And he said, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Have we kept it?
[voice from the audience]: No.
No. We have not kept it. Could we get it back? I would say not without people who are willing to take the risks of ostracism, of the kind of prosecution that several of us have been, Tom for instance here has been subject to, the ostracism that all of us have experienced, including Jesselyn Radack and Coleen or I. You have to be willing to be called names, names like traitor. What worse word is there for an American? For a patriotic American? You have to get that. Glenn Greenwald has been called that by, I was interested to hear he described Peter King as a strange character, and he's been called traitor by others as well that he took more seriously. I was asking myself how I would characterize Peter King. I like that, strange. That’s kind of good. Horse’s ass would be another, I suppose.
But traitor? That’s not a light word from anybody, including the chairman of the, or subcommittee on House homeland affairs, Peter King, or the others.
I notice that the Vanity Fair article is headed with the same heading – as I say, the article is good, but, say, “Edward Snowden, Patriot or Traitor?” And frankly I was at a meeting just the other day giving a speech which had the same title with a question mark, and it infuriated me, actually, that this should be raised at this point. You know, traitor, traitor; as I’ve been saying for years, Chelsea Manning no more a traitor, or is Edward Snowden, than I am, and I’m not. But as Glenn Greenwald says, yes, I was called that a lot, and if you’re not willing to be called names like that, which is not easy at all, you can’t tell the truth that your bosses don’t want told, and that is the line that is required for people to cross if we are to regain our republic and if we are to avoid wars like Iraq or Iran or Vietnam, and if we are to deal, I would say, realistically with the climate problem or with nuclear war and so forth. That’s what’s at stake here.
We need more Snowdens. We need more Mannings. I felt, when Chelsea Manning was quoted as saying that she was prepared to – then he, Bradley Manning – was prepared to go to prison for life or even be executed, I thought, “I've waited 40 years to hear someone say that,” and I felt a terrific identification with Chelsea Manning, for all the differences in background between us and so forth. And then three years later Edward Snowden said, “There are things worth dying for.” Well, I was quoted, rather I was interviewed a good deal for this but not quoted except one line. They quoted me as saying, in various contexts, that Edward Snowden is a modern-day Nathan Hale. Now, let me ask –
– let me ask. This audience isn’t, uh, as, the young ones, but I’ve been disconcerted to find when I speak to a younger audience, how many people here actually do know who Nathan Hale was?
[some comments thrown back to Daniel from the audience, laughter]
But how many do not, honestly? Okay. As I say, I’m surprised. Young people, in my day, knew that name as well as George Washington, I would say, or Thomas Paine. But apparently not now, and I’m sorry to hear it. Well, anyway, he was a spy for George Washington against the British, and as I have said recently, he was the first American to be charged and prosecuted, tried, for giving secrets to Americans. And I was the second, 200 years later.
Literally the second. And of course Snowden is in exile for doing that, facing charges, which some people say should be capital charges, and say yes, he should be regarded as a traitor.
Nathan Hale was hanged as a traitor. As was the risk of every signer of the Declaration of Independence. They were all traitors in the eyes of the government which had ruled when they were born. Five of them were hanged. I’ll bet you didn’t know that. I looked that up. Nine of them died. They said they gave their – they risked, they staked their lives, their honor – their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Sacred honor? Betrayal of King George III, the monarch who had ruled for them? Nathan Hale said, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” That’s the sentence for which he’s known, on the gallows, before he was hanged. What country? Not the country he was born in, which was a colony of the British empire under the monarch. It was a republic that had never yet existed and did not yet exist, that he and others were trying to bring into existence, a country in which the crimes for which my trial was dismissed, as Greenwald said, the crimes against me – trying to kill me, warrantless wiretapping, burglaries of my doctor’s office, etcetera – were crimes, would be crimes. Which they were in 1971. Every one of those is regarded as legal now, including the possible assassination of an American citizen at the will of a president, and today’s news is the issue raised by a federal court of whether they can continue to keep secret the legal reasoning by which the president decided to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki.
[voice from the audience]: Shame.
And later killed his son a couple of weeks later, another American citizen, at the same time. A country in which the law is secret for that kind of conduct, or secret for anything, is not a republic.
In the last several elections since 9/11, we have had a choice between elected monarchs.
What’s the danger of that? I believe that without American leadership, meaning a total change in policy, a change in policy in American leadership toward world change in policy on nuclear weapons and climate, which also requires global inequality to change, for these things to change, without America leading on that, which it is in no position to do now and is not about to do, human civilization is finished. Not just democracy, although also democracy. I’m saying that our continuation as a species depends on restoration of a republic and a democracy in this country, and that will not happen without people in this audience and elsewhere discovering how to say no to a president, even at the cost of their professions and the cost of being called very bad names and even being prosecuted, and that’s why I thank the Lannan Institute here for recognizing the kinds of people here, and Greenwald and others, who can bring about that change. Thank you.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: All right, is this on? Can folks hear me? I think it’s not on. Oh, maybe it is now. Great.
I’m Anthony Arnove. I have the great privilege to be here with this very distinguished panel. Very quickly I will open it up to audience questions, and there is a mike at the center there, so as I ask the first few questions, think of questions you might want to ask the panelists. Dan set an amazing example of timeliness and concision, and I hope everyone will be able to follow that example, and I think what I’ll just do is start with three quick questions and maybe three minutes each for each one of those questions, and we’ll just go back and forth and then everyone will get a chance to speak. We’ll get to hear from each of the people here, and then we’ll turn to audience questions. And just so everyone knows, in the program, of course, you have everyone’s bios, but just so you know, this is Ray McGovern, Jesselyn Radack, Dan Ellsberg, who you just saw speak, Coleen Rowley, and Thomas Drake onstage at this time.
And tonight is a special occasion. It’s actually Thomas’s birthday, so –
– we’re very pleased to have him with us on the birthday. So we’ll put you in the hot seat first.
