Former Pentagon and State Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg knows a lot about the lies politicians from both major parties use to generate support for unpopular and costly wars.
He’s best known as the man who leaked government documents (known as the Pentagon Papers) to the media in 1971, revealing that high-ranking government officials lied to the public and to Congress in order to perpetuate the Vietnam War.
So when he calls the Bush Administration “criminal,” he’s being neither careless nor ironic. “The fact is, Bush and Cheney operate under a theory of government that is at odds with our Constitution and our Bill of Rights,” Ellsberg said recently by phone from his California home.
“Since 2001, President Bush has flagrantly violated the law — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — in terms of warrantless wiretapping, and moreover has conducted torture since 2001 in violation of both domestic and international laws,” he said.
“President Bush’s use of signing statements are pretty much intended to negate the legislative function of Congress,” he added.
“So in all these respects, the president is actually acting beyond the law as an outlaw — as a criminal, to put it bluntly — without effective oversight or checks by Congress,” Ellsberg said.
While acknowledging that Congress was conned into supporting the Iraq War, he isn’t ready to let them off the hook. “It proved pretty easy to lie to them — much easier than it should have been. But the fact is they were given a very false picture of the situation and the Constitution was ignored in that instance.”
He also considers Congress’ failure to hold impeachment hearings “complicity by Congress in this abrogation of the Constitution.”
“We’re seen as an outlaw state by the international community for ignoring international law on torture and on aggression,” Ellsberg said.
Attacking Iraq without U.N. Security Council authorization is a flagrant violation of the U.N. charter, an international treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory, he noted. “It means that we have committed and are in the process of committing aggression, a crime against the peace in the Nuremburg sense,” he said. “We have an administration that both in domestic and in international terms is an outlaw — a lawless regime.”
Ellsberg will deliver the keynote address at the ACLU-Indiana annual banquet April 5, although his prepared remarks will probably diverge slightly from the event’s theme: “Restore American Democracy: A Call for Change.”
“The title I’m using will be, ‘Our Constitutional Crisis: Must the U.S. Remain an Outlaw State?’” he said. “It’s not a matter of change so much as change back; it’s a matter of restoring our Constitution, which has been under assault now for seven years.”
As he enters his 78th year, Ellsberg says hope keeps him active. “The importance of averting nuclear war and regaining our democracy are such transcendent stakes that even a small chance of success makes efforts much greater than mine worthwhile,” he said. “They’re still at it, so I’m still at it.”
ACLU of Indiana’s 2008 Annual Dinner and Reception will be held from 6-10 p.m. at The Marott, 2625 N. Meridian St. Details: www.aclu-in.org or 317-635-4059, ext. 233.
Restore American Democracy
Daniel Ellsberg is the keynote speaker at the annual American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana dinner and reception this Saturday, April 5 at The Marrott, 2625 N. Meridian St.
Tickets are $75 per person ($35 for students) in advance or at the door. Please RSVP by calling 317-635-4059, ext. 233 or e-mailing email@example.com.
The sole mission of the ACLU of Indiana is to restrain government and to defend the liberties secured to individuals by the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Indiana Constitution. Even if you can’t attend the dinner, consider supporting the ACLU with your membership. For more information, contact Tim Calvert at 317-635-4059, ext. 233 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.