Nixon, Wiretaps and Government Secrets

Human Rights

[Editor's Note: This is the edited transcript of an interview between Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! and John Dean and Daniel Ellsberg. The interview originally aired on Democracy Now! on Thursday, April 27, and the full transcript and audio of the interview are available from Democracy Now!.]

Amy Goodman: We are joined by two figures who played central roles in the fall of President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal of a generation ago, John Dean and Daniel Ellsberg. Dean served as President Nixon's chief counsel. He exposed the government-sanctioned break-in of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the government analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers and earned himself a spot on Nixon's enemy list. Dean and Ellsberg join us in our firehouse studio to discuss Watergate and the abuse of presidential power from Nixon to Bush.

John Dean has become a vocal critic of the Bush Administration. Daniel Ellsberg remains an advocate for greater openness in government and supported other government whistleblowers. They both join us in the Firehouse studio. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! So, it was 33 years ago that you were in court, Dan Ellsberg. Explain what happened.

Daniel Ellsberg: Well, we had been in court for four-and-a-half months at that point. A fairly boring trial. A lot of documents to go over for the press and [inaudible]. And on one morning, an announcement came in from the judge in the courtroom, a memo from Earl Silbert, the Watergate prosecutor, saying that burglars, on the orders of the White House, had broken into my former psychiatrist's office to get information on me. Well, this came from John Dean, though some ten days earlier, twelve days earlier, the President had sat on that information for that period of time, forbidding Peter -- the acting Attorney General to send it on to the judge.

But finally, they threatened to resign, because they would be involved in obstruction of justice if they didn't send it on. So when that announcement was read in court, it was quite electrifying. For once the reporters who had been stuck in Los Angeles, while their colleagues were doing exciting things on Watergate in Washington, envisioned headlines "Watergate Meets the Pentagon Papers Trial." That was the headline they all wanted. And they dashed from their seats during the court for the payphones in the hall. It was just like the movie Front Page for the first time in the trial, and not the last time.

And three days later, Ehrlichman testified about the existence of the Plumbers, the -- supposedly to stop leaks, although another of their jobs was to leak what the President wanted out, classified information, just like Bush's selective leaking of the National Intelligence Estimate recently.

Juan Gonzalez: And John Ehrlichman then was --

DE: Ehrlichman was the domestic counsel, and Haldeman was his chief counsel. So Karl Rove kind of combines the jobs -- or until recently. So they -- three days later it was announced that they had been involved in this. And President Nixon that night announced the resignation of "two of the finest public servants I have ever known," Haldeman and Ehrlichman -- and John Dean, who wasn't included in those adjectives, and Richard Kleindienst, the acting Attorney General at that point. I lost several Attorney Generals, actually, in the course of that trial.

AG: And you were on trial because?

DE: I was on trial on the same kinds of charges that are being brought up today for unauthorized possession of copies of documents relating to the national security. There are several such trials coming at us now. Mine was the first in our history, prosecution of someone for a leak. As a matter of fact, I was reminding a Yale man last night there is a statue of Nathan Hale outside Yale and outside C.I.A. headquarters, which is staffed with Yale people. Nathan Hale, our first spy. And I remember saying at Yale once that it occurred to me that I'm the first American prosecuted -- he was hanged -- for giving secrets to Americans.

AG: You were a government official.

DE: I had been a government official. And I was now back at the Rand Corporation and consulting with the government, doing research on lessons from Vietnam. And I thought that the lessons in these 7,000 pages deserved to be known by the Senate, as well as by executive branch employees or contract employees. So I gave them to the Senate in 1969, and then to the newspapers in 1971, 35 years ago this year.

JG: And John Dean, your recollection of your involvement and revelations about Dan Ellsberg's situation?

JD: Let me correct just a minor point in the setup, where I'm involved in the Watergate break-in. I had no knowledge of the Watergate break-in.

DE: I meant to say "cover-up."

