We speak to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg about President Obama’s comments last week on accused U.S. Army whistleblower Private Bradley Manning. Speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco, Obama openly declared that Manning—who has been accused of leaking classified military documents, but has yet to stand trial—has broken the law. Obama was also asked to compare the actions of Manning to Ellsberg, who leaked the most important secret documents about the Vietnam War. Obama said the cases are not similar because “Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified the same way.” In fact, the material disclosed in the Pentagon Papers was designated Top Secret, the highest secrecy designation under law, whereas the material allegedly leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks was marked “secret” or “classified,” among the lowest-level secrecy designations. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to Dan Ellsberg. I want to turn to President Obama, who was questioned by supporters of accused U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning last week at a fundraiser in San Francisco. The President’s comments were recorded on a cell phone. He said that what Bradley Manning had done was different from what Dan Ellsberg had revealed a generation ago. Listen very carefully. This is a cell phone recording.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate. No, he’s doing fine, he’s doing fine; I mean, he’s being courteous, and he’s asking a question. He broke the law.
LOGAN PRICE: You can make it harder to break the law, even to tell the truth.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, what he did was he dumped —
LOGAN PRICE: Isn’t that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, it wasn’t the same thing. What it was, Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama openly declaring that Bradley Manning — who has yet to stand trial — has broken the law. According to Obama, the cases are not similar because, quote, "Ellsberg’s material was not classified the same way." Dan Ellsberg is on the phone with us right now, the world-renowned whistleblower who exposed the Pentagon Papers some 40 years ago.
Dan, he says don’t compare Bradley Manning with you.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, nearly everything the President has said represents a confusion about the state of the law and his own responsibilities. Everyone is focused, I think, on the fact that his commander-in-chief has virtually given a directed verdict to his subsequent jurors, who will all be his subordinates in deciding the guilt in the trial of Bradley Manning. He’s told them already that their commander, on who their whole career depends, regards him as guilty and that they can disagree with that only at their peril. In career terms, it’s clearly enough grounds for a dismissal of the charges, just as my trial was dismissed eventually for governmental misconduct.
But what people haven’t really focused on, I think, is another problematic aspect of what he said. He not only was identifying Bradley Manning as the source of the crime, but he was assuming, without any question —
AMY GOODMAN: Dan, we have four seconds.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: — that a crime has been committed. Hello?
AMY GOODMAN: We have four seconds. And we’re going to have to leave it there, but we’re going to pick it up with you tomorrow. Dan Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower, thanks for joining us.