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The New Pentagon Papers: WikiLeaks Releases 90,000+
Secret Military Documents Painting Devastating Picture
of Afghanistan War

It's one of the biggest leaks in US military history.
More than 90,000 internal records of US military
actions in Afghanistan over the past six years have
been published by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
The documents provide a devastating portrait of the war
in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have
killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents,
how a secret black ops special forces unit hunts down
targets for assassination or detention without trial,
how Taliban attacks have soared, and how Pakistan is
fueling the insurgency. We host a roundtable discussion
with independent British journalist Stephen Grey;
Pentagon Papers whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg; former
State Department official in Afghanistan, Matthew Hoh;
independent journalist Rick Rowley; and investigative
historian Gareth Porter.

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/7/26/the_new_pentagon_papers_wikileaks_releases


AMY GOODMAN: It's one the biggest leaks in US military
history. More than 90,000 internal records from US
military actions in Afghanistan over the past six years
have been published by the whistleblower website
WikiLeaks. The documents provide a devastating portrait
of the war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition
forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported
incidents, how a secret black ops special forces unit
hunts down targets for assassination or detention
without trial, how Taliban attacks have soared, and how
Pakistan is fueling the insurgency. WikiLeaks made the
files available this week to the New York Times, The
Guardian of London and the German weekly Der Spiegel,
who agreed simultaneously to publish their reports on
Sunday.

The documents, most of them classified as secret, give
a blow-by-blow account of the war in Afghanistan
between January 2004 and December of 2009. The findings
include detailed reports on 144 attacks on civilians by
coalition forces, ranging from the shootings of
individuals to massive air strikes, resulting in
hundreds of casualties; how a secret black ops special
forces unit named Task Force 373 hunts down targets for
assassination or detention without trial. The so-called
"kill or capture" list of senior Taliban and al-Qaeda
figures includes more than 2,000 names and is known as
JPEL, the Joint Prioritized Effects List. The files
also reveal how coalition forces are increasingly using
deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets
by remote control from a base in Nevada.

The records reveal there has a been a steep rise in
Taliban attacks on coalition troops and that the US
covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired
deadly surface-to-air missiles. In addition, the
Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive
escalation on their roadside bombing campaign, which
has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

And the files reveal NATO commanders fear neighbouring
Pakistan and Iran are fueling the insurgency. According
to the New York Times, the records suggest Pakistan
allows representatives of its spy service to meet
directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions
to organize networks of militant groups that fight
against American soldiers in Afghanistan and even hatch
plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, spoke about
the files in an interview with independent journalist
Stephen Grey for Channel 4 in Britain.

JULIAN ASSANGE: We have released 91,000 reports about
Afghanistan from the United States military. The
reports cover the period from 2004 to 2010 in minute
detail. They cover essentially all US military
operations, with the exclusion of some special forces
operations and the CIA. It covers each civilian kill,
each military kill that has been internally reported,
where it happened, and when it happened. It is the most
comprehensive history of a war to have ever been
published during the course of a war.

STEPHEN GREY: And how significant is that?

JULIAN ASSANGE: There doesn't seem to be an equivalent
disclosure made during the course of a war, during the
time where it might have some effect. The nearest
equivalent is perhaps the Pentagon Papers released by
Daniel Ellsberg in the '70s. That was about 10,000
pages. But already that was about four years old by the
time it was released.

STEPHEN GREY: And how many pages in your report?

JULIAN ASSANGE: There's about 200,000 pages in this
material. Pentagon Papers was about 10,000 pages.

STEPHEN GREY: What can you tell us about the source of
this material? How do you know it's--how do you know
it's true?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, we know from looking at, you
know, the material, correlating with the public record,
speaking to confidential military sources, that this
material is true and accurate. As to the specific
source, obviously we can't comment.


AMY GOODMAN: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The White House has condemned the publication of the
files by WikiLeaks. In a statement, National Security
Adviser Jim Jones said, quote, "We strongly condemn the
disclosure of classified information by individuals and
organizations, which puts the lives of the US and
partner service members at risk and threatens our
national security." Jones went on to say, quote, "The
documents posted by Wikileaks reportedly cover a period
of time from January 2004 to December 2009. On December
1, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with
a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan,
and increased focus on al Qaeda and Taliban safe-havens
in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation
that had developed over several years," he said.

