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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  January 3, 2023 4:30am-5:01am GMT

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this is bbc news. the headlines: american football player damar hamlin collapsed on the field during his monday night game and was taken to a cincinnati hospital where he is in a critical condition. collapsed after tackling an opposing player. the match was postponed. russia has made a rare acknowledgement that 63 of its soldiers were killed in an attack by ukrainian forces. kyiv claims the numbers actually runs into the several russian politicians have said military commanders must be held to account for allowing troops to be concentrated in an unprotected area. thousands of brazilians have been filing past the coffin of the football legend pele, which is on display in his former club's stadium.
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president lula is expected to attend the wake on tuesday before the funeral procession. pele died on thursday aged 82. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk with stephen sackur. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur and today i'm in beautiful northern california to meet the man once described by henry kissinger as the most dangerous in america. in 1971, that man, my guest daniel ellsberg, leaked the so called pentagon papers. he exposed decades of us government lies about the war in vietnam. the nixon administration was enraged. they tried to destroy daniel ellsberg. they failed. and today he is still
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warning the american but are they listening? daniel ellsberg, welcome to hardtalk. glad to be with you. it's a great pleasure to be at your home. now, you have lived a long and a very full life. and i guess the truth is, you know that you will always be associated with one extraordinary decision you took to leak the pentagon papers. does it bother you that that is the thing that people think about you? no. well, i know that it is, but i've lived with that for a long time. my intent at the time was to put out more important papers.
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i felt top secret papers on nuclear war planning and the prospects of nuclear strategy, supposedly, which i had in my safe. top secret safe at rand. and i copied them at the same time. and as a friend of mine who went to prison, and was a model for me, really, randy keeler. told me at the time he was one of the very few people i told i was going to do this. and he said, "there's enough known about vietnam." "now in �*69 we have that." "you should put out these nuclear papers." "they're the ones that matter." "to try to reduce the chance of their actually being carried out a nuclear war." and i said, "well, that's true." "they are more important." "but vietnam is where the bombs are falling right now, "and i have to do what i can to shorten that." and you released this trove of documents which actually gave a long history to us involvement in vietnam over four administrations. in doing so, you must have known that there
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would be massive legal consequences for you. well, i assumed without knowing anything of the legal history or the law at that time, or the constitution, which i didn't think applied to me, i worked for the president. and as nixon said, "when the president does it, it's not illegal." so i didn't know much about the first amendment or the law, and i assumed i would go to prison for the rest of my life. did you? i knew that there had been leaks all the time. there had actually been no prosecutions. i didn't know that. but i assumed that there had been. and i thought, this is 7,000 pages of top secret documents. i'll go to prison for life. and in fact, i was charged with a possible 115 years, which would have been a life sentence. and we'll get to that trial in a moment. but i just want to get inside your head a little bit.
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the young daniel ellsberg, because it seems to me... i wasn't that young. i was a0. 0k. well, pretty young. from my current perspective, very young. but the point is, you in some ways were trained to be a security hawk. you were working in america's sort of nuclear strategy. that was one of your key concerns. you clearly believed in america's position on the cold war. in fact, i think it's fair to say that you supported intervention in vietnam. yes and no. i'd been in vietnam on a research group for the defense department in 1961. it was actually looking into limited war research and development. because previously under eisenhower, all the work and all the r&d had gone into nuclear weapons. and kennedy said, "no, we should have some "research and development on non—nuclear." so, i was in vietnam
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looking into what they could use possibly. that was an advisory mission then and it became very clear to me. i spent day and night practically reading cables in the embassy office and talking to advisers. made it very clear. this was a loser. this was not the place to plant the imperialflag. i didn't use the word imperial in those days. so it was actually being in vietnam that changed your mind? from vietnam, i came back and said to the rand corporation, which i was working on, i was a consultant for defence. "stay away from this." "there will be no..." "there will be nothing to gain from being "associated with this war." when i went into the pentagon, i was asked in, as a full employee in 1964, i was asked to work on vietnam only exclusively for my boss, the assistant secretary of defense. but it was very clear then in �*6a, the place was falling apart. the government, our puppet government, was falling like dominoes, you might say, in saigon every other day. this was not a war that
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we were going to win. but i was there as a cold warrior thinking that now that we have, in �*65 while i was in the pentagon, committed troops and previous to that bombing, we're in it. so, i was trying to make something of it, and i certainly wanted to beat communists for once. i didn't think we'd win, but perhaps we could get something out of this that would be less than humiliation. but having seen what was happening in vietnam, having decided the war, as you just said to me, was a loser, i'm just interested to know why you sat on the pentagon papers for quite a while before ultimately leaking them to the newspapers in 1971. some people would say if you'd acted sooner, they might have had more impact on the war. 0h, absolutely. remember that i tried to put them out to the senate in the fall of �*69. and it was promised by senator fulbright, chairman of the foreign relations committee,
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but he didn't. he didn't do it. he didn't want to know. he backed off. senator mathias backed off. representative mcclusky in the house said he would do it, but he hadn't yet done it. so i was trying to get them out from about the time i read all of them. was it anger that drove you when you read the pentagon papers? did you feel a real sense of anger that successive administrations hadn't really told the truth? hadn�*t fronted up about what was happening in vietnam? i'd been in the pentagon from �*6a, �*65 when the escalation was being secretly planned. in fact, i was in the state department on an inter—agency study on election day in november 1964. when the president was being elected on a landslide, having promised that there would be no american troops in vietnam, and that we wouldn't be bombing, as his opponent, senator goldwater from the air force
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wanted to do. he says, "no, we're not going north and we're "not going south." "we're not getting out, but we're not going to escalate." i'd been working since the day i arrived as a full employee in the pentagon on the escalation of vietnam and on election day, we didn't have time to go vote. we were working on carrying out goldwater's plan. the man who went down by a sort of referendum on this issue that day. but what i'm saying is if you can't tolerate government lying, you can't be in any government at a high foreign policy staff position for a week. and i'd been doing it almost ten years. in other words, i was very used to lying. this was rather egregious. but when i discovered from the early days of the pentagon papers that we've been lying from our involvement in vietnam from the beginning. i understand that clearly you felt that was entirely wrong.
