It is time for unauthorized truth-telling.
Citizens cannot make informed choices if they do not have the facts—for example, the facts that have been wrongly concealed about the ongoing war in Iraq: the real reasons behind it, the prospective costs in blood and treasure, and the setback it has dealt to efforts to stem terrorism. Administration deception and cover-up on these vital matters has so far been all too successful in misleading the public.
Many Americans are too young to remember Vietnam. Then, as now, senior government officials did not tell the American people the truth. Now, as then, insiders who know better have kept their silence, as the country was misled into the most serious foreign policy disaster since Vietnam.
Some of you have documentation of wrongly concealed facts and analyses that—if brought to light—would impact heavily on public debate regarding crucial matters of national security, both foreign and domestic. We urge you to provide that information now, both to Congress and, through the media, to the public.
Thanks to our First Amendment, there is in America no broad Officials Secrets Act, nor even a statutory basis for the classification system. Only very rarely would it be appropriate to reveal information of the three types whose disclosure has been expressly criminalized by Congress: communications intelligence, nuclear data, and the identity of US intelligence operatives. However, this administration has stretched existing criminal laws to cover other disclosures in ways never contemplated by Congress.
There is a growing network of support for whistleblowers. In particular, for anyone who wishes to know the legal implications of disclosures they may be contemplating, the ACLU stands ready to provide pro bono legal counsel, with lawyer-client privilege. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) will offer advice on whistleblowing, dissemination and relations with the media.
Needless to say, any unauthorized disclosure that exposes your superiors to embarrassment entails personal risk. Should you be identified as the source, the price could be considerable, including loss of career and possibly even prosecution. Some of us know from experience how difficult it is to countenance such costs. But continued silence brings an even more terrible cost, as our leaders persist in a disastrous course and young Americans come home in coffins or with missing limbs.
This is precisely what happened at this comparable stage in the Vietnam War. Some of us live with profound regret that we did not at that point expose the administration’s dishonesty and perhaps prevent the needless slaughter of 50,000 more American troops and some 2 to 3 million Vietnamese over the next ten years. We know how misplaced loyalty to bosses, agencies, and careers can obscure the higher allegiance all government officials owe the Constitution, the sovereign public, and the young men and women put in harm’s way. We urge you to act on those higher loyalties.
A hundred forty thousand young Americans are risking their lives every day in Iraq for dubious purpose. Our country has urgent need of comparable moral courage from its public officials. Truth-telling is a patriotic and effective way to serve the nation. The time for speaking out is now.
Edward Costello, Former Special Agent (Counterintelligence), Federal Bureau of Investigation
Sibel Edmonds, Former Language Specialist, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Daniel Ellsberg, Former official, U.S. Departments of Defense and State
John D. Heinberg, Former Economist, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
Larry C. Johnson, Former Deputy Director for Anti-Terrorism Assistance, Transportation Security, and Special Operations, Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counter Terrorism
John Brady Kiesling, Former Political Counselor, U.S. Embassy, Athens, Department of State
David MacMichael, Former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council, Central Intelligence Agency
Ray McGovern, Former Analyst, Central Intelligence Agency
Philip G. Vargas, Ph.D., J.D., Dir. Privacy & Confidentiality Study, Commission on Federal Paperwork (Author/Director: "The Vargas Report on Government Secrecy" -- CENSORED)
Ann Wright, Retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel and U.S. Foreign Service Officer
Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatowski, recently retired from service in the Pentagon’s Office of Near East planning
Selected Signatory Bios
Daniel Ellsberg is a lecturer, writer and activist on the dangers of the nuclear era and unlawful interventions. He is best known for releasing publicly the Pentagon Papers, the 7,000-page Top Secret McNamara study of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1969 and to the New York Times, Washington Post and 17 other newspapers in 1971. His trial, on twelve felony counts posing a possible sentence of 115 years, was dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, which led to the convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.
Ellsberg joined the Defense Department in 1964 as Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs) John McNaughton, working on Vietnam. He transferred to the State Department in 1965 to serve two years at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. He started his career as a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation, and consultant to the Department of Defense and the White House, specializing in problems of the command and control of nuclear weapons, nuclear war plans, and crisis decision-making and returned there in 1967.