JD: It was the cover-up, yes. And what was [inaudible] when we were covering up was what they had done to Dan Ellsberg, which had somewhat a color of national security. That was the way it was cast. In fact, I was forbidden to talk to anybody about what I knew about the Ellsberg break-in. At one point after I had told the President, when no one else seemed willing to tell him how serious this was, that there was a cancer on his presidency and he was going down fast, and I had hoped he would pound on the table and say, "Hey, we've got to stop this!" Instead, he asked me, "Well, how much is it going to cost?" I knew I hadn't been persuasive that morning.

DE: To keep people quiet.

JD: But anyway, I had told him I was going to break rank. I wouldn't lie for anybody. And one of the things I was carrying in my knowledge, of course, was about the break-in into Dan's psychiatrist's office, looking for information that could somehow discredit him.

JG: And the people who broke in, one of them was G. Gordon Liddy.

JD: G. Gordon Liddy.

DE: And Howard Hunt.

JD: E. Howard Hunt. And the same people who had --

AG: G. Gordon Liddy, the radio commentator.

DE: Yes.

JD: Of late. Of late.

DE: Rehabilitated by prison.

JD: They had also used the same Cuban Americans that were arrested in the Democratic National Committee. That was the link and track back to the White House that the White House was quite concerned about after the Watergate break-in.

AG: These were veterans of the Bay of Pigs?

JD: They were veterans of the Bay of Pigs. Hunt had been an operational officer at the Bay of Pigs, and these were people he recruited. And after the bungled -- the second bungled burglary, if you will, where they were arrested, you know, caught red-handed, you didn't have to dig very far to find out that they had done other things and other illegal break-ins.

JG: And what was the President's reaction when you told him you were going to break ranks?

JD: I actually thought -- well, the first person I told I was going to break rank was John Ehrlichman. I said, "You know, what's going on is an obstruction of justice." I hadn't been trained in the criminal law, but by then I had opened the criminal law books and realized we were really in a heap of trouble. Had I been trained in that area, my antenna may have quivered earlier. It didn't. But as soon as I did realize, I began telling my colleagues, I said, "You know, we're in a heap of trouble, what we are doing." And Ehrlichman's comment was, "John, there must be something putrid in the water you're drinking out there in Alexandria, where you live." They didn't want to hear it. And finally, they said, "Why don't you start dealing with the President directly on this, because we want to get on with the second term." So, I did.

And as soon as I got his confidence, I began telling him more and more just to get his reaction, and on one morning I realized I had to go in and just really lay it out, because Howard Hunt, one of the people who had been arrested or -- involved in the Watergate break-in, was demanding more money. And there was no money to pay these people. We didn't know how to do any of this. And I told him, I said, "This is going to go on forever and ever, and it's going to cost who knows how much." And he said to me, "Well, John, how much might it cost?" And I pulled what I thought then was a hefty number out of thin air, which is $1 million. He said, "John, that's no problem. I know where we can get $1 million." So, when I did break rank, one of the things I thought I would do, it wasn't a whistle blowing in the traditional sense. I thought that by coming forward I would force my colleagues to come forward and tell the truth. And Nixon might save himself, because it could only get worse, as it did get worse. In other words, it just escalated the cover-up after I broke rank. So it was somewhat naive that I thought these people would come forward. Instead, they just decided, well, we'll make you the target of everything and try to lay it off on you. They just picked the wrong guy.

AG: I want to talk about the parallels you see today, but on the issue of your psychiatrist's office, Dan Ellsberg, what did you understand? When was it broken into? And did you know right away? Did your psychiatrist tell you?

DE: No, actually. He's dead now. I had been in regular psychoanalysis with him back in 1968 and 1969, before I -- actually, during when I copied the Pentagon Papers, something he wasn't very interested in. He was more interested in my childhood. I couldn't get him interested.

