Just this weekend we wondered what Daniel Ellsberg would make of the American hunt for Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. The Daily Beast thoughtfully obliged:
The Daily Beast: Could the release of the diplomatic cables said to be in the possession of Wikileaks endanger national security?
Daniel Ellsberg: Any serious risk to that national security is extremely low. There may be 260,000 diplomatic cables. It’s very hard to think of any of that which could be plausibly described as a national security risk. Will it embarrass diplomatic relationships? Sure, very likely—all to the good of our democratic functioning. The embarrassment would be our awareness that we are supporting and facilitating dictators and corrupt and murderous governments, and we are quite aware of their nature.
An example would be surrounding a visit of Hamid Karzai to this country…where he is given a special audience with the president. We know that privately he is seen realistically. We know that because of the leak, which I think started out of this investigation. We know that because of the leak from Ambassador Eikenberry. He describes him as irredeemably corrupt, not an appropriate partner for a pacification program, and cannot change.
They would regard this as very embarrassing, [since publicly they’ve been] saying, he is a perfectly suitable partner for pacification, working on corruption…Ha ha….Bullshit.
Daily Beast: Do you think Assange is in danger?
Ellsberg: I happen to have been the target of a White House hit squad myself. On May 3, 1972, a dozen CIA assets from the Bay of Pigs, Cuban émigrés were brought up from Miami with orders to “incapacitate me totally.” I said to the prosecutor, “What does that mean? Kill me.” He said, “It means to incapacitate you totally. But you have to understand these guys never use the word ‘kill.’”
Daily Beast: Is the Obama White House anymore enlightened than Nixon’s?
Ellsberg: We’ve now been told by Dennis Blair, the late head of intelligence here, that President Obama has authorized the killing of American citizens overseas, who are suspected of involvement in terrorism. Assange is not American, so he doesn’t even have that constraint. I would think that he is in some danger. Granted, I would think that his notoriety now would provide him some degree of protection. You would think that would protect him, but you could have said the same thing about me. I was the number one defendant. I was on trail but they brought up people to beat me up.
Daily Beast You believe he is in danger of bodily harm, then?
Ellsberg Absolutely. On the same basis, I was….Obama is now proclaiming rights of life and death, being judge, jury, and executioner of Americans without due process. No president has ever claimed that and possibly no one since John the First.
OK, a bit of a let down. Good enough for breathless Antiwar.com fundraising
spam outreach. Clueless, of course. This Administration probably couldn’t put Bo the dog down should something tragic happen. ‘It’s not your brand, Sir.’ But Ellsberg also now lacks that certain gift of unknowing improvisational chaos of say a Michael Scheuer. Or the infuriating self-regard of a Joe Wilson. The capacity to ignite spontaneous rage and frission. Now that’s entertainment!
Once, Ellsberg could. Now? More like Joe Klein bragging he sat on stage once with the Grateful Dead. Ellsberg’s limited improvisational skills are evident from the interview; he can take very simple direction from the interviewer and then proceeds to play the same old song regardless. The spontaneous riffs into new territory? No where. Joe Wilson would have known how to turn the interview into being about HIM. And that’s art. If only there was someone America could write into this Wikileaks script ala Bill Murray in 1979/80, when he walked onto the Caddyshack set for a role with no speaking lines.