Well, today we're spending the hour on this
unprecedented release of documents during the war with
a roundtable of guests. Here in our New York studio
we're joined by Rick Rowley, independent journalist
with Big Noise Films, just returned from a six-week
trip to Afghanistan, where he was embedded with a
Marine division in Marjah. Joining us from Washington,
DC, is Matthew Hoh, former Marine Corps captain in Iraq
and former State Department official in Afghanistan,
the highest-level US official to resign in protest over
the Afghan war. Also in DC, Gareth Porter,
investigative historian and journalist specializing in
US national security policy.

But first we go to London to speak to independent
journalist Stephen Grey, who has spent the past few
years reporting from Afghanistan and recently
interviewed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about this
massive leak. He's author of Operation Snakebite: The
Explosive True Story of an Afghan Desert Siege. And
we'll go to Daniel Ellsberg in Mexico, perhaps the
country's most famous whistleblower, who leaked the
secret history of the Vietnam War that many are
comparing this massive document leak to, 92,000
documents.

Stephen Grey, let's go to you first. You spent a good
deal of this weekend with Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks
founder who is responsible for this leak. First, talk
about its significance and what he understood he was
doing when he released these documents.

STEPHEN GREY: Well, I think this is part of, you know,
WikiLeaks's strategy. I mean, it's been a--it's a
snowball that started with fairly minor disclosures
into something that is, you know, absolutely game
changing. I mean, I think that this leak is phenomenal.
It's almost an act of sort of cyber war journalism. I
mean, this has completely compromised the US military's
secret system. It's called SIPRNet. It'll probably cost
them a billion dollars, I think, to fix it. And this is
only the beginning. I mean, if what we're hearing is
true, there are thousands and thousands of more
documents to come out here. But, you know, the actual
contents are also really significant. I've been
spending the weekend as well looking through, as far as
you can in a short period of time, these 90,000
documents, you know, looking at mentions of these task
forces. They're special forces task forces. I actually
wrote about this Task Force 373 before.

But it's really the extent of it. I mean, you know, I'm
sure some of the other people you've got on today have
also seen firsthand, you know, incidents like death of
civilians. But it's really in the totality of it all
that it becomes shocking. It's the fact that you've got
absolutely everything here. OK, not the most secret
stuff, but it gives an absolutely compelling portrait.
I think it will take months, if not years, to really
analyze it. It is--you know, the papers this morning,
particularly The Guardian in London, I think have done
a very good job pulling together some of its
conclusions. But, you know, it is incredible to see the
raw detail there, and I think it will pull together an
actually--an incredible picture of war.

AMY GOODMAN: As we are broadcasting this show today,
the news conference is going on in London that Julian
Assange is holding, revealing all of this. I wanted to
turn to Daniel Ellsberg in Mexico. You're hearing of
this release. Your response?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: I'm very impressed by the release. It
is the first release in thirty-nine years or forty
years, since I first gave the Pentagon Papers to the
Senate, of the scale of the Pentagon Papers, and not
the first as it should have been. I would--how many
times in those years should there have been the release
of thousands of pages showing our being lied into war
in Iraq, as in Vietnam, and the nature of the war in
Afghanistan? I hope there will be--I hope this will
inspire, despite the charges brought against Manning
under the UC, under the Universal Code of Military
Justice, which is not civilian law, it's not First
Amendment law. It's the military law, so he's in deep
water here, as I think he expected. But nevertheless, I
hope people will not be deterred from realizing that
they have the responsibility that, according to the
reports we've had of what Manning said in chat logs to
the informant, Adrian Lamo, that realize that there is
great deception going on, that there is, in Manning's
reported words, horrific material, almost criminal, as
he put it, which deserve to be in the public domain,
that they will consider doing what's been done here,
and that is risking their own career and their
clearance and even their liberty, maybe for life, in
order to save many lives. So, whoever did this--and
Manning is charged with it--it remains to be seen
whether the government can prove a case against him in
the particular charges, but in terms of what he's
reported to have said to Lamo, I admire very much the
spirit in which he did this. He said that he felt the
public needed to know this and that he was prepared to
go to prison, even for life--he said that--or even to be
executed. That's the first person I've heard in forty
years who is in the same state of mind that I was forty
years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Grey, just to clarify, Dan
Ellsberg is talking about Private First Class Bradley
Manning, who was in Iraq, had--says he released these
documents. He has now been arrested by the military.
What did Julian Assange say about Bradley Manning? And
this came out in his conversations with Lamo, another
blogger online.

