Earlier this week, U.S. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley resigned after describing the confinement of accused WikiLeaks whistleblower, Army Private Bradley Manning, as "ridiculous" and "stupid." Manning is being held in "maximum security confinement" at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. We speak to Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps this country’s most famous whistleblower and one of Manning’s most public supporters. "[Manning] is being held essentially in isolation, solitary confinement, for something over nine months, something that is likely to drive a person mad and may be the intent of what’s going on here," Ellsberg says. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: We end our show in Washington, where Ralph Nader is still with us. We’re also joined there by Daniel Ellsberg, who is perhaps the country’s most famous whistleblower. In 1971, he leaked the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Both Nader and Daniel Ellsberg plan to participate in a major protest in Washington, D.C., tomorrow to mark the eight-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Ellsberg plans to risk arrest by participating in nonviolent civil disobedience actions against the ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Welcome back to Ralph and also to Daniel Ellsberg. Mr. Ellsberg, I’d like to begin first, before we talk about the protest, the situation with Bradley Manning — the State Department spokesperson, who resigned recently as a result of his questioning the treatment of Manning, and also your reaction to the comments that President Obama has made defending the treatment of Manning?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, the statements, that were very creditably made, with real candor, by the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, were that the conditions under which Manning is being held, which clearly violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, even for someone being punished and having been convicted — and here we have someone, who has been charged but not yet tried or convicted, being held essentially in isolation, solitary confinement, for something over nine months, something that is likely to drive a person mad and may be the intent of what’s going on here.
The WikiLeaks revelations that Manning is charged with having revealed, having to do with Iraq, reveal that in fact we, the U.S. military, in which Manning was a part, turns over suspects to the Iraqis with the knowledge that they will be and are being tortured, which is a clear violation of our own laws and of international law and makes us as much culpable in doing that as if we were doing the torture ourselves. Moreover, the WikiLeaks logs show the order is given, "Do not investigate further." Now, that’s an illegal order, which our president could change with — and should change and must change — with picking up one phone and changing that.
Reportedly, Manning was very strongly motivated at one point to try to change this situation, because he was involved in it actively and knew that it was wrong and found that it could not — was not being investigated within the government and that it was not being dealt with at all. That’s a big difference of the WikiLeaks logs from the Pentagon Papers, which were higher-level things that didn’t reveal field-level war crimes and wrongdoing and criminality, as these actually do.
Well, P.J. Crowley described the conditions under which Manning is held as "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid." And that seems an accurate description, as far as it goes. The words "abusive" and "illegal" would go beyond that and are equally appropriate.
I was very dismayed that the President, faced with accusations at such a high level from his assistant secretary for public affairs, rather than investigating and discovering, as he easily could have, that the descriptions by Crowley’s counterpart at the Defense Department, the public affairs people there, have been totally false and that he has been misinformed, his — the President’s reaction was very dismaying. He was satisfied with having asked the Defense Department whether the conditions were, quote, "appropriate" and met reasonable standards, basic standards, and he was assured that they did. It was very like asking — President Nixon asking the White House plumbers or his counsel, John Ehrlichman, "Was it appropriate and did it meet our standards for you to be burglarizing Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in Los Angeles? Did that meet our basic standards?" and when told by Howard Hunt or G. Gordon Liddy, "Yes, no problem," that’s the end of that matter. It’s so absurd that it really raises very much a question about President Obama’s own understanding of the law or willingness to abide by it, in this case, and not for the first time.