WikiLeaks revelations helped topple despotic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg told Newsmax.TV. The former Marine and Pentagon employee also characterized WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as principled, idealistic, and a friend.
Ellsberg, who faced espionage charges for his own revelation of classified documents in 1971, says WikiLeaks’ pivotal role in Tunisia centers on cables from American diplomats there showing that the United States was aware of the corrupt government and was not likely to back Tunisian President Ben Ali. The secret exchanges described Ali as an aging leader with a “sclerotic” regime.
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“They revealed that our diplomats understood very well the corruption and dictatorial methods and dictatorship that we were supporting,” he said. “We understood that. In the course of supporting of giving those regimes, Tunisia and Egypt, major military aid, especially Egypt, and that the WikiLeaks cable . . . exposed was a major factor . . . that led people to say we’ve had enough.”
Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act with theft and unauthorized possession of classified documents for his role in copying and leaking the Pentagon Papers, which revealed lies that U.S. presidents had told about the Vietnam War. The charges were dropped when it was revealed that the Nixon administration had wiretapped him illegally and had broken into his psychiatrist’s office in an effort to discredit him.
Ellsberg said the WikiLeaks exposures of worldwide classified documents were analogous to his but on a lower level, noting they were classified secret rather than top secret.
Ellsberg also acknowledged that he met with Assange last year. “I wanted to find out what sort of person he was and I was very pleased that I met him,” he said. “I liked him, very intelligent, very committed, courageous, I believe, and principled, idealistic. I really am very impressed by him. So I liked him as a friend. I support him.”
Ellsberg and Assange agreed on the concept that there should be secrets, although Ellsberg noted that Assange would reveal more information than he would.
“We need a lot more transparency to keep us out of wars like Iraq or Vietnam,” he said.
Ellsberg once remarked that a president and his officers lie to the public every day, and President Barack Obama is no different. “President Obama has giving impression that he’ll have all us troops out of Iraq by the end of next year, I believe that’s untrue,” he said.
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