STEPHEN GREY: Yeah, I mean, like Daniel Ellsberg, he
has, you know, praised what Bradley Manning has said
about what he's doing, but he has not confirmed that
he's the source. I mean, it's one of the beauties, if
you like, of this technology that Julian Assange and
his colleagues at WikiLeaks have developed, is that it
actually protects the source. So what Julian Assange
told me was that he himself does not know who the
source is. What they do is verify documents, not
sources themselves. So they're not able to actually
verify that that was him. But, I mean, what was
striking to me was that Bradley Manning said in his
so-called confessions to this informer that he had
released 265,000 documents to WikiLeaks. Now, they've
published 95,000; they say they've held back 15,000.
Add that up, I think there's 110,000. So less than half
of what he's handed over has actually been published
yet. So there's--you know, if he indeed is the leak--and
I suppose you can--it looks pretty likely--then there's a
lot more to come.

AMY GOODMAN: He's been charged with passing on fifty
State Department cables. We're talking about the
largest document release in US history, outside of Dan
Ellsberg, the--actually, including Dan Ellsberg, in the
course of a war. Ninety-two thousand pages are being
released by WikiLeaks, the website, Julian Assange
holding a news conference now in London. Daniel
Ellsberg is on the phone with us from Mexico. Stephen
Grey, who spent much of the weekend with Julian
Assange, is on with us from London. We'll be joined by
others when we come back. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: An explosive story today, the release of
92,000 documents coming out of the military. We are
joined now by a roundtable of people. Dan Ellsberg, the
most well-known whistleblower in the United States, is
joining us from Mexico. Stephen Grey, independent
journalist who interviewed Julian Assange this weekend,
is with us from London. We are also joined by Matthew
Hoh, former Marine Corps captain in Iraq and former
State Department official in Afghanistan. And Rick
Rowley is with us here in New York, who's just returned
from Afghanistan. He's with Big Noise Films.

Rick, your observations of what this six years of
document release means based on what you've seen in
Afghanistan?

RICK ROWLEY: Well, I mean, what these documents
show--prove--is that the US military has been
whitewashing the war in Afghanistan for years and that
most of the media has been along for the ride. They've
systematically covered up civilian casualties. They've
covered up the successful attacks by the Taliban and
their significance. And they've covered up the violent
criminality of the security forces that we've created
there, security forces that are preying on Afghan
civilians. I mean, the picture that emerges from these
documents is, on the one hand, of an insurgency that is
resilient and adapting and that is winning the war on
the ground, and, on the other hand, of an Afghan state
that we've constructed there that looks less like a
government and looks more like a patchwork of warlords
and criminal gangs that's extorting the local
population and that has become more hated in many parts
of the country than the Taliban who they replaced.

A third interesting thing that these documents do is
they put flesh on a process that we've been tracking,
along with reporters like Jeremy Scahill, for some
time, of a transition to what some people call a
special forces war, an entirely covert and classified
war that's conducted with drone strikes and midnight
raids and targeted assassinations, where everything is
classified, there are no media embeds, and there's very
little accountability. I mean, I think that is the
trajectory that this war is taking right now.

Now, the White House has responded. They haven't denied
anything here. They haven't even denied the conclusions
that people are drawing about how terrible the war has
been there. Their response has been that this is old
news, we knew about this a long time ago, and that, in
fact, Obama's war, Obama's surge, the new war that
began in December 2009, has changed everything. Well, I
came back from Afghanistan ten days ago. And while I
was embedded with the Marines in Marjah and elsewhere
in the country, I can tell you that this picture
matches perfectly with what's going on on the ground
there right now. In Marjah, which was supposed to be
the poster child of this new campaign, Marjah--you know,
it's a small farming community where two Marine
divisions were sent in to try to prove that this war
was still winnable. Those two Marine divisions have
been pinned down for months. We were there at the
beginning of an operation called Operation Cobra that
was sending in reinforcements, a couple extra Marine
companies, to try to, you know, push out their security
perimeter. But it's the--Obama's surge has completely
derailed. They haven't brought security to Marjah. They
have one to three kilometers of security around their
forward operating bases.

And the biggest disaster is that the government that
they were--that they've brought in and tried to stand
up, the famous government in a box that was going to
roll out right after the Marines cleared the ground,
has disappeared. The officials refused to deploy from
Kabul and disappeared. Only the mayor comes in, Mayor
Haji Zahir, who's brought in by helicopter by the
Marines and, like, set down in the middle of shuras and
meetings that they set up and then bundled back into a
helicopter and flown out. And this guy, Haji Zahir,
he's an expat who lived in Germany for years and spent
five years in jail for attempted murder in Germany. I
mean, that's the caliber of people who we've brought in
to make the leaders of this new--of the Afghanistan that
we're building. I mean, it is an abject failure, as far
as a nation-building operation on the ground. And, you
know, whether you're talking about the last ten years
of the war or 2010, I mean, the picture doesn't change.

