Daniel Ellsberg was a hero. How is Julian Assange not a hero?

Really, what of importance distinguishes this Wikileaks business from the Pentagon Papers case?

Assuming facts not in evidence.

Ellsberg was not a hero.

But I will remind myself to remember this discussion when I start thinking that my esteemed opposition here might be driven by partisan goals. This disclosure at this time hurts Obama’s administration more than anything else, and you are (apparently) in favor of it. This is good evidence that your position is a principled one.

Equally, I oppose it, and I KNOW my position is a principled one. While generically there is value in "transparency"in government, it does not mean that all communications between government officials should be public. Our diplomatic officials should have a way to make unvarnished and potentially insulting evaluations of their subjects without worry that their evaluation will come to light – at least, that it not come to light before everyone involved is too old or too dead to care.

Really, that’s your whole case? Really?

Let me help you out here.

  1. Establish that DE was a hero.

  2. Establish that JA is doing something comparable in every significant way.

I think the biggest difference was that the pentagon papers showed that the US gov’t had been dishonest with its people regarding a war that was killing tens of thousands of Americans, while this latest leak showed that the gov’t was, if not totally honest, at least doing more or less what people assumed it was doing.

Its a little weird to suggest that the morality of leaking gov’t documents is divorced from the actual content of those documents and what the leaker is trying to accomplish.

That said, its also little weird that Assange has become the focus of this story. I think its an indicator of how little of actual interest was in the cables that we’re talking more about him then what was actually revealed in the leak. As I said in another thread, Assange’s contribution to the story was that he a) took files someone in the military gave him and b) put those files on the internet. Does anyone even remember the name of the equivalent guy at the NYTs that took the papers from Ellsberg and published them?


He did the heroic thing for impeccably heroic reasons.

Oh, no. I framed the debate as a challenge to others to point out the significant differences. I get to do that.

As a preface: Daniel Ellsberg came to my high school prior to the 1991 war against Iraq and made a presentation on what was likely to happen if the madman George H.W. Bush were allowed to go through with his secret “war for oil” scheme. Basically, his conclusions were that tens of thousands of Americans would be killed by the fearsome Iraqi army (punctuated by a description of how the Iraqis would lure our military in to traps around their military fortifications in the desert, release oil and set it ablaze, leading to our servicemen being brutally burned alive), that the war would likely be a long, hard, slow slog, and a draft was almost inevitable. He then passed off the mic to various peace groups which explained that, as high schoolers, we would be ripe for the draft and there would be no college deferments, therefore we needed to start planning how to evade the upcoming draft lotteries.

I concluded at that time that Daniel Ellsberg continued to bask in an unfounded and erroneous assumption among liberals that he was an informed, knowledgeable, and reputable source of opinion on national security matters; and also that he is a nut. I leave open the possibility that he may not have been a nut in the 1970s, but I have no basis to judge.

However, to the extent that he may be highly regarded for the Pentagon Papers, I believe that his role in exposing the perfidy and lies of various White Houses about the course and cost of the Vietnam War is a noble goal. The real shocking thing about Wikileaks is that, with the exception of a detail here and there, all those leaked documents haven’t really revealed any big lies. Or medium sized lies. There may be some small lies that have been exposed, but I can’t think of any.

The pentagon papers seems to be a more targeted and controlled release. A compiled historical account of the Vietnam war with specific examples of government lying and overreach, sent to a reporter who published excerpts, with eventual release of much of the documentation.

Wikileaks seems to just be getting together a bunch of classified emails spitting them out to the web, and letting others go over them to see if they mean anything.


Plus, if BrainGlutton thinks Assange is a hero for making secret government information public, he must also believe that Robert Novak is a hero for outing CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Not lies, apparently, just a lot of embarrassing little secrets.

But, this one is somewhat significant:

:dubious: Nothing in my argument even implies a position that publishing secret information is always praiseworthy in and of itself, without context.

But, you knew that.

How is that a secret. Schröder was publically saying Bush was lying before the leaks. If an ex-German chancellor is putting it in press releases, its not a secret.

What argument? You haven’t made one.