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but there's a moral difference between deciding i can no longer be a part of this and a different decision. the decision you took, which was to say, i don't care if these documents are top secret, confidential. i am going to expose them to the public. well, i was in — several things came together where my streams of information were unusual to be combined in one person. i'd been in vietnam for two years. i'd even seen the war close—up. that was very unusual for a civilian of my rank. it was almost nobody else. and i had been involved in the escalation, which i had thought at the time was wrong, and my boss thought was a mistake. "we shouldn't be doing this." "the bombing will not win the war." "we're going to kill a lot of people." but we did ourjob for mcnamara. we helped him get the bombing started and carried it on. i'd been part of that. i look back on that with amazement, almost. then i was in vietnam, but then i read the pentagon papers. i knew, coming back from vietnam, as everyone knew
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coming back who'd been involved in combat extent, because we were not going to win. we were not going to get these guys to quit. they were not going to quit. some of your critics, i'm going to quote one of them. he's an academic called gabriel schoenfeld. he has written about your decision. and he said, "there is a fundamental arrogance "about what daniel ellsberg did" because, he said, and i'm going to quote him, he said, "you know, we have a system for controlling critical "national security secrets." very, very well controlled. yes. and he said, "you know, this is established by the congress, "by the executive branch, both of which are "elected by the people." congress had nothing to do with it. congress has nothing to do with the classification system. it is an executive system ruled by regulations from the defense department. ultimately, the president. ultimately the president who is elected by the people. what? who is elected by the people, the president. two people.
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president and vice president. yeah. and the point he's getting at is that in the end, you took a decision which was saying to america, "i feel a moral obligation to subvert the system, "the democratic system." subvert. i had been subverting the constitution of the united states since the day after i swore an oath in the pentagon. and i've sworn that oath many times. and from the first day i went into the pentagon, the president was lying the country into a war. it was the tonkin gulf incident. he lied to congress. he got support for that war. it was thoroughly unconstitutional. i was violating my oath, as he was. you, having failed to get senators to engage with these secret documents? they wanted to do it, but they shied off for fear. so, the bottom line is you decided to go to the newspapers. yes. i believe it's true to say that
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you and your 13—year—old son at the time photocopied endless documents so that you could then send them to the new york times, to neil sheehan. and then, of course, the government tried to close you down. there was a court case which the government, the administration of nixon failed to win, which meant that other newspapers, the washington post and a bunch of other newspapers could publish. yes. now, as a result, henry kissinger described you as the most dangerous man in america. how did you feel about that at the time? well, i heard about it later, of course, that he had said that. i didn't know it at the time. very few people have ever asked me, "why did he regard you as dangerous?" after all, these documents ended before he got into office or nixon? they didn't incriminate him or nixon. why was that dangerous? and the answer was, i really was dangerous to the policy he and nixon were carrying out in secret. they were secretly threatening
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nuclear war to north vietnam. and nixon had reason to believe, it wasn't paranoid, that i had access to that, because of other people who had left the administration or cambodia in 1970 were friends of mine. so that is precisely why nixon was so determined to destroy you. he wanted to shut me up one way or another. but he wanted to destroy your reputation. to keep, well, the reputation. people think that was what it was. it really wasn't that. i was on trial facing 12 felony counts. that hurts your reputation in some quarters. and the problem wasn't to hurt my reputation. it was to shut me up about what i knew of his plans that went beyond the pentagon papers. but this isn'tjust about the trial. it's also about the dirty tricks. it's about the fact that... that's what had an effect. the papers themselves had no effect on on the war. they did not. in fact, the bombing intensified after the publication of your papers. exactly. ifelt there had been no effect at all.