AMY GOODMAN: Matthew Hoh, you're the highest-level
ranking government official to quit over the war in
Afghanistan. You were speaking this weekend in Las
Vegas at Netroots Nation. Your response to this massive
document release?

MATTHEW HOH: That was just an excellent summary we just
heard by Mr. Rowley. I think the thing to take away
from this is the lack of attention paid to the war by
the American public, the lack of involvement by the
American media in this war for the last seven, eight
years, and, most damningly, the lack of oversight by
our Congress on this war. What these documents show--and
it provides a very valuable historical record, and this
is going to be--this is really a treasure trove for
historians for years to come, because it documents
daily the actions of the war. And one thing I would be
very hesitant--I want to push people on is understand
what war is. You know that axium of war is hell. I hope
people learn from these documents, that's exactly it,
and not attach moral colorations of good and evil to
these reports. But this is the basic nature of warfare,
and this is what it's been like, and it's been
consistent since really '04, in terms of how poorly
things have been going on in Afghanistan. And I
shouldn't say "consistent," because every year, as
we've increased troops, it's gotten worse and worse.
So, I think these documents are providing a valuable
service. But like I said, the main point to take away
is that why weren't we paying attention to this these
last five or six years? Where was the media? Where was
the American public's interest? And most importantly,
where was that congressional oversight?

AMY GOODMAN: Matthew Hoh, you're a Marine Corps
captain. You served in Afghanistan as a government
official. What were you most shocked by in these
reports?

MATTHEW HOH: I wasn't shocked by anything. These are
your standard reports that the military produces
internally for a host of reasons. These are reports
that are done on a daily basis. They're reports that
are done based upon intelligence activity or based upon
what we call significant activities, or SIGACTs. So it
really was just very similar to the things I saw in
both Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of reporting. The
daily actions, the actual what occurs in the course of
a day at war, that's what these documents show. I
certainly have not gone through as many as I should by
now, but they seem to be your standard reports that the
military uses to communicate internally with itself.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Gareth Porter. Can you
talk about the documents that refer to Pakistan aiding
the insurgency, the Pakistani ISI, the spy services,
working with the forces in Afghanistan who are killing
US soldiers?

GARETH PORTER: Yes. This is perhaps the closest thing
to a major story that--in terms of news value that comes
out of the collection of documents that have just been
leaked. And this is a story that is extremely important
politically, in terms of US politics and US policy,
because of the Obama administration's admission that it
is vital that Pakistan assist the United States in
preventing the Afghan Taliban from having the sort of
safe havens in Pakistan that they've had in the past.
Now, you know, what these documents are indicating is
that there's lots of evidence that Pakistan's
intelligence service, ISI, has indeed been meeting with
the Taliban commanders. And although, you know, the
American intelligence people were not there on the
ground, nor Afghan intelligence people, not there on
the ground at those meetings, the supposition was
obviously that what's going on here is that Pakistan's
intelligence is working closely with the Taliban in
terms of planning their strategy, and indeed even
specific operations.

And this is an extremely damaging story in terms of the
fragility of the US war in Afghanistan at this very
moment, which is in an advanced stage of basically
being--suffering from political--being overwhelmed by
political opposition or a lack of support. I would say
that it's not too much to say that the Afghan war today
is on political life support. It is really very, very
close to the position of the Iraq war, George Bush's
Iraq war, in very late 2006, when Bush was forced to
make some very fundamental decisions about what he was
going to do about that war. And in that situation, I
think the Obama administration is quite vulnerable to
being attacked politically for having a policy that is
so clearly unrealistic, that it should be completely
reassessed and start heading for the exits. In other
words, the information--the new information about
Pakistan, which simply reiterates and conforms to what
we already know, essentially, about the Pakistani
policy of cooperating closely with the Taliban, is a
death warrant for any possibility of success of this
war. And it should be the basis for new calls for a US
exit strategy being put as the top priority right now.

AMY GOODMAN: The Pakistani ambassador to Washington,
Husain Haqqani, vehemently denied claims the country's
intelligence agency, ISI, has backed the Taliban. He
said, "I think that the American leadership knows what
Pakistan is doing. We have paid a price in treasure and
blood over the past two years. More Pakistanis have
been killed by terrorists, including our military
officers and intelligence service." And, of course,
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just promised
Pakistan another $500 million in aid. Gareth?