So I’m going to ask, just quickly, to telegraph what I want to talk about, I want to ask a question about privacy, I want to ask a question about our president, and I want to ask a question about strategies for change. But starting with privacy, the architects of the policies that we’ve been discussing with the surveillance state, the defenders of these policies say that in essence some of the people who are up here tonight are holding onto an outdated notion of privacy, and that actually we can’t afford the luxury of privacy when there are terrorist threats against us, and that if you are not engaging in any illegal activity, why should you be concerned that people might be looking at your e-mails? And I wonder if you could talk about that notion of privacy and how you would respond to that approach?
THOMAS DRAKE: One, we’re sovereign human beings, and as sovereign human beings we have the right to privacy, our own individuality. That’s the first thing I’ll say in terms of a philosophical position. But it's a government meme that if you have nothing to fear, right, you have nothing to hide. That statement actually comes from Joseph Goebbels, who was the Nazi Minister of Propaganda during a very dark period in the Twentieth Century. With that meme, there is no privacy at all, and you don’t get to decide, it’s the government, it’s the authority, and in fact what you do have to fear is that they can find out anything they want about you. I have the experience of myself, my own experience, flying an RC-135 during the latter years of the Cold War, listening in on the communications of East Germany, a fascist surveillance state. And so this notion that somehow privacy doesn’t matter – it’s fundamental to who we are, and that is the meme by which we dispense of it. Because what was the motto of the Stasi? Quote, “To know everything,” unquote.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: Coleen?
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, the paradox between individuals not needing or enjoying any privacy, but the government, so I think the question to ask is if we don’t, you know, benefit. We have to go through the machines at the airport where they can photograph all of your body parts. And by the way, one way of standing up right now is just to deny them the pleasure of going through that machine. You know, it’s a small thing, but when you go through the airport, at least get the patdown. It’s a little bit less I think intrusive.
And actually you set an example for all the other people in line too when you say, “Opt out! I don’t want that privacy-defeating radiation.”
But the paradox is back where people don’t have this privacy but the government, and I think that’s the pernicious thing. It is the government’s secrecy which Glenn Greenwald and Snowden and all of us have talked about, because it absolutely corrupts government. You cannot have your First Amendment freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press, you can’t have any of that. And your government, your figures themselves – why did we have a Church committee? For heavens sakes, Frank Church himself was being spied on. Our senators were being sp— Howard Baker, we don’t know all of them, but we know Senators Howard Baker and Frank Church were targeted by the NSA at the end of the Vietnam War. Now, if we have a government that is all spying on each other and it’s all secret and they actually can get blackmail information, whatever, we cannot have a government.
And, you know, we can’t, you find this in wartime, it happened during World War I, which is when the Espionage Act was passed, you saw it during the Vietnam, that’s where all the Cointelpro period, and now if Dianne Feinstein is to be believed, her committee was spied on. And in fact it’s the CIA that doesn’t want this torture report to come out, and they were actually either doing something in their computers. I think this is beyond – I will go back to the title, “Beyond Orwell,” beyond Orwell.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: Dan.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Yeah, you mentioned, that’s interesting, Coleen, the torture report. Here’s a report that they’ve sat, what, four years on or two years on, several years.
[offscreen, Thomas Drake?]: Four. Four or five.
Millions of dollars.
[offscreen, Coleen Rowley?]: Forty million.
Six-thousand-page report. Interestingly, about the same size as the 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers. Which, they’re still arguing, a year after it’s been totally okayed by the committee, should be out; Feinstein, a total supporter, till now, of the NSA and the CIA, feels it should be out. And they’re arguing now whether they can put out a redacted form of a 50-page executive summary. Now, if Congress cannot decide to, that they decide in the end what the public should know about this and what should be declassified, you can’t have oversight, and without oversight of course you have a government without law, lawless government. It seems clear to me that the time has come for that report, it’s well past the time, when those 6,000 pages should have been leaked and should be leaked tomorrow, basically, just like –
– just like the report that they’re talking about, the secret legal opinion of why Anwar al-Awlaki could be executed, without trial, without hearing, without indictment, without anything, by the president, that report should be leaked. Should come out. And it’s not clear, by the way, that we’ll ever get either of those, without that. As the Wyden and Udall example shows, even people who regarded what was happening as unconstitutional, senators on the intelligence committee who knew the fact, did not feel ready, they were not willing to, as Snowden put it, cross that line.
Now that raises the question, what would it have taken? And I have to put it to you, really nothing. What did they face? They did not face prosecution in the slightest, zero, if they had said, “This is false, and here are the facts, and so forth,” if they’d said that on the floor of Congress, or I believe in a committee room, in a hearing room, zero legal prosecution. They would have been kicked off the committee. They might well have been refused classified information in [unclear]. They would be called traitor by Peter King and by other people, including some of their – and before this, by Feinstein, probably would have called them, and there would be a risk that the committee would no longer get the cooperation of the CIA in giving [unclear] the committee, would say we can’t trust you to keep this information – which cooperation has been worth exactly what to our democracy? What has the intelligence committee done for us, in their oversight? Nothing, as far as I can tell. A total failure of the Church committee reform.
So, I’m just saying, those were the inhibitions that were sufficient to keep even Udall and Wyden, probably as good as senators as there are in the Senate of either party, keep them from telling the truth to the American people. And if that’s true, you know, what else is kept secret? And the answer is, anything that the government wants. That’s not a democracy.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: Jesselyn?
JESSELYN RADACK: I agree. Picking up on democracy, the way a democracy is supposed to work is that our personal lives are private and the work of the government is public and open. And we’ve completely inverted that, because right now the work of the government is secret and our personal lives are public fodder for the NSA to collect and store and on occasion read. And so for the people who say, “Oh, I have nothing to fear, I have nothing to hide” – yeah. But I don’t want cameras in my bedroom or bathroom. And lest you think I exaggerate, they did find a camera in the D.C. Starbucks in Cleveland Park near where I live in the bathroom. And I thought there would be huge outrage and people would kind of say, “What’s going on?” And Starbucks said they knew there was a camera in there and they needed to keep the camera in there to prevent fights. And as far as I know, there’s still a camera in there, so I’m not frequenting that Starbucks anymore.