But he understood right away when he went to his office, which was littered after the break-in and found my file taken. The one file taken out of his safe -- it wasn't a safe; it was a filing cabinet -- and laid on top of it. He understood that basically -- I think, by the way, they wanted to signal to me that they had broken in and that they might have whatever I might have told the psychoanalyst, my dirty dreams or whatever I might want to conceal to keep me quiet about Nixon. They were worried about documents I might have and might reveal about Nixon's current threats. They weren't worried at all about what I had put out already. That was on the Democrats. Nixon loved that. In fact, he was saying, "Stuff on [inaudible], we're going to leak it out. Now that they're leaking, we'll leak out the parts we want." And on my trial, he was very interested in leaking. "Leak it out. Get it out in the press. Leak it out. Understand that?" All very clear, very selective attitude toward leaking.

But when it came to leaking stuff on him, he felt the way Bush feels now about people revealing the secret detention camps in the C.I.A.: gotta find those people and stop that. That's a current thing that refers to me. So, extra measures have to be taken. Or when Joe Wilson revealed that he had given the information, that the claims of Saddam's trying to get uranium from Niger had no basis, immediately Karl Rove and Libby and others, the Plumbers of this day, still are set out to stop Joe Wilson's leaks and to do that by revealing his wife's identity, undermining his credibility and so forth. So, they were committing crimes, just as the White House under Nixon had committed crimes to stop me from telling more information. Exactly parallel situation.

And those crimes, of course, brought Nixon down, thanks to Dean's revelation. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been known. And then to Alex Butterfield's revealing in the White House the taping, another critical element. Even after John, I think Nixon might have survived. It was just your word against the President's. Now, in those days, people didn't know who to believe -- John Dean or the President? You were at some disadvantage.

JD: Actually, I was holding up well in the polls. It wasn't bad having corroboration on the tapes.

DE: But the tapes, for getting him facing prison or impeachment. They would not have impeached him on your word alone.

JD: No.

DE: So then, the tapes, of course, bore out what John had been saying. From then on, really, people understood that when the President says one thing, and somebody else says, "No, that's not the way it happened, that's not the truth," especially if they have documents, you shouldn't go on the assumption that it's the President who's telling us the truth.

AG: [I]t was on this day 33 years ago that it was revealed in court in the trial of Dan Ellsberg for releasing, leaking the Pentagon Papers, it was revealed that his psychiatrist's office had been broken into. And that word had come from John Dean, the counsel to President Nixon. Now, this happened before Watergate, and this actually was what you believe brought down the President?

JD: It was the motivation for the cover-up. There was much -- I am convinced to this day that the people at the re-election committee would have been cut loose by the White House had it just been the foolish break-in at the Watergate, trying to look for whatever they were looking for.

AG: And that was the Democratic National Committee there.

JD: Democratic National Committee. But given the fact these men had worked directly out of the White House, they had worked for the so-called Plumbers unit, brought it right back to at least the Ehrlichman level, and no one was sure whether the President -- even the President had to later ask, "Was I responsible for authorizing this?" Haldeman thought he might be. We don't know that that's ever been on a tape. Ehrlichman claims that he got authorization walking on a beach in San Clemente to run this operation. So it's --

AG: In the operation to break in --

JD: Dan Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office.

JG: But, in effect, the fact that there were two break-ins by the same group from the White House established this was an operational group that had the blessing and support of --

JD: Juan, there were almost three. And there was another one that was contemplated. In fact, it's on tape. It's really quite remarkable. Four times, with Nixon pounding on the desk at one point, saying he wants a break-in at the Brookings Institute where they are convinced that there's a set of the Pentagon Papers and Brookings is going to do something with them. And so, he wants those documents. It's really quite startling.

AG: What stopped him?

JD: I happened to stop him. I learned about it, and I thought they had lost their mind. Somebody, Chuck Coulson, had called in a private eye who had worked in Ehrlichman's office before he was assigned to my office. He came in and said Chuck Coulson wants me to firebomb the Brookings Institute. I said, "What?" He said "Yes," when the Fire Department comes, to send some burglars to get into the safe at the Brookings Institute and take out these papers the President wanted.

DE: They were going to rent a fake firetruck and go in as fake firemen.