GARETH PORTER: Well, what the ambassador is doing here,
of course, is exactly what US officials have done over
the past year or so, which is to talk about the
militants in Pakistan as though--you know, without
differentiating between the Afghan Taliban and the
Pakistani neo-Taliban, to talk about the fact that,
yes, the Pakistani government has made progress in
dealing with the militants in Pakistan. Well, yes, they
have. They've changed their policy significantly in
terms of dealing with the Pakistani Taliban, but they
have not changed their policy with regard to the Afghan
Taliban. That's quite clear. And what you have--it's
very interesting--the Obama administration just issued
an eight-page paper yesterday which responds to this
story, which is made up solely of public statements by
US officials over the past year and a half or so about
this question of US policy toward Pakistan and the
Taliban. And what you find in these statements is utter
unwillingness to specifically say right out loud that
Pakistan is not only not cooperating with the United
States on this issue, but there's no reason to believe
that they're going to, because they don't believe it's
in their interest to cooperate with the United States
against the Taliban.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to Stephen Grey in
London, who spent part of the weekend with Julian
Assange, who's released these documents, the founder of
WikiLeaks. In a minute, I want ask you, Stephen, and
also go to Dan Ellsberg, about how Julian Assange is
being hounded as he travels the world. But first, the
special forces, talk more about 373, Task Force 373.

STEPHEN GREY: Absolutely. There hasn't been much
disclosed before. I did actually write about it in this
book I wrote in a title--a chapter called "The Manhunt,"
because what I noticed is that this war is divided into
the public version, if you like, the softer hearts and
minds stuff, but if you look at the history of
counterinsurgency, you'll know that actually
counterinsurgency is not a soft option, and therefore
there is this unseen side of the war, which actually
has become more and more dominant, which is basically
manhunt. You have these kill-or-capture units. They
change their code names regularly. But Task Force 373
has been one of those units. And what they're doing is
systematically going around and--well, they call it
decapitation, removing the sort of the head of this
organization that they call the Taliban, and thinking
that that will destabilize the Taliban and win. Of
course, you know, under the laws of war--

AMY GOODMAN: We just lost Stephen Grey, but we're going
to go back to him in a minute. Let me ask the question
to Rick Rowley about Task Force 373, about the whole
issue of this special forces war.

RICK ROWLEY: Yeah. Well, I think journalists like
Jeremy Scahill and others have been tracking this for a
while, that as the nation-building project fails in
Afghanistan--and, I mean, this year was supposed to be
the year of nation building. Marjah was supposed to be
the prelude to Kandahar. Both of those have been
rebranded, canceled, completely dramatically changed.
There's been a massive escalation of a second option,
which is the special forces war, an entirely covert
war. So, I mean, and you're seeing this publicly
discussed now. This is the sign of the future. You
know, there was the recent Newsweek on it. There's
people publicly in the administration talking about
this. When we abandon the nation-building project,
which everyone recognizes is an abject failure, the new
form, paradigm, the war is going to take is drone
strikes and special forces raids and midnight
assassinations and capturing and abducting people. I
mean, this--if you look at the press releases every day,
every week, that NATO and ISAF put out, you can see
that the majority of the kinetic action, the military
calls it, the majority of the people killed and
captured, are done by special forces. So there is no
real information about them at all. It's all entirely
secret. And these are just the ones that are made
public. Many more of them aren't made public. These
documents that were released, you know, they
occasionally cover--in slant ways cover special forces
operations, but all of that stuff is a different level
of classified.

So, I mean, it's absolutely true that there are two
parallel wars going on: there's the war for hearts and
minds, which is increasingly just a distraction, that
the media have access to, where they have a very
restricted rules of engagement, where they don't use as
many air strikes; and then there's a special forces
war, where it's, you know, all systems go, where there
aren't the same restrictions, where they routinely kill
people who don't represent the same kind of--don't reach
the same kind of threat level that they would have to
in the conventional war. So I think this is going to be
one of the most significant stories going forward into
the future, is tracking through these documents how--the
evolution of this new kind of war there.

AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Grey, you were just getting into
Task Force 373.