Ray McGovern worked for 27years as a career analyst in the CIA spanning administrations from John F. Kennedy to George H. W. Bush. Ray is now co-director of the Servant Leadership School, which provides training and other support for those seeking ways to be in relationship with the marginalized poor.
In January 2003, Ray, along with other intelligence community alumni/ae, created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Through VIPS, Ray has written and spoken extensively about intelligence-related issues and appeared in several documentaries—notably, "Uncovered: the Whole Truth About the Iraq War" (Robert Greenwald) and "Break the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror" (John Pilger).
Ray’s duties at CIA included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President’ Daily Brief (PDB). These, the most authoritative genres of intelligence reporting, have been the focus of press reporting on "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq and on what the president was told before 9/11. During the mid-eighties, Ray was one of the senior analysts conducting early morning briefings of the PDB one-on-one with the Vice President, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
Katharine Gun worked as a translator for the British equivalent of the National Security Agency. When she saw a memorandum from NSA indicating that NSA and her agency were "surging" their intercept capability against UN Security Council members as yet undecided on the resolution for war, she decided that this was an illegal way to promote an illegal war and gave the story to the press. In doing so, she risked two years in prison under the Official Secrets Act. In the end, she walked free because her defense was based on the defense of necessity and the UK government was unwilling to share the UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s opinions on the legality of the war.
Frank Grevil, a chemical engineer, is a reserve major in the Danish Army and a former analyst with the Danish equivalent of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Early this year, he decided it was a matter of conscience to make public the degree to which his own government distorted the intelligence produced to convince the Danish Parliament to support the decision to send troops to Iraq. In doing so, he risked stiff criminal penalties. His case is coming to court in the very near future.
Sibel Edmonds worked as a language specialist for the FBI's Washington Field Office. During her work with the bureau, she discovered and reported serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence that had national security implications. After she reported these acts to FBI management, she was fired in March 2002. Since then, court proceedings on her issues have been blocked by the assertion of "State Secret Privilege" by Attorney General Ashcroft; the Congress of the United States has been gagged and prevented from any discussion of her case through retroactive re-classification by the Department of Justice; and the report on her case issued by the Department of Justice Inspector General has been entirely classified.
Colleen Rowley works in the Minneapolis bureau of the FBI. In the Spring of 2002, she wrote a long letter to the FBI Director pointing out severe shortcomings in the performance of those headquarters personnel responsible for counter-terrorism. She was invited by the Senate to give testimony and widely praised by all those interested in how 9/11 could have happened given the information available to various FBI field offices. She has been making presentations throughout the country on the tension between anti-terrorist measures and the civil rights of Americans.
Twelve Examples of Existing Documents That Deserve Unauthorized Disclosure
Each of these--wrongly withheld up till now--could and should be released almost in their entirety, perhaps with minor deletions for genuine security reasons. (In many cases, official promises to release declassified versions have not been honored.)
1. Reports by International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Guantanamo, Abu Ghrab and other prisons (ships, prisons in other countries) that hold prisoners from the "war on terrorism". (These reports have been provided to the US government but have not been made public.)
2. 28 pages redacted from the report of the Joint House-Senate Inquiry on Intelligence Activities before and after 9/11, concerning the ties between the 9/11 terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia.
3. 800 pages of the United Nations Report on Weapons of Mass Destruction that were taken by the United States during unauthorized Xeroxing and never given to the Security Council members. (The original report was 1200 pages in length but has never been published in its entirety)
4. Membership, advisors, consultants to Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force, and any minutes from meetings (January – December, 2001).
5. Documents and photographs concerning/produced by military doctors or medical personnel that document abuses toward prisoners condoned by medical personnel.
6. Documents produced by military lawyers and legal staff that challenge the political policy makers decision to undercut the Geneva Conventions and any other extra-legal procedures.
7. The missing sections of the US Army General Taguba report on prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.
8. Department of Justice-Inspector General (DOJ-IG) Report: RE: Sibel Edmonds vs. FBI, completed, classified
9. DOJ-IG Report: RE: FBI Translation Department (security breaches, intentional mistranslations, espionage charges), completed, classified
10. DOJ-IG Report: RE:FBI & Foreknowledge of 9/11, completed, classified
11. Full staff backup to General Shinseki’s 2002 estimate that "several hundred thousand troops" would be required for effective occupation of Iraq.
12. The full 2002 State Department studies on requirements for the postwar occupation and restoration of civil government in Iraq.