Abrahms: Daniel Ellsberg did not leak all of the Pentagon Papers

Must-read piece in today's Wall Street Journal by noted First Amendment lawyer and advocate Floyd Abrahms, who points out that Daniel Ellsberg opted not to leak all of the Pentagon Papers.

There were four volumes Ellsberg kept confidential for years because they focused on the diplomatic efforts of the U.S. to obtain a negotiated settlement of the War in Vietnam.

Abrahms explains why Ellsberg decided not to release those four volumes with the 43 that became famous as The Pentagon Papers:

“In a secret brief filed with the Supreme Court, the U.S. government described the diplomatic volumes as including information about negotiations secretly conducted on its behalf by foreign nations including Canada, Poland, Italy and Norway. Included as well, according to the government, were 'derogatory comments about the perfidiousness of specific persons involved, and statements which might be offensive to nations or governments.'

“The diplomatic volumes were not published, even in part, for another dozen years. Mr. Ellsberg later explained his decision to keep them secret, according to Sanford Ungar's 1972 book The Papers & The Papers, by saying, 'I didn't want to get in the way of the diplomacy.'

“Julian Assange sure does. Can anyone doubt that he would have made those four volumes public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity? Or that he would have paid not even the slightest heed to the possibility that they might seriously compromise efforts to bring a speedier end to the war?”

Assange, of course, has made public volumes of U.S. diplomatic cables that contained multiple examples of the very sort of materials Ellsberg agreed with the U.S. government should not have been made public with The Pentagon Papers. 

Abrahms criticizes Wikileaks for exposing official documents for no other reason than the fact the government prefers to keep them secret:

“It revels in the revelation of 'secrets' simply because they are secret. It assaults the very notion of diplomacy that is not presented live on C-Span. It has sometimes served the public by its revelations but it also offers, at considerable potential price, a vast amount of material that discloses no abuses of power at all.”

For those not familiar with Abrahms, go here for his bio. The man is a hero to countless civil libertarians and First Amendment advocates for good reason. That he rejects Assange's methods and rationalizations is significant. Go here for the balance of his important piece in the Journal.

 

Beltway ConfidentialDiplomacyUSWikileaks

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