But seriously, if that doesn’t cause people to cringe a little bit... You know, I would like anyone who doesn’t fear for their privacy to please come up and leave me your house keys, your car keys, all your passwords to your bank, to your computer, to every account that you have, because I’m a fellow American and you can trust me.
So how many people would be willing to do that?
Okay, I see no hands.
And I’m a trustworthy person.
So if you don’t trust me with your information, then why on earth are you trusting anonymous government officials operating in secret?
[voice from the audience]: Yeah.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: Ray.
RAY McGOVERN: (to Jesselyn) I couldn’t agree more. I do want to acknowledge two people who haven’t been mentioned yet, and that is Julian Assange –
– and John Kiriakou –
– both of whom play a big role in all these things. And I want to acknowledge all the lessons that I’ve learned from the people I’m sitting with here, particularly from Coleen. I knew about Frank Church and other high-level people who were investigating the abuses of the CIA in the mid ‘70s. I knew about them being monitored. But then I said, “Coleen, how do you suppose that Bobby Kennedy stooped so low as to authorize the monitoring of Martin Luther King, Jr., and provoking him and trying to get him to do all manner of – trying to get the goods on him?” And Coleen said – (Ray hands off to Coleen, offscreen – silence)
[offscreen]: That’s real cute, Coleen.
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, I think it is this go along and when you have the forces around you, the big word for this is katagelophobia, and it was in your book, fear of ridicule. And you have all of these powerful people around and J. Edgar Hoover putting this piece of paper – by the way, that paper that authorized the monitoring of Martin Luther King was all of a paragraph. That’s all it was. No facts in there at all. And yes, he signed it, and I think that’s to a large extent why people – they’re in there and they think, “Well, I’ve got to do this. Sign off.”
RAY McGOVERN: But I thought you also said that Bobby, they had the goods on Bobby and Jack and all the young ladies that they were courting with. Is that part of it?
COLEEN ROWLEY: Yeah, well, J. Edgar Hoover. There you go.
RAY McGOVERN: Okay, there it is folks. Blackmail? You think we’re crazy? No, there it is. Martin Luther King, Jr., being subjected to this intrusive surveillance and all manner of provocations because Bobby Kennedy and Jack Kennedy were afraid that J. Edgar Hoover would divulge some things, okay?
Now I just have a couple of things to say here, more to the point here, but one is that we were all four of us here, except for Dan and Anthony, were in Amsterdam before we were in Moscow, Amsterdam in August, Moscow in October, and I had a chance to ask a Dutch friend about these lists. Now we have electronic lists, and he said, “Ray, you know the Dutch experience with lists is very, very telling.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, when the Nazis were coming in and it was a sure thing that they were coming in, we Dutch are very meticulous and we had lists. We had rosters of all our citizens, every municipality, every city, lists, with name, address, religion. Religion? Little column there. If there was a J there, those Dutch mayors and counselors knew exactly what to expect. And so, the ones that had a conscience, what did they do? They burned them. The ones that wanted to curry favor, wanted to stay in office and all that stuff? They gave those lists to the Nazis, and those Jews were sent off to Buchenwald and Auschwitz within a week. Okay? And that’s proof. That’s history. Okay? So lists? (laughs) Lists are really, really important.
And the other thing that I just want to say has to do again with Europe, and Tom mentioned the Stasi. The Stasi, I hope most of you have seen Das Leben der Anderen, The Life of Others, nominated for an Academy Award about seven years ago. Incredible film about the Stasi. One out of every seven East German citizens worked for the Stasi, okay? Now. Wolfgang Schmidt, that’s his real name, an alumnus of the Stasi, has addressed this question about Americans saying, “Well, we don’t have nothing to fear. This information will never be used against it.” And he said, and I quote, “It is very naive to think that this information will not be used against you. That’s why they collect this secret information.”
“The only way to prevent it from being used against it is to prevent it from being collected in the first place.” There you go, folks.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: So, Daniel mentioned a war on whistleblowers that’s escalated, a war on journalists that’s escalated, the assassination of U.S. citizens, the expansion of the national surveillance state. This is all happening under a president who is a constitutional law professor, who was brought in with an understanding that this would somehow be a break from policies that had led to an executive branch that was out of control and reckless and not paying attention to civil liberties. How did we get to this moment where this is the new normal and where a constitutional law professor can be carrying out these policies, and what does it mean for the next administration that these precedents have been set? I’d like all of you to speak to that, but this time we’ll move back, from left to right.
RAY McGOVERN: Well, if you read speeches, which I really advise, read the president’s speech of May 23 last year. He really hates the fact that we have prisoners at Guantanamo. He hates these drone strikes. He doesn’t like a lot of stuff. But, you know, John Brennan tells him that sometimes people have to die, and so – I don’t know whether the president is afraid of John Brennan and General Alexander and James Clapper, but I think he is. I know someone, this is secondhand, but someone reported a meeting before the last election, 12 very pricey, wealthy contributors having dinner with Barack Obama, and they were progressive people, they were pinging on him, saying, “Look, you know, you’re supposed to be a progressive, what are you doing?” And finally Obama got up and he said, “Look. Don’t you guys remember what happened to Martin Luther King, Jr.?” Now I don’t have that firsthand, but I can easily believe it. I can easily believe that the president read James Douglass’s magnificent work, JFK and the Unspeakable, which persuades me that my former colleagues in CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even elements of the Secret Service and the FBI were in on the Kennedy assassination. So if that’s the background, and if Barack Obama is worried about that, well, my notion is he shouldn’t have run for president. He is president, and whether he really gloms onto these incredibly repressive measures or whether he’s just too afraid to prevent them, it doesn’t really matter, in my view. The same result, and I’m really, really disappointed.