If revealing some embarrassing secrets is the standard by which we judge heroes these days, then I’m sure the Editor-in-Chief of the National Enquirer is now eagerly awaiting his Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Well, that answers your question, doesn’t it. It’s all about context. Ellsburg ruined his career and risked jail time to expose the fact that the government knew the war was going badly, probably could not be won, and would cost more American lives than they were letting on. Furthermore the government lied about this to the people and to Congress.

Assange has other people ruin their careers and risk jail time to expose…well what, exactly? He hasn’t done any diligence with the data, possibly risking the lives of Iraqis such as interpreters, and hampering negotiations with other countries. The only thing you’ve posted so far reveals that George Bush was determined to go to war no matter what, something most of us realized in February 2003.

Ellsberg was not a hero to everyone, as Bricker has pointed out. I’ll agree that he is a hero and was at the time because he was exposing that the Vietnam war was based on a large numbers of lies and the results were being lied about at great expense in lives, money and international prestige. Now to some people that makes him a villain because he cost them money and prestige. Those people are called American conservatives. The release of the Pentagon Papers may have cost some lives, but it got us out of that stupid war years earlier and saved lots of soldiers lives. That it cost the careers of a good many war mongering bastards and adversely affected the bottom line of munitions suppliers is a very good thing. Anyone who does not four decades later realize that Ellsberg did the right thing and is a hero is exposing themselves as a war mongering vindictive turd, present company excluded.

Is Assange a hero by the same logic? Well, if history turns out to vindicate him, then yes. Are some people willing to follow that logic now and bestow that status on him now, knowing that as a human being he may have feet of clay and possibly un-noble motives (which are certainly included in the package?) Yes, I am. It is pretty clear to me already that these wars are being fought stupidly and that US security precautions are highly inadequate. Exposing both now will allow for their repair before some unrepairable damage comes along.

As for the fact that the State Department is used to gather intelligence on other countries, everybody with an ounce of brains and study of the history of foreign policy already knew that. They gather information and deliver messages. Read up on the life of Elizabeth’s spymaster Walsingham and you will come to understand that this has always been going on. Or Thucydides for that matter. The outrage about this is totally false. Gathering intel is much of what embassies are supposed to do so that their countries are not caught with their pants down.

There is a potential downside, I admit, in Assange’s case . . . I’m reminded of the plot of Rude Awakening: Two holdover hippies get hold of a secret U.S. government plan to invade a Central American country and try to bring it to light. Turns out it was just a hypothetical plan, but the media coverage it gets sparks public interest in a war America could win, for a change . . . So, in trying to prevent a war, the heroes inadvertently start one. Lots of imaginable ways something like that scenario could play out, here. It’s always funnier when it happens in real life! :slight_smile:

Daniel Ellsberg was a whistleblower. Pfc Bradley Manning was a troll. The New York Times published Ellsberg’s revelations. Wikileaks processed Mr. Manning’s data dump, leaked the entire batch to 5 recognized newspapers, and then published 200 redacted cables on their own.

There’s little that connects the 250,000 cables thematically. This isn’t surprising: Pfc Manning was busted after yucking it up about how much trouble these cables will cause Hillary et al. I don’t think the motivation was political so much as a prank gone wrong. (Q: What’s the difference between a harmless prank and vandalism? A: Consequence)

Kevin Drum’s thoughts on the matter, which I support:
In terms of fallout, this will probably hurt the North Koreans and the Iranians more than it will hurt the US, IMHO. Probably, not definitely.

This is false.


Look, I’m still witholding judgment on this affair: I like to do that for a few days to let things settle out. But Julian Assange hasn’t just dumped this disjointed trove of materials on the world. Whether he’s acted prudently is another matter: he certainly hasn’t enhanced his life expectancy. The Australian national is in over his head.

IMHO, they should throw the book at Pfc Manning though, who is a citizen of the US.

Partially agree, though Manning seems to have originally been motivated by a desire to publicize footage of two airstrikes (one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan), for which I think there’s at least a decent argument that they were inappropriately held from the public. Its obvious that at some point he suffered from “mission creep” and started giving Assange basically everything he had access to, and turned from whistle-blower to prankster.