Patron saint of whistleblowers to talk in Berkeley

Perhaps the most famed whistleblower in U.S. history will take part in a panel discussion tonight in Berkeley about new revelations of government surveillance.

Daniel EllsbergDaniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the “Pentagon Papers” exposing U.S. policy on the Vietnam war, will participate in the panel at 7:30 p.m. tonight in St. John’s Church, 2727 College Ave. in Berkeley. The event is free and open to the public.

Other panelists include Nadia Kayyali, is a legal fellow and organizer with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee; Norman Solomon, an activist and media critic who ran in the 2nd Congressional District last year; and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of Iceland’s parliament and director of the International Modern Media Institute.

The panelists posit that Americans’ civil liberties are vanishing at an alarming rate, jeopardizing democracy and the rule of law. They’ll discuss dragnet warrantless spying and domestic surveillance, indefinite detention without trial, and secrecy and the war on whistleblowers.

“In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago,” Ellsberg wrote for the Guardian yesterday. “Snowden’s whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an ‘executive coup’ against the U.S. constitution.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR senile columnist

    Ellsberg was no whistle-blower unless you were of the school
    that said Nixon dreamed up the Vietnam war and patiently waited until it was his turn to run it. Ol Dan is largely forgotten now, along with his buddy Russo. Ellsberg’s revelations stunned everyone who thought LBJ created Vietnam to amuse himself by putting hippies into uniform.

  • JohnW

    #1 RR senile Columnist

    Not sure what you are saying about Ellsberg not being a whistleblower, about Nixon, LBJ etc. Can you clarify?

    As one of those who received “greetings” from Nixon soon after he took office, I considered it as much his war as LBJ’s and don’t have much use for either of them when it comes to the subject of Vietnam. The Pentagon Papers, commissioned by McNamara, documented the history of our involvement dating back to 1947.

  • RR Senile Columnist

    Ol Dan’l leaked the Pentagon Papers to buttress his argument that US involvement in SE Asia was a series of blunders and dumb notions from the get-go. The Supremes ruled Trickster couldn’t block further publication of the dull-as- dust documents in the name of national security. Nixon and Dr K were said to fear “leaks”—even ones not implicating the Nixon Adm— were bad for foreign relations.

  • RR Senile Columnist

    Thanks to JR for linking the other weirdos joining prehistoric Dan in Stalino By The Bay tonight. Nadia’s view of civil rights includes court defense for dudes who throw rocks at windows in Starbucks, Oakland City Hall, bank branch offices, etc. Norman S is California’s slowest rising pol. He’s proved time and again he’s much smarter than the voters. They are too stupid to recognize his wisdom. The Icelander actually won an election albeit in a time when her countrymen were pissed about their economy flat-lining. Her home is either in a volcano or a tree trunk with other elves. BTW, JR was cited in The Washington Post by news junkies as a credible local/state politics reporter.

  • JohnW

    If your point is that the period of U.S. involvement covered by the papers (1947-67) is pre-Nixon, that’s true. The papers never made it to my reading list. But they were part of the backdrop for Neil Sheehan’s “A Bright Shining Lie,” which I did read.

    Ellsberg, like Ralph Nader, is definitely past his peak relevance. Of course, Ralph did manage to singlehandedly gift us Bush 43. Good or bad depending on one’s point of view.

  • JohnW


    JR is to BANG what Dan Balz is to the WP.

  • James B.

    Has Congressman Eric Swalwell expressed any concern about PRISM and other Orwellian surveillance programs yet? He’s supposedly the Bay Area’s person on the House Homeland Security committee. Given his “law and order” gimmickry, his right-wing appeasement and his fealty to the notorious AIPAC, he’s likely in favor of the Surveillance State — he’s the Bay Area’s Little (Joe) Lieberman. He can parlay his military-security complex connections that he makes while serving on the Homeland Security committee into a lucrative job when he leaves Congress.

  • Elwood

    James B. does not heart Eric.

    Why don’t you tell us how you really feel, James?

    There is so much BS in your post that I wouldn’t know where to start to rebut it.

  • Josh Richman

    @7&8: Here’s what Swalwell said Friday –

    “I am very troubled by the reports about NSA’s surveillance program known as PRISM and monitoring of phone records. We must strike the right balance between protecting civil liberties and our homeland. We certainly can’t take for granted our national security, and as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, I recognize the importance of maintaining a strong counterterrorism program. But, Congress must ensure counterterrorism efforts do not violate the privacy of Americans and I expect a thorough review of these programs in the days ahead.

    “As a prosecutor I worked within the Fourth Amendment for every case I investigated and sought a conviction. Seeking justice and upholding the sacred rights the Constitution affords are not mutually exclusive.”

  • Josh Richman

    @6: Hardly, John – but thanks.

  • JohnW


    You’re right Josh, D. Balz isn’t in your league! Just kidding. You’re both great. You both write about politics, and you both go on TV. When I knew him (barely), it was 1971. We were both Spec. 5’s wearing Army green, on the staff of the Department of Defense Information School, then located at Fort Benjamin Harrison outside Indianapolis. He was a highly regarded journalism instructor.

  • JohnW


    Fair comment by Eric, but also a bit wishy-washy.

    James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, is unfairly taking heat for supposedly not telling the truth in response to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Wyden asked him whether the government was engaged in this type of surveillance. Clapper looked disgusted at the question and said, “not wittingly.”

    The reports and commentary on this are completely missing what really happened. The real slime in this story is Wyden. As a member of that committee, he had been fully briefed about the program and knew the answer to his own question. He knew that Clapper could not accurately answer the question in public hearing without disclosing information about a program classified Top Secret. He apparently told Clapper in advance that he would ask the question and knew he would be putting Clapper between a rock and a hard place. He was using his position as a member of that committee to force Clapper to either lie or disclose classified info in public.

    Clapper could have refused to answer, or offered to answer in closed hearing. But that would have been the same as acknowledging that a program existed.

    Wyden should be the one being raked over the coals and kicked off the Intelligence Committee.