JESSELYN RADACK: I agree. I’m very disillusioned with Obama, and in representing the clients that I do, people are like, “You’re just anti-Obama.” And that’s not true. I campaigned for Obama. I contributed to him. I voted for him. But, you know, maybe I’m not as charitable in terms of him having some existential fear that motivates his own existential fear used to justify playing prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner of anyone on the planet, but I believe – at first I thought he was captured by the intelligence and national security establishments, which saw him as weak coming into office. But I think he’s quite intoxicated with these secret powers, and right now in this digital age that we’re in, information is the currency of power, and power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And I don’t care if it’s a Republican or a Democrat elected next. I don’t see any kind of meaningful change once they get in office in terms of how they are going to treat the surveillance state or any rollback of it. That needs to come from us, the people.
RAY McGOVERN: Amen.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Yeah. I take off from that. Not only does power corrupt, but secrecy corrupts. And knowledge is power, secret knowledge is a special kind of power, secret knowledge of other people’s secrets is a kind of knowledge and power that is certain to be corrupting. And when you say, could it corrupt even an American, even an American president, even a constitutional scholar? Well, as a matter of fact, Bush’s lawyer, John Yoo, was a constitutional scholar from my home town, Berkeley, still has tenure there, and basically was describing the president, in a state of emergency, in national security, since 9/11 in particular, as having no restraint whatever. Not Constitution, not legislation, not treaties, nothing can restrain them. And I don’t perceive in Obama’s behavior a difference in his view of his lack of restraint at this point. And I think they think of the Constitution as something that was superseded, basically, by 9/11, and that we’re in a different state, that it was effectively suspended, and I think the leaders in Congress have been briefed on this and told they can’t tell their staffs and they can’t tell their colleagues in Congress, but it’s a new situation now. And in short the oath I took was to – as a Marine, as an official in the State Department, an official in the Defense Department – was not to the president and it was not to secrecy, it was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I think that Dick Cheney and David Addington and some of the others were domestic enemies of the Constitution. And that they are –
And I think that no one has so far so much fulfilled his or her oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States as Edward Snowden.
Or Chelsea Manning.
JESSELYN RADACK: Or Tom Drake.
COLEEN ROWLEY: I agree totally that if nothing changes, the next president will be even worse than what we’re witnessing now, and it doesn’t matter which party. People told me that before the 2008 election, and I thought, “Oh, it can’t be as bad.” And it actually in many ways is worse. So I think that’s what we’re looking at.
If you look historically at the Vietnam Watergate Church committee era that spanned a few years, how did th— things changed a little, okay? We didn’t get utopia on earth after that period of time, but some things did change, and it was Nixon leaving in shame, it was the Church committee, it was Hoover dying in ’72, all of those things kind of came together. A lot of people, a lot of people, because there was a draft, were out in the streets. You know, there were several factors and I think it was a combination of those things.
Now how do we replicate that period of time where we can actually now, actually be in a position to effect some change, because I think that’s what we have to kind of look at and we have to try to see how we can get back to that point and then get some – and I will say, people believe that this emergency – this is the other big myth. They believe that the secrecy and the emergency that says ethics in law no longer matter, we’re in a war and to make you safe and secure we’re going to have to violate some of these nicety laws. Okay, people have got to get rid of that myth. This is making us less secure. If you are realizing that terrorist attacks are more likely to happen with this massive “collect it all” than they are less likely, the Boston bomber – by the way, they were going after Occupy at the same time, so they were “collecting it all” this information on Occupy in Boston, and yet the Russian government gives a tip on one of the Tsarnaev brothers that doesn’t get even followed up on, because it’s like a haystack. So, people have to realize that the emergency is making us less safe and less secure. And then there’s a chance that people will say, “Hey, let’s get back to doing some legitimate investigation and finding the real terrorists instead of collecting information on innocent Americans.”
THOMAS DRAKE: Let’s be crystal clear, 9/11 was a trigger to suspend the Constitution. We’ve been operating under emergency powers ever since, truth be told. The secrecy regime that was put into place by Bush, the Deep State surveillance, domestic surveillance, mass surveillance, the torture regime and lots of other executive powers, secret law, secret interpretations of law, including Section 215 of the Patriot Act, all that was placed on a silver platter and handed off to President Obama.
Power is a very seductive thing. I’ve been in the halls of power at very senior levels in the government, and I must say that very few people resist the siren call that power gives them, particularly power that’s granted to them in secret. Why would the president assume the office of the presidency, do away with the powers that had been given to him by the Bush administration? The two biggest scandals of the Bush administration, secret mass surveillance and torture, torture that was state-sponsored on an extraordinarily vast scale involving at least 54 countries, any number of black sites, all that was handed off to Obama. National security, national security is the religion of the Deep State. It takes primacy over the Constitution. But the president has a special obligation, he has a special oath that is reserved unto him and only unto him under the Constitution. His oath is, the oath is to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. That is his fundamental role. That is his fundamental responsibility.
This president is in violation of his oath. If you listen very carefully, several months ago he was on the Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, and he spoke, he was already foreshadowing the legacy of his own presidency, and he spoke about a legal framework. The only legal framework that I took an oath to support and defend four times in my government career is the Constitution. There is no other legal framework to which the president takes an oath. And yet secrecy is the oath. And the only two people, the only two people who have been investigated, prosecuted, charged, indicted and convicted for surveillance and torture are myself and John Kiriakou. And neither one of us were in charge of the program, neither one of us authorized the programs, and yet we were criminalized for blowing the whistle on both those programs. I’m extraordinarily fortunate because I’m on stage as a free human being. John Kiriakou is in a federal penitentiary serving 30 months. Who’s the criminal now?
ANTHONY ARNOVE: So in a moment I’m going to throw it to the audience questions, and so please get in line if you have a question for our great panelists. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a little bit about, and ask you to talk a little bit about alternatives. Glenn spoke about optimism, but at the same time Dan spoke about the kind of impunity and illegality that is rampant in the government right now. What are some of the measures that you think, whether it’s a new Church committee, whether it’s a repeal of the Espionage Act, what are some of the concrete steps or some of the demands we should be placing now?
THOMAS DRAKE: One, we have a complete rollback of the surveillance state.
Period. It’s anathema to our form of government, the constitutional republic. The two cannot live together, and something has to give. And what’s fundamentally giving is the essence of what it means to be American. So we need to get back to 9/10. Just at a minimum, let’s get back to 9/10.
