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Daniel Ellsberg speaks on Bradley Manning verdict

“All one can say is, ‘It could’ve been worse’ – a lot worse, not just for Bradley but for American democracy and the free press on which it depends,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who was a military analyst in 1971 when he leaked the Pentagon Papers: secret documents about U.S. decision-making in Vietnam.

Daniel EllsbergEllsberg, now 82 and of Kensington, said he initially had seen the “aiding the enemy” charge of which Bradley Manning was acquitted Tuesday as so unsupported and over-the-top that he wondered whether prosecutors had filed it just to distract the public from other, lesser-but-still-severe charges.

Manning’s prosecution is all about “shutting off any sources to investigative journalists from the Pentagon, NSA, CIA, the State Department – any information to the public about how they’re being served by the government, other than what the government wants them to know,” Ellsberg said, and that is “a kind of tyranny.”

Jeff Paterson, director of Oakland-based Courage to Resist and a steering committee member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, said Tuesday he sees the verdict as “a limited victory.” He said the judge, despite having “openly sided with the military prosecution,” still didn’t buy prosecutors’ arguments that Manning aided America’s enemies; such a conviction would have set “a chilling precedent against any future whistleblower,” he said.

Paterson – whose group was organizing a protest at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Market and Powell streets in San Francisco – said he’s disappointed by the Espionage Act convictions, but is confident the sentencing hearing will let Manning’s lawyers explain “why he felt compelled to give up his freedom in order to share this information with the American public for the good of democracy.”

Click here for a sampling of social media reactions to the Manning verdict.

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

    Also titled Roundup of Leftist Loser Opinion. Why doesn’t Paterson stage a protest on International Blvd in Oak-town? Much closer to the humble masses Brad and Dan’l before him martyred themselves.

  • JohnW

    When I was in the Army, they would have sent me away if I had done so much as disclose to the public the room where we kept the office supplies.

  • Elwood

    What JohnW said.

    My Army experience was similar.