JD: That was later Liddy's plan, that he was going to design it when the first plan fell through. But it was so outrageous. I said, "Hey, don't do anything." I got on the first courier flight to California, to the Western White House, went out, got a hold of Ehrlichman, who was both my titular head and Coulson's, and I said, "This is insane! I mean, if somebody were to die during this, it's a capital offense in the District of Columbia. It's surely going to get traced right back to the White House. Do you really want us having anything like this?" And Ehrlichman calmly looked over his glasses and picked up the phone and said to the White House operator, "Get me Chuck Coulson," -- Chuck came on -- and said, "Young Counsel Dean is out here, and he doesn't think the Brookings plan is a very good idea. Cancel it." And he turned to me. He said, "Anything else, counsel?" I said, "That will take care of it, John. That handles it for the morning for me."

DE: Well, that wasn't the end. At the point when they felt I was coming out with documents on Nixon, because Senator Mike Gravel was giving secret documents on Nixon that I had given Gravel -- he was trying to put them in the congressional record --

AG: The same Senator Mike Gravel who's now announced he's running for president on the Democratic Party.

DE: He's running for president, yes. When he was doing that, they now knew Ellsberg is putting out more stuff on us. It was just before the mining of Haiphong, which was on May 8. So on May 3, they knew I was talking about this, and they wanted that mining to be a fait accompli, a surprise to the public. They didn't want me announcing it in advance, just as, by the way, I believe that this president is making all plans for an attack on Iran, if he does it, which is likely to be a fait accompli. He's not going to Congress first or the U.N., and so forth. So, when people talk about that in advance, in this case they wanted to shut me up physically, not just blackmail me. So they brought, under Hunt and Liddy, again, the same Watergate people up from Miami, through the use of illegal campaign funds they had gotten, to incapacitate me totally in a speech on the Capitol. Now, that didn't happen, because they decided they were both going to be caught. And they blew that.

AG: Wait, wait, wait. Where did you hear that they wanted to "incapacitate" you?

DE: From William Merrill, their prosecutor, later, when this came out in 1973, just after my trial, in connection with the ending of my trial.

AG: That they wanted to kill you?

DE: Well, I said, "What does that mean? Kill me?" And he said, "The words were 'incapacitate you totally.'" But you have to understand these guys, C.I.A. contract employees, they never use the word "kill." So, I think they weren't meant to kill me. Bernard Barker -- "Macho" Bernard Barker is his nickname -- said his personal orders were to break both my legs. I think they wanted to put me out of action for a while, for the five days until they mined Haiphong. That was all.

But here was now another crime involving an assault, at least, on an American citizen giving a speech on the steps of the Capitol -- that's where they went after me -- weeks before they were caught in the Watergate. Again, this was ordered from the White House through Chuck Coulson to Jeb Magruder, saying that the man upstairs wanted this. And as Magruder said to his aide, sometimes when Coulson says that, it's true, so we have to do it. And again then, Hunt and Liddy had information to give about a domestic crime originating in the White House. The reason that made the cover-up necessary, as John has been saying, was, as I was saying earlier, Nixon was never really directly linked to the Watergate break-in or even, I think, the enemies list. Or -- I don't know about that. Maybe he directly ordered that, but that wasn't clearly illegal.

JD: Right. Right.

DE: Or the illegal campaign contributions, he wasn't directly linked. Mitchell and others could have talked on that, but they never did. They kept their mouths shut, as did Liddy. But they had to be kept quiet, once they were in the prosecutor's hands, about these other domestic crimes. And as John has said, Nixon thought that the attacks on me had the color of national security. That's what he said. That's why he didn't want to pass on John's, and I think he was sincere about that. Of course, it looked pretty much like a domestic crime, beating somebody up on the steps of the Capitol.

AG: What do you mean, "the color of national security"?

DE: Yeah, the color. By the way, the break-in to my --

AG: What do you mean, "the color"?

DE: Well, it had a flavor of national security to it. I'll explain that.