STEPHEN GREY: Yeah, I'm not sure quite where you lost
me there, but I was just saying that there's this
parallel war, and 373 is involved in what they call
decapitation operations. They believe that there is
a--the Taliban as an organization can be defeated by
removing its head and that getting rid of all these
leaders will destabilize and help them to win. But it's
actually a very conventional way of viewing things, and
it goes completely counter to the idea of actually
having a peace settlement, because if you remove the
leadership of an organization, you have no one to
negotiate with, and you end up with a sort of
constantly rejuvenated rebellion, which I think is what
it is, of more and more extreme people. So it's very
questionable whether this thing is actually, you know,
productive at all, even in this very conventional way.
I mean, I think what comes across overall is that--you
know, is that the war is being fought in a very
conventional way, despite what's being said. You know,
there's all this talk--it's always about how many enemy
did we kill. It's all seen in a very sort of--you know,
it's as if it's kind of like a World War II situation.
You know, you really wonder whether the lessons have
been learned.

I also think that even the talk of Pakistan--and I think
that's--it's an example of the US being played. I think
there's a lot of paranoia there. They're being fed
information by Afghan intelligence, who--where they get
most of their intelligence from, you know? And they see
it this great sanctuary, if only we, you know,
weren't--it's just like Vietnam, they say. You know, if
only we could cross the border, you know, and defeat
that sanctuary, somehow this will all go away. I don't
think it's like that. I think it's a very complex
problem, and I think a lot of it's to do with a
straightforward rebellion and unpopularity of the
Afghan government, which the US is supporting.

AMY GOODMAN: As I said, as we're broadcasting, Julian
Assange is holding a news conference in London. Let's
just go to a clip of that news conference right now
with the founder of WikiLeaks who released the--well,
this unprecedented 92,000 pages of documents.

JULIAN ASSANGE: I suppose our greatest fear is that we
will be too successful too fast, and we won't be able
to do justice to the material we're getting in fast
enough. That's our greatest problem at the moment.

REPORTER: Do you accept that secrecy is an important
and a necessary part of government [inaudible]?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Secrecy is sometimes perfectly
legitimate. For example, your medical records with your
doctor are probably, in all likelihood, perfectly
entitled to confidentiality. But not always. I mean,
some cases where that is not true.

REPORTER: So, you make the choice then? You at
WikiLeaks would make [inaudible]--

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, it's a matter about whether the
coercive power of the state should be used to stop
people sharing information, who have no direct
connection to the source of the information. You can't
use the coercive power of the state to stop people
spreading rumors, to stop people discussing political
life, and sophisticated US jurisprudence understands
that. And that is why you have things like the First
Amendment, which takes the press outside the
legislative process, because in the end it is the
communication of knowledge which regulates the
legislature, which creates the Constitution.


AMY GOODMAN: That was Julian Assange. He is holding a
news conference, as we speak here, in London on the
release of these 92,000 secret records from the Afghan
war. They constitute something like 200,000 pages.

Daniel Ellsberg, before we go to break, I want to talk
about this issue of secrecy and also what is happening
to Julian Assange now. CNET reported that federal
agents appeared at a hacker conference in New York
recently, looking forJulian Assange. Our colleague,
Eric Corley, publisher of 2600 magazine, organizer of
the Next HOPE conference, said five Homeland Security
agents appeared at the conference a day before the
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange was scheduled
to speak. They told him, if he shows up, he will be
questioned at length. Before we go to Dan Ellsberg,
maybe Stephen Grey can tell us more about this, having
spent the weekend with Julian Assange, that he is very
much on the run, that he is very much--says that he is
being hunted.

STEPHEN GREY: Well, absolutely. He's aware of a great
deal of surveillance, and I think he knows that it will
all come down to politics, really. The US government
would dearly love to arrest and question him, and
they've certainly been trying, he says now. They've
made a formal request to the Australian government
to--this is what he says--to have him arrested, and the
Australian government refused to comply. So I think
he's resting--and he's noted surveillance people on the
plane without luggage, joining him even in Icelend. So
he thinks he's being followed wherever he goes, and
he's relying on, if you like, the public support that
might actually stop that sort of action, it would be
counterproductive. And I think the US right now is
trying to get somebody else to do it, because they know
that if they themselves arrest Julian Assange, then it
will create a huge backlash.

AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Ellsberg in Mexico?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, some have said that it's
ridiculous to think that Assange is in any actual
danger. I don't know--physical danger. I don't know how
large that probability is. It's probably small. But it
should be zero, and it's not zero. It's ridiculous to
say that it is zero that he's in any danger at all. The
fact is that when I--they say, because he's so famous,
because there's so much publicity on him, that he
doesn't need to worry, from that point of view.

