Monday, May 5, 2008

Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: Bush Likely to Attack Iran, Impeachment a Must

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Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: Bush Likely to Attack Iran, Impeachment a Must

Ellsberg says Bush will simply find a different pretext from the nuclear program.

"After all, it was about a year ago that he really stopped pressing the nuclear program as the main reason to start attacking Iran and start talking about what they were doing against U.S. forces in Iraq," says Ellsberg, who claims people in the military have recently undercut this statement by saying there is no evidence of Iran's involvement against U.S. forces in Iraq.

Bush could also use an incident that is blamed on Iran as a means to begin a war with them.

Early this year, Ellsberg experienced deja vu when the White House and a complicit media portrayed an incident in the Strait of Hormuz that deeply paralleled the Tonkin Gulf incident of 1964.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident was an alleged attack by North Vietnamese ships upon American boats. As a result of this alleged aggression, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave former President Johnson the permission to expand the Vietnam War.

The recent incident involving Iran alleged serious threats were being made to U.S. ships by Iranian speedboats. Within days of the events in the Straight of Hormuz, information revealed the details of the entire event had been fabricated. Ellsberg sees promise in the quickness of this revelation because, in contrast, it was only in 2005 and 2008 that the inaccuracies and deceptions of the Gulf of Tonkin incident were revealed by the declassification of National Security Administration reports.

Ellsberg is worried Congress has not put forth an effort to demand it be informed before an attack on Iran should occur. Currently, there is a Senate resolution to demand Congress be consulted in the event of plans to attack Iran, but it has not gotten out of committee.

Instead, the Senate has virtually endorsed the president's power to begin a war with Iran, says Ellsberg, with the passage of legislation last September declaring that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is a terrorist organization.

"To say that the Revolutionary Guards in Iran are a terrorist organization ... is very close to saying that the president is able to attack them at his discretion. Now to give this president that discretion is inexcusable, outrageous," says Ellsberg.

The Democratic Congress should be having open hearings on Iran, says Ellsberg, as well as on how we got into the war against Iraq and regarding Guantanamo. But the Democratic chairmen are not holding such hearings.

The American public, and media in general, have not picked up on the urgency surrounding a pending war with Iran, Ellsberg says. For over two years, Sy Hersh and others have been writing detailed articles stating operational plans against Iran are being updated to the minute, so that within hours or a day they can be implemented.

The problem with these articles, says Ellsberg, is not that Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, lacks credibility, it's that his sources are not willing to go beyond their anonymity. Ellsberg emphasizes the sources in Sy Hersh's reports, and others within the government, must reveal documents, risk their career and testify before Congress if they wish to profoundly alter the course of a pending war with Iran.

Gateway for whistleblowers: the press

Whistleblowers depend strongly on the press to relay their information to the American public, who will then be able to exert pressure in politics. When I ask Ellsberg if he believes the press is doing a good job of this, he gives me the most matter-of-fact answer of the evening: "No."

In October of 2004, whistleblowers gave the New York Times knowledge of an illegal and unconstitutional domestic spying program that was being carried out by the U.S. government. The newspaper waited a year to reveal this information.

This was not just any year, says Ellsberg. The Times held this information at the request of the White House until after the 2004 election, avoiding the possible impact it could have had in swaying voters.

The New York Times, says Ellsberg, was pressured to publish the article because its internal reporter, James Risen, was going to release a book regarding the Times' decision to remain silent at the White House's request.

The New York Times received a Pulitzer Prize for releasing this story. Ellsberg says he believes not only reporters but whistleblowers who reveal important information should also receive a prize in recognition of their public service. This is not a retroactive attempt on his part, he says, to receive an award.

Ellsberg smiles. "In my case my prize was the indictment," which he says he has taken to be as great an honor as he needs in life.

The press in America, says Ellsberg, is currently avoiding the story of an explosive whistleblower by the name of Sibel Edmonds. A former FBI translator of Turkish and Persian, he says she has been attempting to speak before Congress for five years.

Early last month, Sibel Edmonds appeared on the front page of the London Sunday Times to reveal information she learned as an FBI employee. Ellsberg describes her claims that the U.S. government is giving nuclear materials, equipment and expertise to countries, including Turkey, which in turn sell them to other countries, including Pakistan. In effect, says Ellsberg, criminal bribery is occurring.

Ellsberg says Edmonds is also revealing the U.S. government is allowing a drug trade that finances terrorist operations, such as al-Qaeda, to continue. Ellsberg describes her revelations further, saying the U.S. government is turning a blind eye to the drug trade of U.S. allies such as Turkey and Pakistan, as well as countries such as Uzbekistan, where the United States wants to gain military base rights.

These allegations are only part of the knowledge Edmonds wishes to share before Congress, and she awaits the chance to do so, claiming she knows people in the FBI, CIA and NSA who will corroborate her statements, says Ellsberg.

This is in direct parallel, says Ellsberg, to what happened to Catherine Gunn, a British whistleblower whose actions, he believes, were more important than the release of the Pentagon Papers, because she provided information early enough to have prevented the Iraq war.

Gunn, who worked as an employee for British Intelligence, Government Communication Headquarters, revealed a document showing the United States was "tapping the U.N. Security Council members in order to influence their votes in support of an aggressive war, which was about to take place," says Ellsberg.

This was front-page news, not only in London, says Ellsberg, but all over the world, except the United States, where it did not appear for about 11 months. Ellsberg says it was reasonable to believe Gunn could have stopped the war, and he believes she prevented a U.N. Security Council vote in support of the war.

"The same thing is happening to Sibel Edmonds as we speak," says Ellsberg, intensely.

How to restore American democracy

As the days of Bush's final term in office dwindle, Ellsberg emphasizes that, no matter how much time is left, impeachment is one thing that must happen for the sake of preserving American democracy.

Impeachment proceedings are essential, says Ellsberg, "both for the information that it will produce and above all to make it clear that Congress perceives the illegal and unconstitutional acts taken by this administration to be high crimes and misdemeanors, and for the deterrent effect that they will have on future presidents."

In addition to impeachment hearings, Ellsberg says Congress must reverse the laws that have "outrageously" passed under "intimidation" by Bush. These include say Ellsberg: "The Patriot Act; the Military Commissions Act, which among other things essentially denies habeas corpus; the signing statements, which essentially give the president the power to ignore constraints on torture; and they could change the so-called Protect America Act which legalized much of the unconstitutional surveillance that the NSA was doing without Congress even knowing what they were legalizing."

For those things that Congress cannot overturn, Ellsberg suggests hearings by Congress to show, for example, that "not only was torture illegal, it should continue to be illegal because it hurts our national security."

None of these changes will happen without an active American movement, says Ellsberg, which must demand Congress members uphold their oath to support the Constitution rather than their political career.

Looking at the current primaries and the future presidential election, Ellsberg says the American public must create priorities that are different from those offered by the current candidates.

The changes that need to occur are drastic, and given the stakes, Ellsberg believes the American public should be willing to invest its time so that the crisis we currently find ourselves in can be met with strong action:

"If enough people simply look clearly at what we are doing in our course towards an abyss right now, they do have the power with the remaining democracy we have still in this country to turn it around."

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