Judith Ehrlich, who made film on Pentagon Papers’ Daniel Ellsberg, criticises indictment of Bradley Manning over WikiLeaks
Barack Obama has the worst record of any US president when it comes to dealing with whistleblowers, according to the Oscar-nominated director of a documentary about the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s.
Judith Ehrlich, whose 2009 film The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers explored the 70s leak of US government documents on the Vietnam war, said Obama had indicted five alleged whistleblowers since taking office, making him the “worst president in terms of his record on whistleblowing”.
One of these is Bradley Manning, the US army private who is in detention, accused of leaking 250,000 diplomatic cables to the website WikiLeaks. The WikiLeaks exposé, published in late 2010 in partnership with papers including the Guardian and New York Times, has been compared to the Pentagon Papers in terms of its scale.
Another is understood to be Thomas Drake, a former official at the National Security Agency accused of passing classified documents to a newspaper reporter.
Ehrlich, who co-directed the 2009 film profiling Ellsberg and events leading up to the publication of the Pentagon Papers, won a Peabody award and an Oscar nomination for best documentary feature.
Speaking at a session on WikiLeaks at the Sheffield Doc/Fest on Thursday, she said whistleblowing had become more dangerous than ever, in part due to the restrictions imposed by the US patriot act, which was brought in by George Bush in 2001 and recently extended for several years by Obama.
Ehrlich praised Manning for his “courage” if he were responsible for the US embassy cables leak, adding: “There is no safe way to leak. He is prepared to spend his life in prison or be executed.”
Also speaking at the session was Vaughan Smith, the founder of an organisation championing independent journalism, the Frontline Club, and a friend of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He said that, contrary to popular perception, Assange did not promote “radical transparency” and was interested in a “conversation about what can and cannot be made transparent”.