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11-28-2007, 01:09 PM
Whistle-blowers wanted here
Daniel Ellsberg to speak on importance of revealing government secrets


Herald Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 11/27/2007 01:28:21 AM PST

If any era cries out for government insiders to risk their careers by exposing truths, that era is now, says a man who may be the nation's best-known whistle-blower of all time.

It was 1971 when military analyst Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, a secret study that revealed far more about prospects for the Vietnam war effort than President Richard Nixon's administration wanted the public to know.

On Wednesday, Ellsberg will speak at CSU-Monterey Bay about several modern "convergent crises," including one that he said evokes haunting similarities to the Vietnam war days: the possible U.S. military involvement in Iran, which he calls a "catastrophe in the making."

In recent years, Ellsberg has called upon government workers with high-level national security clearance to go public and speak up about the nation's involvement in the Middle East.

The aim, he said, is simple: to prevent war and save lives.

"There are 160,000 of us in Iraq and every one of them is risking their life every day. It seems to me that there should be some officials who are willing to risk their careers and go to prison to save lives."

Ellsberg said he was often in danger when he spent two years in Vietnam as a wartime fact-finder for the State Department.

"I risked my body a lot in Vietnam. Then I thought, why not risk it for this?"

"This" ended up being the release of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, an action that Ellsberg hopes will be repeated by government insiders today.

He's been asking high-level officials to release reports given to the president that describe the consequences of an invasion of Iran, including costs, effects on the world economy and the possibility of retaliation against the U.S.

So far, though, there hasn't been much in the way of whistle-blowers taking him up on the challenge, a fact that Ellsberg finds astonishing.

"No one has risked their clearance," he said. "I don't understand why nobody does it.

"There has been a lot of leaking (of information), good leaking. But I've asked for people to testify — with documents."

Working in the federal government today, Ellsberg said, are some 100 to 1,000 people who he believes could prevent a war with Iran if they openly exposed inside information that he is sure exists.

"I think they could stop the war. Why you don't have one person, I can't explain, because I did it and I don't see myself being that different from the others."

But Ellsberg acknowledges that in the Pentagon Papers era, there were people all around the country willing to take risks for their beliefs.

"I did meet people who were on their way to prison for draft resistance. Maybe these people today haven't met that kind of person," he said.

For Ellsberg, the turning point came when he met a young man named Randall Keeler, who spoke in public as he faced prison for refusing to fight in Vietnam. Keeler would end up serving two years in prison, but felt it was worth it to make a point.

"When Randy Keeler spoke, that was the moment," Ellsberg said — the moment that changed his life.

He decided to spend months photocopying the 7,000 pages of documents he had access to at Rand that described a far bleaker analysis of the country's prospects in Vietnam than leaders would have had the public believe.

He faced a trial and life in prison, but was ultimately released largely because President Richard Nixon's hired burglars broke into Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office to steal files.

That, plus an attempt by the president to bribe the judge with the directorship job at the FBI, Ellsberg said, got him freed.

In many ways, history has looked kindly on Ellsberg, painting him as a hero. But he agrees his is not an easy path to follow. Whistle-blowers leaking high-level classified information today still face life in prison, just as he did.

And a recent report by the East Bay's Center for Investigative Reporting and Salon.com found that whistle-blowers who seek protection in court lose their cases 97 percent of the time. State and federal laws designed to protect them have largely failed, the report found.

"People generally suffer pretty badly," Ellsberg conceded. "Unless there is a question of saving lives, it probably isn't worth doing. But when it's about war and peace, it is worth it. Where there's a moral principle, it is worth it."

Despite the consequences, which often include losing jobs and being publicly discredited, Ellsberg said most whistle-blowers feel the sacrifice is worth it.

"I've never met one who regretted what he did," he said.

Ellsberg has helped put together a group of other high-level "truth tellers," who have put out a call to "patriotic whistle-blowing."

Now the group has expanded to some 60 or more people who are part of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

That's good news, he said, adding that today there is greater need than ever for government secrets to see the light of day.

"The Constitution has been abrogated. When I say there has been a coup, it's because we are not operating under the same constitution we had years ago.

"To say that the Bill of Rights is intact — well, not the 4th amendment, not due process. Now we've accepted the whole idea of torture, of endless detention."

And a Democratic Congress has gone along with these policies, citing the tide of public opinion, he said.

"Congress is doing nothing to investigate. They're doing nothing to educate the public about the facts," he said.

Because neither side of Congress wants to bring back independent prosecutors, which he says was the key factor leading to Nixon's fall, "we now have the whole infrastructure for a police state."

"The president has the legal infrastructure. Total surveillance, total detention ... With the approval of the public, or enough of them."

"People should be impressing on (their representatives) that they were not elected for the sole purpose of being re-elected. To allow that to be the sole consideration when the Constitution is being ripped ... they are violating their oath of office."

Despite all this, Ellsberg said he does believe there is time to turn things around.

It's all about finding the courage to break the status quo, he said.

Ellsberg once asked former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska if he thought Congress in recent years has been extraordinarily cowardly.

"Mike said, 'No. Ordinarily cowardly.'"

Julia Reynolds can be reached at 648-1187 or jreynolds@montereyherald.com.

National Security Whistleblowers Coalition www.nswbc.org (http://www.nswbc.org)

11-30-2007, 12:18 PM
This is from the coalition founded by Sibel Edmonds.