Two, meaningful, meaningful, real, real whistleblower reform. I am living proof of what happens when you exhaust every single avenue, every single proper channel, every single statute that exists, and still, still be retaliated and criminalized against for government violation of the Constitution and massive fraud, waste and abuse. That’s a minimum. I – just listen to my Restore the Fourth speech in McPherson Square in D.C. last July 4th. We must restore the Constitution. That’s a minimum.
And the other thing, we must – and this has been declared and asked for by former staffers on the Church committee – we need a Twenty-first Century Church committee. I call for maximum exposure and disclosure of all government secrets. Period.
COLEEN ROWLEY: The laws that should be changed, the last two provisions of the Espionage Act, D and E, and you probably know them better than I do, but one of them criminalizes the whistleblowing. The other one, and again these were never, ever enforced up until recently, or tried to be enforced, because they were considered unconstitutional. The other, the last provision, actually criminalizes publishing information. And you know they thought about going after the New York Times at some point during the Pentagon Papers. They put out court orders instead to stop it. These two provisions are unconstitutional. They should be repealed, the last two in there.
The other thing is that the authorities for doing much of these extralegal emergency powers are rooted in the Authorization to Use Military Force, the AUMFs. We don’t – you know, we’re out of Iraq. The Iraq war is over. Why do we have an authorization to use military force on Iraq? Why do we have one even on Afghanistan when that is close, they say it’s winding down, right? But those legal documents, the drone assassination memo, that’s what they point to. We’re in a war and they point to those authorizations. So if we should push for anything, it’s to get rid of those authorizations to use military force, because that’s where a lot of this is coming from.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: Dan?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Right. I think – I agree with Tom’s point on the essentiality of changing the surveillance state, repealing it. There is legislation proposed in Congress, what is it, the America Act – ?
COLEEN ROWLEY: USA Freedom Act.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: What?
ANTHONY ARNOVE: USA Freedom Act.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: USA Freedom Act, yeah, right, which would – and remember, the Conyers-Amash resolution came within I think seven or eight votes of being passed, after Snowden’s revelations, which called for the ending of mass indiscriminate blanket surveillance. As even Snowden has said, he does not oppose and [unclear] oppose a degree of surveillance by the country, by the intelligence apparatus, both domestically and foreign, but it should be targeted, it should have the Fourth Amendment requirement of probable cause for investigating this, and [there] should be an end to the blanket surveillance altogether. It’s going to be very hard to do that, and yet if you consider that they came almost within a hair’s breadth of passing that in the Congress, we shouldn’t regard it I think as impossible to change that.
Ultimately, along with that, I think it will be very hard, really, to change the amount of surveillance. How will you know at this point, you know, that they have actually done that, that they’re obeying that law, any more than the earlier laws, or the Constitution? And the answer is there has to be a change I think in the monitoring and accountability aspects of this. [To Tom Drake] You, I think you’re one of those, aren’t you, Tom, in fact you drafted it probably, a proposition that was proposed also by his former NSA whistleblower colleagues like William Binney, Kirk Wiebe and Ed Loomis and Tom Drake, calling for a committee, a group of actual nerdy, geeky, actual experts, like Tom himself, and others, to –
– report both to Congress and to the executive branch, that would have unrestricted access to the files of the CIA, the NSA, the other members of what I’d call the United Stasi of America.
And I think the upshot of that would not be the idea that there would be no secrets. After all, they are in a vast repository of private information now which should not be – that’s the government’s secrets, which should not just be laid on the public, the absolute end of privacy for everyone. It wouldn’t be the end of all privacy, but it would look for abuse.
And I think a major argument I would have with President Obama right now is that he talks about the possibility that these powers might be abused, which he’s acknowledged, actually. Possibility? That’s like the possibility that water might run downhill, if given the chance. I won’t go into the details, but what Ray was proposing here was, what was it that came out of the surveillance of Martin Luther King? Tapes of Martin Luther King’s sexual acts in hotel rooms. They sent those tapes to Martin Luther King and to Coretta King with a letter, an anonymous letter from the FBI, under Hoover, suggesting that he commit suicide and not, rather than go to Sweden and accept his Nobel Prize, which was not the result. That’s what they were doing. And why did Bobby Kennedy go along earlier with that kind of surveillance? Because, as you were saying, nobody crossed J. Edgar Hoover, and not just because they respected him and his competence and everything else, but because he had blackmail information on every single one of them, every member, significant member of Congress who controlled the FBI budget, and people like Bobby Kennedy and the others. Blackmail is the name of the game. So to allow them unmonitored, or even to collect, but it may be too late to keep them from collecting, frankly, but to allow them to go unmonitored on the use and abuse of these files is to ask for a Stasi East German like regime, which after all worked for what was called the German Democratic Republic.
JESSELYN RADACK: Well, I second everything people have already suggested here. USA Freedom Act, not Feinstein’s Spy On America Act. You guys [have] voting members of Congress, most of you do. I live here in D.C., so I don’t. But if you do, call Congress. It does matter to them.
But we were talking about the Espionage Act, which has been used on the war, in the war on whistleblowers, and I would be remiss if I did not mention again John Kiriakou, who actually, ironically, would not be in jail today if he had actually tortured somebody. And his wife, Heather Kiriakou, is here today, and I urge you to support John, go on the Facebook Defend John K page and help the Kiriakou family, who is under this living hell with three young children under 10 while their father, who never even, who refused to take the torture training, is in jail for revealing that we had a torture program and that we waterboarded people. Please help people like that. And while you’re at it, maybe support and request amnesty for another client of mine, Edward Snowden, while you request some sort of clemency for John because he’s been in jail long enough.
RAY McGOVERN: Okay. Well, here we are in academe, and maybe we should have full disclosure. All kinds of things mentioned here, highly significant things. The original sin of America, racism, slavery. Who was it that built these buildings here at Georgetown? Who was it? Do you not know? These are very weighty things. They should weigh on our conscience.