I speak from an unusual perspective there. In May 3rd,
1972, when I was on trial, in a major political trial
with tremendous publicity on me, Richard Nixon,
President Nixon, sent a dozen CIA assets up from Miami
to Washington, where I was giving a--addressing a rally
on the steps of the Capitol with a number of Congress
persons there and a large crowd, with orders to
incapacitate me totally. Those were the orders given to
them. So I can hardly assure Assange that nothing like
that could happen again.

We now have a president who has asserted--Barack Obama,
who has asserted a right to do what other presidents
have done in the past, but have done it covertly. He's
asserting the right to assassinate American citizens
abroad who he suspects, or intelligence suspects, are
serving the cause of terrorism. And I'm sure, by the
way, that the phrase "the most dangerous man alive,"
which Henry Kissinger put to me because of the
disclosures I was making, that's the way they would
think of Julian Assange right now. So he should be--he
should be quite safe from that. But as your previous
speakers have been saying, we're more and more
conducting a war, and not only in Afghanistan, but it
was earlier true in Iraq under General McChrystal, a
war of death squads, of selective assassination. And
those assassinations don't always, to broaden this
point just a little bit here, those don't always hit
the person who has been condemned to death on a hit
list approved by the President. They don't always
get--aside from the illegality of that whole process and
the absolute denial of due process or of general laws
of war, they don't hit the right people. They hit
families. They hit other people when they're present.

The question is, I think--from this whole release, a
question to be asked is this: when you look at this
file, which ends in December, as the White House has
pointed out, in December of last year, and they try to
make the point that that shows that things are all
different now, because now we're no longer
under-resourcing it, we are now paying for, you know, a
lot more death squads and a lot more drones and a lot
of other things, and that will make all the difference.
What I would like to see leaked--I don't know if it's in
these documents or not--is the following bottom line.
What was their estimate in December of the order of
battle or the strength of all the various groups that
we are fighting there in Afghanistan? After the $300
billion that we've spent, how does that compare with a
year earlier? And how does it compare with the estimate
now? I would like to see a leak to Congress, in the
first place, and to the public, of what their estimate
is now in June, July of 2010, after we put more troops
in there? Is it really smaller? I will make a strong
guess that their official estimate, which we should
know, of the Taliban forces in their various forms, all
different kinds of them, that we're facing is larger
now than it was six months ago and larger than it was a
year ago. And I'll predict that after the next $100
billion we've spent over there, it will be larger next
year and the year after.

So this is the time, as I think Gareth Porter--no, as
Matthew Hoh very well pointed out, for Congress, at
last, to take on its responsibility of questioning
whether we should be spending another $300 billion and
more on this process of trying to occupy a country that
is successfully--has successfully been fighting off
foreigners for thousands of years. Actually, what I
read in these documents is not just as Matthew was
saying, that they're very similar to what he was
seeing, as I heard him, in Afghanistan when he was
there, they're pretty close to what I was reading, and
in some cases writing, in Vietnam, when I was there
forty, forty-five years ago. It really confirms what
I've been saying for seven years, that we are involved
in what I think of as Vietnamistan. And it's up to
Congress right now, at last, not to defer to the
President on this, not to give the benefit of the doubt
to the people who have been keeping these reports
secret from us for so long, but to investigate
themselves and to take away that money.

AMY GOODMAN: Dan Ellsberg, we have to break. Daniel
Ellsberg, Henry Kissinger called him "the most
dangerous man in America." Rick Rowley with us, of Big
Noise Films, just back from Afghanistan. Gareth Porter
in Washington. Matthew Hoh, Marine Corps captain, the
highest-level government official to quit over the
Afghan war. Stephen Grey with us from London, he's just
spent the weekend with Julian Assange and interviewed
him for Channel 4.

Julian Assange just told reporters in his news
conference it's up to a court to decide really if
something in the end is a crime. That said, there does
appear to be evidence of war crimes. He said what's
been reported so far has only scratched the surface.
We'll be back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg,
he released the Pentagon Papers. WikiLeaks is being
compared to that. It's the largest release of secret
documents in history. More than 92,000 records, that's
more than 200,000 pages, have now been released online.
Rick Rowley is with us, just back from Afghanistan,
with Big Noise Films. Gareth Porter is with us in
Washington, DC. Stephen Grey, in London, just
interviewed Julian Assange for Channel 4. And Matthew
Hoh, highest-level government official to quit his
position in Afghanistan because of the war there, also
a Marine Corps captain.

Matthew Hoh, I want to go to you. You worked with Task
Force 373.