National Security Whistleblowers Coalition

www.nswbc.org (http://www.nswbc.org/)


Contact: Sibel Edmonds, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, sedmonds@nswbc.org (sibeldeniz@aol.com)


Department of Justice, Which Claimed State Secrets Required Termination of Whistleblower Suit, Now Relies on Same "Secrets" to Avoid Tort Liability

Department of Justice and FBI attorneys, during recent depositions taken in FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds’ Federal Tort Claims case, Civil Action NO. 1:05-CV-540 (RMC), questioned witnesses regarding information previously designated "state secrets" by the Attorney General.

In April 2004, the Justice Department succeeded in preventing Edmonds from testifying in a lawsuit related to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The law firm of Motley Rice, representing September 11 family members, had subpoenaed Edmonds for a deposition, but the government argued that information provided by Edmonds "would cause serious damage to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States." By invoking the state secrets privilege and citing classification concerns, the government quashed the subpoena, and even seemingly innocuous questions regarding Edmonds’ birth place, her date of birth, her languages, even her position as a translator with the FBI, were deemed covered by the state secrets privilege. To view the information classified in the Motley Rice subpoenaClick Here (http://homepage.mac.com/kaaawa/iblog/C177199123/E1350718859)

Other Court proceedings in Edmonds’ case were also blocked by the assertion of the state secrets privilege, and the Congress was gagged and prevented from investigating her case through retroactive re-classification of documents by DOJ. In May 2004, the Justice Department retroactively classified Edmonds' briefings to Senators Grassley and Leahy in 2002, as well as FBI briefings regarding her allegations. The congressional gag applied to all information related to Edmonds’ case, including the interrogation and arrest warrant issued for her sister in Turkey as a result of a leak regarding Edmonds’ monitoring of certain foreign targets of the FBI. To read the timeline on Edmonds’ caseClick Here (http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/18828res20050126.html).

During recent depositions conducted by the Justice Department in a lawsuit filed by Edmonds under FTC, Department of Justice and FBI attorneys, Dan Barish and Ernest Batenga, questioned witnesses on and discussed information that was previously declared state secrets. This information was communicated on the record in the presence of parties who did not have security clearance. Information such as the nature of Ms. Edmonds’ work with the FBI, the specific FBI units where she performed translation, FBI target countries, the arrest warrant issued by the Turkish government for Ms. Edmonds’ sister, and congressional letters regarding the consequences of Dickerson’s espionage case in Turkey and here in the U.S., all of which were retroactively classified by the Justice Department, was discussed and put in the court record.

Edmonds’ responded to this recent development: “The Department of Justice has now confirmed what we knew all along: it is abusing the state secrets privilege to avoid accountability, not to protect national security. How can it be that the very same information is a state secret when it would assist plaintiffs suing the government, but not a state secret when it would assist the government in defeating plaintiffs? It's long past time for Congress to put an end to the government's misuse and abuse of the state secrets privilege."

Currently Edmonds, her attorneys, and civil liberties group are reviewing this latest disturbing development and its implications on other SSP and government secrecy cases. The law firm Motley Rice has also been notified since their case is still active.

The following quotes are from legal experts and government watchdog organizations:

“This latest revelation proves that throwing Ms. Edmonds’ case out of court was a travesty and a ploy, because no state secrets would have been revealed,” said David K. Colapinto, General Counsel for the National Whistleblower Center. “If the courts won’t prevent the government from using the State Secrets Privilege as a trump card to cover-up agency wrongdoing and to defeat meritorious claims, like Ms. Edmonds’ whistleblower case, then Congress must act to stop this odious practice,” Colapinto added.

"These latest revelations are indicative of the arbitrary and self-serving and excessive use of the state secrets privilege by the Executive Branch in order to defeat specific cases of concern at the time," said Mark S. Zaid, a Washington, D.C. attorney who served as counsel to Sibel Edmonds during her state secrets litigation and who has handled several such cases. “This is just another example of why either the Judiciary needs to aggressively challenge state secret assertions by the Executive Branch or Congress needs to intervene and legislatively limit the government's ability to utilize the privilege,” added Zaid.

"This proves the point we have been making all along,” said Michael D. Ostrolenk, National Director of the Liberty Coalition. "The use of the state secrets privilege against Mrs. Edmonds is not about protecting true national security. The government was not created to protect itself and various political and financial interests but to secure Americans rights.

Nancy Talanian, Director of Bill of Rights Defense Committee, stated "The DOJ's opportunistic classifying and divulging information raises suspicions about its motivation for using State Secrets to silence Ms. Edmonds. Now that the classified information has been revealed, it is time for Ms. Edmonds to have her long-awaited day in court."

About National Security Whistleblowers Coalition

National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), founded in August 2004, is an independent and nonpartisan alliance of whistleblowers who have come forward to address our nation’s security weaknesses; to inform authorities of security vulnerabilities in our intelligence agencies, at nuclear power plants and weapon facilities, in airports, and at our nation’s borders and ports; to uncover government waste, fraud, abuse, and in some cases criminal conduct. The NSWBC is dedicated to aiding national security whistleblowers through a variety of methods, including advocacy of governmental and legal reform, educating the public concerning whistleblowing activity, provision of comfort and fellowship to national security whistleblowers suffering retaliation and other harms, and working with other public interest organizations to affect goals defined in the NSWBC mission statement. For more on NSWBC visitwww.nswbc.org (http://www.nswbc.org/)

© Copyright 2007, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Information in this release may be freely distributed and published provided that all such distributions make appropriate attribution to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.