David Addington was mentioned, but I daresay maybe half of you don’t know who David Addington was. He was Dick Cheney’s... “lawyer,” in quotes. He was the one that cooperated with John Yoo for the Torture Memos and everything else, and he graduated from Georgetown College summa cum laude.
The author of the torture, or the executor of the torture, the black sites, the kidnapping, the torture, his name is George Tenet. He also graduated from this institution.
So I think that, you know, none of us are blameless, but all of us have a conscience, and I think that we might try to think about the old Catholic practice of, you know, acknowledging our sin and promising to do better and making restitution.
Lastly, I’ll just refer to a Jesuit hero of mine, a real patriot, his name is Daniel Berrigan, not –
– and Dan has spent many months, or many days at least, in jail with Dan Ellsberg. The two Dans got along quite well, because they’re both justice people. Now what I’d like to just say is that what Dan Berrigan and Dan Ellsberg have shown me is that sometimes you have to stick your neck out. Okay? I mean, a lot of this stuff, not going to happen. We got to get out in the street, folks. You know, the neck is a nice thing. I’d hate to be without a neck, it’s a nice convenient connection between the head and the torso. Again, I wouldn’t want to be without, but if there’s nothing for which you will risk that neck, then it becomes your idol, and necks are not deserving of idol worship.
Now, when Dan Berrigan did his famous act in Catonsville, Maryland, they stole some draft cards, they burned them with homemade napalm, and he describes in his autobiography, which you might want to read, they’re sitting in the only federal building in Catonsville, Maryland, okay? It’s the post office, right? And Dan is thinking, people are going to say we’re crazy or unpatriotic or just daft, why do we take this risk? And this is what he says in his autobiography: “I came upon a precious insight, something like this. Presupposing integrity and discipline, one is justified on entering upon a large risk, not indeed because the outcome is assured, but because the integrity and the value of the act have spoken aloud. Success or efficiency are placed where they belong, in the background. They are not irrelevant, but they are far from central. What I need, what I needed was reflections like that, because everyone agreed we were renegades or plain crazy.” And lastly, Dan, Berrigan of course, he’s still alive, 91. I saw him up at Fordham two months ago. He has a great sense of humor and still does. He describes the scene. They’re in the post office there, with his brother Philip and about six others there, and in came – remember, he’s a poet – three FBI officials led by a jut-jawed paradigm of an FBI inspector. “Took one look at Phil, my brother, and he said, 'You! I’m going to change my religion!'” And Dan says, “No higher compliment could come to my brother Phil.”
So, stick your neck out. Keep your sense of humor. We don’t know where these seeds are going to fall or how fertile the ground [they] will be on, but the only thing we can’t do is nothing.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: So, we have a limited amount of time left, so I would just urge everyone to be concise, so if you’re concise that means we can get to a couple more comments or questions. So if everyone could just keep themselves to a minute, that would be great, and we’ll get through more people. So why don’t we start with the first three or four questions, and then I’ll throw it back.
[offscreen, WOMAN IN AUDIENCE]: Hi. I’d just like to thank all of you for being here today, it’s been excellent, and my question has already been touched on a little bit, but I just wanted to ask, do you think whistleblowing is enough at this point? Because at this point people are aware of the privacy violations that are occurring, people have been told what’s happening, but these violations are kind of now normalized within our culture. This mentality that security is more important than privacy and civil liberties has been accepted. It’s not just rhetoric from the government to the people anymore, but it’s part of – like, it’s normal for us to be watched. And how can this be fought against, do you think, or can it be fought against?
ANTHONY ARNOVE: Thank you. That’s great. Okay, so we’ll take a couple more questions and then we’ll let everyone respond.
[offscreen, MAN IN AUDIENCE]: I’m a graduate student here at Georgetown and I teach a political philosophy class, and right now my students are writing about Edward Snowden through the lens of John Stuart Mill. And John Stuart Mill, he articulates that we have two very important interests; we have liberty rights and we have security rights, and they both have to be respected. And I think that one of the things that my students are struggling with is how to balance those. It seems clear that neither one of those needs to trump the other. We need to find some way to balance it. But it’s hard to know exactly how to balance those. And so while I think that some of the rhetoric that we’ve heard today, the reference to the Nazis, the end of civilization, and so on and so forth, might be true, and it might be important for rallying the troops, it doesn’t help my students figure out exactly where to draw that line, to think clearly about where to draw that line, and I think that’s important because, as Daniel Ellsberg said, the line moves when it gets hard. And perhaps we've not heard enough from those who have had the opportunity to think very hard about this, exactly where to draw that line, specifically in this case about whistleblowing. What are the conditions under which one is justified in blowing the whistle in order to protect liberty when one’s boss is the U.S. government, says that it will jeopardize security?
ANTHONY ARNOVE: Thanks. Okay. So let’s take – is there a woman right behind you? I want to get some gender balance here. Excellent. So we’ll take the next two.
Yes, thank you. You can jump to the front, excellent.
[offscreen, MAN IN AUDIENCE]: The first one was a woman.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: And then, and then one more. And then we’ll throw it back to the panel.
[offscreen, WOMAN IN AUDIENCE]: Hi. I’m “Kim Inkai” (? ph.) and I work for Code Pink. And –
I would like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. And I speak on behalf of my colleagues as well. You inspire our work every day, every day what we do, and I thank you so much. And by the way, Mr. Ellsberg, I’m super jealous that you get to talk to Snowden on gchat, can I get his user name? More seriously – I’m just kidding. But tell him I said hi. (laughs)
But more seriously, I do agree that we need more John Kiriakous. We need more Edward Snowdens. But what about the rest of us? You know, the work that I do every day and the rest of us do every day with Code Pink is based on the idea that we as ordinary citizens, we can also do something, we can hold our government accountable, and it ranges from, you know, calling Clapper out in hearings, and it ranges from online clicktivism with petitions, and I’m wondering, from your point of view, what do you think is effective and what more can we be doing as ordinary citizens? Thank you.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: Okay, one more question, then I’ll throw it back to the panel.