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but i was wrong because they had scared nixon that i would tell things about his administration. exactly. which i knew. but i didn't have the documents. and without the documents, i convinced no one. and because of the rage in the white house, because nixon was prepared to countenance these dirty tricks to get the so called plumbers. he ordered them. he did that. you're right. he ordered them. and what we saw was that these ex—cia people tried to raid the psychiatrist�*s office to get damaging information about you. with which to blackmail me into silence, not to hurt my reputation, but things i didn't want known. and they would say, "you keep talking and this is going to come out." they didn't find anything like that. in the end, as people will know, they failed to bring you down. they failed in the legal action against you. and in many ways, because what they did to you came out as part of the whole investigation, which ended with the watergate scandal.
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you actually played a very important role, kind of inadvertently, but you became a player in the watergate scandal. you became a player in the destruction of richard nixon. politically. i helped the self—destruction of richard nixon, yes. i think of my wife and i worked with me most of this time after i'd copied, as having been one link in a chain of people. each one of whom had to do what they did, very unusually, out of what they were expected to do. you say the pentagon papers themselves, which you released, they didn't change the course of the war? no. they didn't really change public opinion, because let's not forget, nixon beat mcgovern with a crushing... 0n the war. no, definitely.
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by the way... but, no, but i want to continue this thought, because if you... that wasn't an endorsement of the war when they when they when they re—elected him. well... do you know what it was? well, yeah, but the point is, it doesn't really matter. the point is, nixon, despite four years of vietnam policy, which was failed, he got re—elected. that's my point. so i guess what i'm saying is, as a whistle—blower and as somebody who latter day whistle—blowers like assange and chelsea manning and edward snowden always refer to what you did as a great example of why whistle—blowing matters. but you could actually conclude that the whistle blowing you did in itself didn't really make a difference. well, i'm not... i'm agreeing with that. so i said, that's right. so why is whistle blowing so important? well, it can make a difference if, for example, if it's done in a timely way. catherine gunn in england. actually... we've interviewed her on hardtalk. oh, really? she took a decision
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to leak one crucial piece of information about the run—up to the invasion of iraq. she revealed secret information that there were diplomatic efforts to put leverage on un diplomats to support the war. i don't know if you call it diplomatic information to tap their home phones. that's what she revealed — and tapped their office phones. that wasn't done by the state department. it was done by the national security agency. was calling on gchq, the british communications intelligence agency, for the nsa to tap the office and home phones of all the members of the security council so that they would vote for a war that would otherwise be illegal and unjustified, illegitimate, a war of aggression like iraq — that was iraq. and, actually, ithink the very good movie about her did not bring out the fact that she did succeed
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in keeping the security council from voting in favour of that war. what i'm saying is that if you put it out in time, you have a chance to do something. she should have been able to stop that war, the flip side of that is if you leak information in real time while conflict is continuing, the danger is you put people's lives in danger. and the us government's case againstjulian assange to this day is that with his leaking of information provided by chelsea manning... ..a raft of information, which we've actually discussed with chelsea manning on hardtalk — the accusation remains that they jeopardised key us national security interests, but they also jeopardised the lives of notjust us personnel... because what i'm hearing is they lied.
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that's what it's all about. they said at the beginning that assange or chelsea manning, without using those names, had blood on their hands. that was 2010 and that was 12 years ago. chelsea manning underwent a long—term trial where everything they could find against was brought up. in 12 years, the government has not produced the name of one person who was harmed by that. actually, that's a little surprising to me, but that's the way it is. and the same is true for snowden. not one person harmed in all this time. i frankly... let me tell you a secret. i had possession of all the chelsea manning information before it came out in the press. did you? i've never said that publicly. julian assange had conveyed to me as a back—up in case his was, you know, they caught him and he got everything. he could rely on me to find some way to get it out if i felt. so i had all that.
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and when i say that, i'm saying that by the current standing of the department ofjustice, i am now as indictable asjulian assange and as everyone who put that information out — the papers, everybody who handled it. yes, i had copies of it and i did not give them to an authorised person. so, if they want to indict me for that, i would be interested to argue that one in the courts, whether that law is constitutional. the supreme court has never held that using the espionage act as if it were a british 0fficial secrets act, which i would clearly have violated. but if that, using the espionage act as if it were an official secrets act, which has never been passed by our congress, that would be criminal. they've never ruled on that. i'd be happy to take that one to the supreme court. what you'vejust done to me, daniel ellsberg, by telling me that secret... sorry. no, you've actually said something really interesting,
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because what you seem to be saying is you wouldn't mind, in fact, you would almost invite the us government to challenge you once again in the courts, because you think that the espionage act, notjust... unconstitutional. used against whistle—blowers is unconstitutional. it's a clear violation of the first amendment. you're 91 years old. are you telling me you really would embrace another legal fight with the us government over whistleblowing? you would like for that to happen to you today? i made that clear a year ago when i brought out a top secret study, which had been two—thirds declassified, but one—third not on the taiwan straits crisis. when the british economist had just had a cover story saying... i know exactly what you're talking about.
