Published: Wednesday, March 09, 2011, 8:11 AM Updated: Wednesday, March 09, 2011, 8:20 AM
Abram Brown, Contributing writer
In October 2010, the two men behind the biggest leaks in American history met at a London hotel.
Daniel Ellsberg, the man who released the Pentagon Papers, arrived at the personal invitation of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange and watched him discuss the release of thousands of American diplomatic documents.“I found Assange very serious, a very conscientious guy,” Ellsberg said Tuesday.
Ellsberg discussed this meeting with Assange in a lecture at a packed Syracuse University auditorium Tuesday night. He also described how WikiLeaks’ differs from the Pentagon Papers and why he leaked the papers 40 years ago, an event that led to a Supreme Court case on free speech.
Roy Gutterman, director of SU’s Tully Center for Free Speech, arranged for Ellsberg to speak.
“I can’t think of anyone better than Ellsberg to talk about free speech at this point in our democracy,” Gutterman said.
Ellsberg highlighted the differences between his Pentagon Papers leak and Wikileaks: WikiLeaks released secret files. Ellsberg leaked top-secret ones. WikiLeaks contained mostly reports about on-the-ground conditions, while Ellsberg released policy documents.
But the most important difference, perhaps, is the conclusion a reader draws, Ellsberg said. The Pentagon Papers showed reckless and careless policy planning. WikiLeaks brings to light murders and killings carried out in the field, Ellsberg said.
Ellsberg spoke admiringly of Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, the alleged source of Wikileaks’ information. Manning leaked the information because of a duty to inform the public, Ellsberg said.
In the 1960s, Ellsberg, a Harvard University-educated economist, considered himself a Cold Warrior, fighting against communist regimes.
But Ellsberg visited these countries and learned more about American policy. Soon, American policy looked more like an American blunder, he said. And he said he needed all 4,000 pages to convince the American public just how misguided the case for going to war was.
Of the 250 who packed in to see him, most were supporters. But one young woman stood up and criticized Ellsberg as one-sided.
Earlier in the night, Ellsberg had stopped in the middle of a thought. He then offered something of a caveat, or, perhaps, an excuse.
“And that’s not to say that everything Assange did is right or everything Manning did is right,” Ellsberg said. “Or for that matter, that everything that I did was right.”
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