The man who leaked the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War defended Julian Assange at his extradition hearing in London on Wednesday, saying WikiLeaks was acting in the public interest and warned Assange that he would not get a fair trial in the US.
Australian-born Assange, 49, is fighting to stop being sent to the United States, where he is accused of conspiring to hack government computers and opposing an espionage law that WikiLeaks released confidential cables in 2010-2011 to violate.
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked documents known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other papers in 1971, told the court that WikiLeaks’ disclosures had shown Americans how they were going about US action in Iraq and in Afghanistan had been misled, as had its leaks, which also revealed previously classified information about the Vietnam War.
Ellsberg cited a US military video released by WikiLeaks in 2010 entitled “Collateral Murder,” which showed an Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news agents.
“I was very aware that what was shown in this video deserved the term murder, a war crime,” he said on the video link to London’s Old Bailey Court. “I was very happy that the American public heard about this Reality our war was facing. “
James Lewis, attorney for the US authorities, said Assange was not wanted for the release of the 2007 video but for the disclosure of a small number of documents with the unedited names of sources or informants.
Lewis said many of them suffered harm or threats for being named. He said some had disappeared, despite admitting there was no evidence that this was directly related to the WikiLeaks release.
“How can you possibly say … that there is no evidence that Mr. Assange’s publication of WikiLeaks put anyone at risk. This is just nonsense,” said Lewis.
Ellsberg, who himself was accused of breaking the espionage law in a later dismissed case, said there was no evidence of physical harm or death due to the leaks. The exchange with Lewis resulted in Assange breaking out in the courtroom, with the judge warning him to remain silent.
Previously, John Goetz, an investigative reporter who worked for the German magazine Der Spiegel when the documents were first published in 2010, made sure that the names of informants in hundreds of thousands of leaked US government documents were never published.
He said the US State Department was involved in a conference call suggesting editors and WikiLeaks agreed to withhold about 15,000 documents for publication.
“There was sensitivity and it was one of the things that was talked about all the time,” Goetz told the court. Assange was concerned that the media should take action “so no one is hurt,” he said.
The State Department did not respond immediately when asked to comment on Goetz’s testimony.
Goetz said WikiLeaks was frustrated when Guardian reporters published a password in a book in February 2011 that gave access to the full, unedited material.
Assange’s lawyers argue that he would not get a fair trial in the US and that the charges are politically motivated. They also said he would pose a suicide risk if sent to the United States, where they say he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.
In 2012, Assange fled to the London embassy in Ecuador to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was charged with sex crimes, which he denied and which were later dropped. After seven years, he was pulled from the embassy by British police in 2019 and then arrested for missing bail in connection with the Swedish case.
He has since remained in prison after the United States filed its extradition request.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)