JD: Dan, it's more direct. He literally prohibited me from testifying -- it's on one of the tapes -- saying, "John, you can't testify about that. These are national security matters."

DE: Yeah. Yeah. Now, here's what I think he meant by that.

AG: And what were the matters?

JD: What had happened.

DE: What we are talking about, these crimes.

JD: All these areas.

DE: Now, this applies very much to what's going on. Egil Krogh, who was in charge of the Plumbers, so-called Plumbers unit under John Ehrlichman, who later pled guilty and had a real change of heart and is a friend of mine now -- I think he's a very admirable person -- he was one person who really saw the light here. But he explained to the judge in his guilty statement, he said, "You know, I saw this as national security. To me and to everybody around me, freeing the President to do -- giving him the freedom to do what he thought best in national security interests, for national policy, was the essence of national security." And I was getting in the way, by my truth telling or my exposing of what the President wanted to do, because what he wanted to do was crazy and illegal and dangerous. So he had to be secret. And to keep it other than secret, I was obstructing that. So getting rid of me was freeing the President to act like the President. This current president thinks he has the right now to use his inherent powers to do anything, unrestrained by the Constitution.

JG: I'd like to get to that issue. John Dean, in your book, Worse Than Watergate, for those of us who lived through that era, the Nixon era and the Watergate era, it was hard to believe that a government could be so out of control, but now we're faced with the situation now. And your parallels in terms of having lived through that era, what you are seeing and why you think that the current situation is worse than Watergate?

JD: Let me give you a very quick bottom line on that. Nobody died as a result of the so-called abuses of power during Watergate. Theoretically, if you include in their the secret bombing of Cambodia and things like that, which really never did get into the litany, you might say that's not true. But in the classic litany of Watergate activities, nobody died.

DE: Or even got incapacitated, since they did back off from beating me up.

JD: Right. True. But today, people are dying as a result of the abuses of power. And another point that -- I happened to appear before the Senate a couple of weeks ago to testify on Feingold's resolution of censure, and I thought it was important I go, not as a partisan, but just as somebody who could say, "Hey, if a shot like that had come across the bough of the Nixon White House, it might have gotten the President's attention." That's why I thought parallel situations today, because one of the things I also discovered, to my amazement, is how little people remember about history. I was being asked questions by people like Lindsey Graham, who was 16 years old when Watergate was going on, but still you would think he would know a little bit more --

AG: The South Carolina senator.

JD: Yes, the South Carolina senator -- than the level of questions he was asking me, which showed he had no real knowledge of it.

DE: That's important, just on what we have been talking about, right? In fact, if I remember, he said that -- just what we were saying. He said to you, "Come on, now. There's no comparison. Nixon was doing domestic crimes for his own good."

JD: Right.

DE: And you said -- the point you were making, as I understood -- you said, "You don't understand the history, Senator." And I believe you were referring to the fact Nixon did claim and believe that he was acting for national security when he committed these domestic crimes, just as the President -- I give President Bush right now every credit for believing that when he wiretaps without warrants against the FISA Act, he's committing domestic crimes for national security. And he almost also believes, with Nixon, when the President does it, it's not a crime, it's not illegal. They share it, don't you believe? They share that attitude.

JD: Well, they certainly have a covey of lawyers who will give them that counsel.

DE: Who will tell them. Unlike you. I don't think you would have gave that advice.

JD: I would not give him that counsel. I don't see the Commander-in-Chief clause being read that broadly.

AG: You just recently spoke at New York University on the issue of presidential power. Can you talk about what you see today, the powers that President Bush is invoking, and what you are calling for, from crackdown at home to war in Iraq?

JD: The conference that NYU put together was not right, left. It was really down the middle. They had people representing all the positions, and I happened to be the keynoter. So I listened very carefully all day at that conference, particularly to hear the arguments from those who say what Bush is doing is justified. And it all seems to come down to one factor, that they believe that the so-called war on terrorism or war against terrorists is so serious that it calls for a reading of the Commander-in-Chief clause, the likes of which we have never had. So if you can buy this premise that we are in this dire state, then this is the basis they reach these conclusions.