[offscreen, MAN IN AUDIENCE]: Thank you. My respect and admiration for all of you cannot even be put into words, but I do want to say this, and I want to premise my question, I identify neither as a Democrat or as a Republican, but based on all the values that all of you believe in, I always like to look towards the future, and when I look at leaders in both the Republican and Democratic party I see only one voice out of many that consistently speaks out and acts according to the views that you guys are all espousing. Unfortunately that is not the current leader of the, the leading kind of runner-up for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, but rather Senator Rand Paul, who is constantly acting according to these views that we must respect the Constitution and bring back the surveillance state. Several of you mentioned that regardless of who gets elected, you do not see the surveillance state being rolled back, because how can we trust our elected leaders, and yet this one individual is constantly trying to act according to these views. What are all of your views on Senator Rand Paul, and do you think that someone like him who is so outspoken on this issue could actually help bring to light the terrible, terrible acts of our government and bring them back to where we were pre 9/11? Thank you.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: Thanks. Okay, so I’m going to throw it back to the panel, and I’m very mindful that we actually are getting [unclear] call very soon, so I think this may be the last round, I’m sorry. Ray.
RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, well quickly, how do we balance liberty and security? It’s a false choice, folks.
What makes us different is we have a constitution. We can change that constitution if we wish to, but if the president gets up and says, “Well, you know, we’re going to have to make some compromises with the Constitution” – well, you don’t make compromises with the Constitution! That’s number one.
Now number two. When are you justified in blowing the whistle? I’ve been asked countless times, on various interviews, “Well, what do you think about Snowden’s oath to keep things secret?” Folks, he didn’t make an oath to keep things secret. He made an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, the one that Dan, the one that we all have taken, okay, one way or another. So what does that mean? That means that the ethicists, if there are some moral theologians here, they call that a supervening value, okay? You should be able to determine whether a promise on a piece of paper not to divulge information that would endanger the national security, whether that promise is of equal value, equal stature, with your oath, solemn oath, to defend the Constitution. In my way of thinking, there’s no comparison. You adhere to your oath, and particularly since what you’re revealing is not going to harm the national security, it’s going to very much embarrass people like James Clapper, so that’s pretty clear to me. I offer that for what it’s worth.
JESSELYN RADACK: A lot of these questions have to do with whistleblowing. Is whistleblowing enough? No, it’s not. We put the information out there.
First of all, who can do it? Everybody has a right under the law, under the Whistleblower Protection Act, to reveal fraud, waste, abuse, illegality and dangers to public health and safety, based on their own reasonable belief. So it’s not one person taking it into their own hands. There’s a law on this.
Is it enough? No. People need to do something with this information. People should be marching in the streets over what Snowden revealed.
RAY McGOVERN: Amen.
JESSELYN RADACK: What can you do? Well, before that, the liberty versus security is a false dichotomy, and I will only quote Benjamin Franklin in saying those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither. It is a false dichotomy –
– that our government has put forth with its fear-mongering, and every time we challenge these surveillance state things being put into place, the government says, “Ah, the blood of soldiers will be on your hands and the next terrorist attack will be your fault.” Not true. So where to draw the line I don’t think is actually that hard. We have a Constitution that laid out some pretty good lines.
And in terms of what to do. The biggest thing as a whistleblower attorney that I fight against is just apathy. Do – there’s so – follow me @jesselynradack on Twitter, follow @thomas_drake1, Coleen, Daniel, we’re all on Twitter and we put out suggestions every day. But call your congresspeople, write to them, sign petitions, attend Code Pink rallies. Play to your strengths. If you’re an artist, draw about this. If you’re a writer, write letters to the editor. I’m a lawyer, I do lawyer stuff. I defend people. Okay? I’m representing John Kiriakou and Tom Drake and Ed Snowden. So whatever your strength is, if you’re a theologian, if you’re a lawyer, if you’re an artist, if you’re a writer, whatever you are, there is stuff you can do. There’s plenty out there, and if not I can give you ideas every single day. Tomorrow, tonight, go on the Defend John K page on Facebook and learn more about his case and help his family stay afloat. That’s one concrete thing that you can do tonight in one minute.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Okay, let me second the point, is whistleblowing enough? Is it sufficient? Certainly not. Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, in a number of these areas, the information is out there now pretty well and the question is what the public does about it. To trust the president to work on the surveillance state, for example, or the Congress, or the media, I have to say at this point, to change that is irresponsible. It’s (laughs) infantile, in effect. They’re part of the problem, very much so. And they’re not –
– they’re not changing it. They’re not responding to what we know. And yet, without the whistleblowing of Snowden, we wouldn’t have this on the agenda.
Is there a possibility of changing any of this? Let me – I’ll come to a very positive point on that in just a minute. But take this question of the 6,000-page report that I said should be leaked. What is the issue that’s being held back here? Leaks of this report, which should be declassified entirely, have revealed that a major revelation is that the CIA regularly misled the Congress in classified briefings and the intelligence committees as to the effectiveness of the torture and to what they were doing, and concluded, as Ray has said, far from there being a conflict between the two, this clearly illegal international law and domestic law process, this criminal process, achieved nothing with respect to securing the United States, and that is the secret that’s being held. And why is it being held back? Because, I’m sorry to say, that the man I supported in two elections, Obama, has decriminalized torture the way that some people in my state, California, want to and have gone some ways toward decriminalizing marijuana. The refusal to prosecute, the refusal to investigate in effect says that this Constitutional issue of the Fifth Amendment, the domestic law, the international law on this is all written aside, tossed aside as an obligation to do that. So we can’t trust, let’s say, the president in his corruption of power at this point to do anything about that.
Does that mean then that there’s nothing to be said for Obama? You might well get that impression from me and from the others here. I supported Obama not because I thought, as Tom put it, that he was going to eschew the abusive powers that had been bequeathed to him by his predecessor. I didn’t see any president of either party choosing to do that without pressure. I supported him for one reason only: I thought that he was less likely to get us into war with Iran, or Syria, or now Ukraine, than Romney or McCain. And I think that’s true. I’ve been satisfied with him on that respect. I think if these people had been elected, we would be at war now and that would be catastrophic. And as I say, in large part because the public would have been effectively lied to without challenge by Congress or the media, getting us into that.