MATTHEW HOH: Loosely. It's a very integrated--with these
special forces operations, I hope people aren't getting
the idea that, at least of last year, they're off by
themselves running amok. It's a fairly well-integrated
operation that spans political efforts, as well. I'll
give you an example. As a political officer, you would
review the target lists to make sure you weren't--we
weren't killing or going after anyone who was actually
working with us. A lot of times what happens--the point
was made that we kill the wrong people. Well, you know,
sometimes we get the right guy, but he's actually just
somebody who's been turned in by someone who's got a
grudge against him.

One of the things I hope people see from these
documents is how complex the nature of war is, how
difficult war actually is. And so, the question has to
be asked, Is it worth it? What we're asking our young
men and women to do, is it worth putting them through
this? And what benefit is it to the United States?

But the other point about the special operations raids,
these capture-kill missions, if this worked, if this
was a viable method, we would have won this thing back
in '04 or '05, you know? And the other point, too,
about Dan's--Dan Ellsberg's excellent point about the
strength of the Taliban, I'm in complete agreement. If
you actually go back and look at comments made by
General Barno, who was the commanding general of
American forces in '04 and '05, back then he was saying
there were only 2,000 Taliban. Last summer they said it
was 40,000. And I concur with Dan Ellsberg. We've sent
30,000 more troops into southern Afganistan, and that
probably has exponentially increased the strength of
the Taliban, because we see the Taliban get their
support because of resistance to foreign occupation and
resistance to a corrupt and unrepresentative
government.

AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Grey, the newspapers that
WikiLeaks worked with in releasing this--and it's still
all just being digested. It's less than twenty-four
hours ago. By the way, Eric Schmitt, the reporter for
the New York Times, said they've been working with the
White House now for weeks and carefully going through
and redacting names and other sources that might be
compromised, said the White House was fully aware of
what's in these documents. And he actually said Julian
Assange has agreed to hold back a number of documents
to go through that kind of redacting process before
they're released. But Stephen Grey, The Guardian write,
"In many cases, the unit has set out to seize"--talking
about Task Force 373--"seize targets for internment, but
in others it has simply killed them without attempting
to capture. The logs reveal that TF 373 has also killed
civilian men, women and children and even Afghan police
officers who have strayed into its path."

STEPHEN GREY: Well, that's right. And I've been looking
through those same documents. I mean, they do show a
lot of people are captured; it's not just a kill
operation. But on the other hand, they are
systematically using methods that don't allow you to
capture. For example, there was one missile strike that
they used to try and take out one person they were
supposedly trying to capture, and, you know, it killed
a bunch of children instead. And they tried to--you see
them trying to prevent that information being released
to anyone other than themselves. And it is quite
shocking.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's go back to Gareth Porter in
Washington, DC. Talk more about the significance, what
you think is most important to highlight here, as we go
through these hundreds of thousands of pages of
top-secret documents, classified documents.

GARETH PORTER: Well, again, I mean, there are very few
things here that have not, in some fashion, been
reported by the news media over the last--particularly
over the last year or so. But there is one set of
documents, in particular, that I thought were
particularly insightful in terms of revealing the basic
nature of the society and of the Afghan government that
the United States is supporting, and that is a set of
documents that show, for example, a police commander, a
district police commander, who had raped a
sixteen-year-old girl and who was confronted with a
civilian complaining about this rape. He ordered his
bodyguard, according to this report, to shoot the
civilian. The bodyguard refused to do so, and then the
police commander simply killed his own bodyguard in
order to basically deal with the situation. This sort
of laid bare the basic structure that the United States
has stumbled into, or, perhaps I should say, has
allowed itself to take control of, and--or tried to take
control of, and I think what it shows is that this is a
war that not only cannot be won, but in which the
United States is on the wrong side.

And I just want to make one more point about the
releases, and that is that I think that the real story
here, the most important story, is WikiLeaks itself. I
think what we have here is a new institution that is
undoubtedly the most important antiwar institution that
has been created so far and that I have no doubt is
frightening the US military and intelligence
establishment, as well as the Obama administration,
very strongly. And I think that's for very good reason.
I think they understand that this represents a
potentially powerful weapon for the future against war
crimes as well as other illegal actions by the United
States.

AMY GOODMAN: I'm going to give, for the last few
seconds, Daniel Ellsberg the last word, as we come full
circle from Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, that you
had released at tremendous risk to yourself, to
WikiLeaks right now and this unprecedented release of
top-secret documents. DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, this is
the closest that I've come to what I've been calling
for for years, and that is for people to do not what I
did, which is to wait years, until bombs were falling
and until more countries have been invaded or
escalation, before revealing documents to Congress and
the public through the press. 

_____________________________________________

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