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..taiwan, the focus is the area. i said it's time to know what happened in 1958. exactly. so i put that out and said, this is top secret. your papers referred to the fact that the us government had an active policy of embracing the idea of using nuclear strikes against china. absolutely. as going as far back as 1958. yes, and before and after, by the way. so, yes, this is an old story. so, in leaking that just a year ago, in telling me that you've actually never told anybody before, but you'd received chelsea manning's information. and you knew all about it. and you didn't report it to the authorities. no. do you think it is actually possible that you could end up on trialagain? 0h, possible, certainly. i think, by the way, remember i did this a year ago. i guess trump had left, but i had done some similar things, even under trump. i think trump would have been happy to indict me. one more thing — biden would have a little problem because a lot of his constituency would not be happy to see me indicted, but others would. but in a sense, this isn't really about trump or biden. republican or democrat.
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the justice department who controls it. it's about core principles and the us constitution. and as we talk, you know, and a lot of it has been very detailed about the history of your involvement in leaking secrets. as we talk, i'm wondering, do you have any faith left in the us government? 0h, certainly. i wish that acts that biden pressed strongly and on climate above all and on other matters had passed. and i was hoping for that. i'm happy that the senate is not yet in the hands of republicans who deny that there is a climate crisis. no, but again, it's a lot about partisanship — some americans watching this mightjust say, you know what, daniel ellsberg isn't a true patriot. he's a traitor. i believe in the constitution, which i took an oath to defend, and which has domestic enemies. i would have said, for example, that richard cheney, as vice president, was a domestic enemy
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of the us constitution. i can say that of trump now. i wasn't so clear earlier. and the people who deny that biden is president... ..i don't think are upholding their oath, which is the same as the one i took. so i'm saying i believe in those principles. it's clear to me through this conversation that you are a fighter. will you ever stop fighting for what you believe in? well, there's no sign of it yet, but who knows? nothing is inevitable. daniel ellsberg, thank you very much forjoining me on hardtalk. thank you. hello. tuesday is going to be a wet and windy day right across the uk.
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we will have had some clear skies and even a touch of frost earlier on in the night across northern and eastern areas of the country, but the rain—bearing cloud and this weather system is racing in our direction, you can see that clear gap here, the clearer skies earlier on, and, really, overthe next 2a to 48 hours and beyond, we will see very mild air spreading all the way from the azores, from the subtropics in fact, so temperatures could reach the mid—teens in the south of the country. so here's the forecast then. by sam, rain across western areas, still clear for a time, with a touch of frost further east, but a big temperature contrast across the uk, and then watch how that weather front, or actually multiple weather fronts, spread across the country through the morning into the afternoon, temporarily some mountain snow there in scotland. it's not going to be raining all the time. i think the rain will come and go. in fact, there could even be
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a little bit of brightness to the east of the pennines for a time, but it won't last for very long. temperatures widely into double figures across england, wales and northern ireland, a bit colder there, the other side of the weather front in northern scotland, and then more of the same through the course of tuesday evening and really quite blustery around coasts, 40, maybe even 50mph, and i think most of the rain will fall around south—western and western parts of scotland, perhaps central areas, as well, could be 50mm of rain here, perhaps some local disruption to transport. now, here's wednesday — we are still in the wake of that area of low pressure, a lot of isobars there, and wednesday really will be a very blustery day. here are the gusts in the morning, perhaps in excess of 50mph around some coastal areas, blustery enough inland, but, again, not raining all the time. on wednesday, we are forecasting sunshine and showers, but the showers will be moving swiftly on, because of that strong wind. and look at the temperatures — 15 in london, my goodness, we are injanuary — 10 degrees expected in glasgow, and then the rest of the week, just multiple weather systems
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barrel across the atlantic and head towards us, but it does look as though friday might actually bring some decent weather, sort of a gap in between the weather systems. but look how mild it is in the south, temperatures relatively mild in the north, as well. that's it from me. bye—bye.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. i'm anjana gadgil. american football player damar hamlin is in a critical condition in hospital after collapsing during a game. russia acknowledges 63 of its soldiers died in a ukrainian attack in donetsk. kyiv claims the actual number is in the hundreds. another wave of rail workers�* strikes in the uk hits commuters returning to work after the festive break. in santos, brazil, thousands are queueing to pay respects to footballing legend pele. this is the scene there live.


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