How about someone like, you mentioned Rand Paul, or his father, Ron Paul? Obviously – I think it should be obvious – I disagree with each of them, very much so, on a number of domestic matters. But also, as I just said for Obama, credit where credit is due. Rand Paul has I think filibustered against some of these abuses in a way that nobody else did and has spoken out strongly on, specifically on the question of surveillance. So has Ron Paul, and I have to say that Ron Paul is the only congressperson known to me, and certainly the only presidential candidate, who has actually praised both Snowden and me!
And I think even Chelsea Manning.
So, finally, can it make a difference on these things? Obama did something that McCain would not have done and Romney would not have done, and they both accused him of being weak and wishy-washy. He turned to Congress on the Syria issue and said – it had just occurred to him that he was the president of the oldest republic in the world; I wish he had remembered that on earlier occasions, but – that it might be a good idea to ask Congress, since Article I Section 8 gives the power exclusively to Congress as to whether you should go to war when you haven’t been attacked, as in Syria. So he proposed to go to Congress, and it became clear that both houses of Congress were going to vote against him on that issue. Putin came and rescued him, I think, on that issue, on the gas issue, and got him out of that problem, that a proposal that he would, said he was going to do that was the red line he was going to cross, was clearly going to be repudiated by Congress. And why did that happen? Because Congress had suddenly woken up on this issue? Because during the congressional recess during this period, congresspeople reported an unprecedented amount of lobbying done by ordinary citizens. You were asking what can ordinary citizens do? This was not whistleblowing. This was not civil disobedience. They were saying to their congressperson, men and women, we don’t want war with Syria.
And because we had a president, fortunately, who was not the worst, he was less bad, he was a lesser evil on this issue, who did go to Congress, and because Congress was being told by people who took the opportunity. What woke them up? Myself, I’ve asked, I don’t really know. Some people have said Snowden contributed to that, the distrust, the earned distrust of word they were getting from the administration just before that, was a factor that said after Libya, after Iraq, after Somalia and Yemen and all these places, we don’t want another one. So that shows that if people do not do business as usual, they drop their apathy and make comments, there is a chance, there is a chance we can affect events. And I’m saying that that democracy – that was an exercise in democracy. Without that democracy in this country, we will not escape a climatic catastrophe, and we will not ultimately escape nuclear war. It’s got to be this country where ordinary citizens take a stand.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: And we’re at that time. So these really will be the concluding remarks. I’m sorry, to the people in line.
COLEEN ROWLEY: This question about balancing security. I tried to explain it earlier. It’s actually a form of the utilitarianism where you concoct a happy outcome. The worst example from Vietnam is we have to bomb the village to save it. And, you know, positing that you can get good information from somebody if you torture them – yes, you have to commit a little crime, you have to torture, but if you save lives – well, this is the Jack Bauer 24 fiction that you posit a happy, good outcome and then you say that these, you know, illegal means are justified. And it’s not true. Because there are many blowbacks. The facts are not there. The problem with this concocting a utilitarian hypothetical is the facts don’t exist. And in fact some of the torture – yes, you can get people to say anything, but some of the torture led to false information that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was in line with Al Qaeda. So it actually hurts the security. The same thing with the massive intelligence collection.
On the Rand Paul, Ron Paul, I actually co-wrote an op-ed before the Iowa caucuses, or before the first Iowa vote, in favor of Ron Paul –
– and the reason was, I do think that these issues of war and foreign policy and civil liberties and governmental corruption right now are the three most important issues. They’re all entwined with each other. And if we can’t get this right, all these other domestic things like education and, you know, Social Security, a lot of those things are going to be gone anyways if we cannot get those major foreign policy, civil liberties, and basically because we’re looking at the whole government right now not being sound.
THOMAS DRAKE: I have the distinct privilege of being last in my comments so I’ll attempt to wrap up what everybody was saying and what we’ve been hearing tonight.
All empires end up in the dustbin of history. We are the American empire. We are not immune from history. There is no such thing as American exceptionalism granting us somehow the ability to avoid, avoid the history. And so I want to make note of that.
Look. Democracy is not an easy thing. If anything, people would say there’s a fatal flaw, and it’s the people. And the grand experiment that was launched over 225 years ago had no guarantees in it. It didn’t. It was an experiment. The idea that somehow in the post-9/11 world that security trumps liberty, all that’s done, it’s security theater, it’s really given the government license under the mantle of security to take away our liberties.
And not only do we deserve neither, okay, in terms of a false choice, we’ll lose both, which is really what Franklin was talking about.
We need a new American Renaissance. We had an American Revolution. What we really now need is an American Renaissance. Because what we’re dealing with is, if you really look at this in the cold light, the cold light of history, is that we’re seeing a perversion of the Constitution, that the Article II powers that grant the president the commander-in-chief role has been used as the secret back door to enable an extraordinary expansion of executive power. That is a cancer on the Constitution. You cannot militarize this entire space including the domestic sphere without something giving. And the last time I checked, you don’t destroy the Constitution to save the republic.
RAY McGOVERN: Amen.
THOMAS DRAKE: We are – but with respect to power, I am under no illusions about those who hold power, not just in government but also in corporations. We’re in a Catch-22. Just, for those who've read that novel, Catch-22, the Colonel Cathcart defense. We have the power now, who’s going to stop us?
And so we have to understand that as we the people, in order to form a perfect union – what we’re seeing is disunion. So ultimately what we have to do is give ourselves voice, and this must be grassroots from within. It’s up to us, it really is. If it’s not us, then who? If it’s not now, then when? To paraphrase somebody else. Because that’s what’s at stake for our very future. And that is the ultimate question that we all must actually confront is, what future do we want to keep? What future do we wish to live from? Because that’s really what’s at stake for us in terms of the fundamental experiment that was launched so long ago. And it’s why I dedicated the rest of my life to defending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
ANTHONY ARNOVE: Please join me in welcoming the panel, and –
CAROLYN FORCHÉ: Thank you. Let’s give them all a round of applause.