But they never really present a very persuasive argument that it's, say, worse than the Cold War, even close to the Cold War, where I grew up in duck-and-cover era, where we were worried about nuclear survival. I don't see the threat. There were cells, communist cells operating in the United States. We didn't go to warrantless wiretapping at that point. Yes, Hoover did engage in some of these activities. And in the early 1970s, mid-1970s, we decided this isn't the way the country runs. In fact, it's Bush's refusal to honor those laws that were carefully negotiated by both the executive and the legislative branch to set up procedures, that I'm somewhat flabbergasted that he just says, "These don't apply to me."

DE: Well, he's agreeing with these lawyers -- or he's been told what you're describing -- who in effect are claiming that as if the Constitution had an emergency clause in it like the ill-fated Weimar Constitution in Germany that calls for emergency powers and ruling by regulation. They are acting as if we have two constitutions, one for war and one for peace, which is not the case with our Constitution.

JD: Dan, I think there are prerogative powers a president has.

DE: During war time.

JD: Yes.

DE: That he doesn't have in peace time. That's true.

JD: But you have to buy the argument --

DE: But they don't relieve him of all constraints of the Constitution.

JD: No, but you have to buy the argument we're in that dire a state right now, and we're not. Lincoln, of course, suspended habeas corpus, but what he did, he went to Congress. Bush suspends the FISA law. What's he do? He goes to Congress and says, 'I don't want anything more. I just want to keep breaking the law.'

AG: John Dean, you were White House Counsel --

JD: Yes.

AG: -- for Nixon. Alberto Gonzales was White House Counsel for Bush. Now, he is Attorney General. What's your assessment of your counterpart at the time laying the groundwork for the torture at Abu Ghraib?

JD: Well, the torture memos were appalling. There's only one -- they're not legally sound. They're not well argued. They're not good law. They are distorted law. They selectively quote. They've reached a conclusion and tried to find law to fit in to justify it. I felt -- I really felt sorry for Gonzales at how poorly he presented himself before Congress recently to argue his case on the position on FISA. It was a sad presentation, because he had no facts. He wouldn't give the Senate any basis for his activities. His law was not justified. It was almost as bad as when Nixon, before -- well before Watergate, argued that King George III was the precedent for warrantless wiretapping, and the court said, "Do you recall that's one of the reasons we had a revolution?" It was cut that week.

JG: And this issue of torture and especially of the continuing existence of Guantanamo as our own gulag, I think more than any single issue in the world, in terms of judicial circles and political circles, has most of the world outraged. Yet there doesn't seem to be still within the United States the kind of public outrage over our continued --

DE: Well, start with the fact that they're not hearing very much from Democrats in Congress as an opposition. They're silent, with some honorable exceptions. And Feingold, after all, in his censure got -- what? -- two people to join him. There's perhaps a couple --

JD: 46% of the American people agreed with it, interestingly.

DE: We agreed with --

JD: Censure.

DE: Yeah, right. It's not as though the public is holding them back totally. I can't entirely account for the passivity of most of the Democrats. I was talking to one the other day, Rush Holt, who said that on the N.S.A. wiretap, for example, he was calling it unconstitutional and illegal. And I asked him how many of his colleagues that are Democrats, and he said, "Oh, two dozen." That's 12% of the Democrats. I said, "Why isn't it 200 Democrats and two dozen Republicans?" After all, Republicans are Americans, too. Republicans voted for the impeachment proceedings, in the end, in Nixon. The Democrats are acting -- you know, I'm -- you're an independent, I know. You got over your Republicanism. I'm tempted to pass as an independent now either. I'm kind of a self-hating Democrat.

AG: I wanted to ask something, as we wrap up, and it has to do with the view from the inside and the outside. I mean, you were on the inside, Dan Ellsberg, but then you took those papers outside, the Pentagon Papers. You had them copied. You gave them to the New York Times. When he did all that, John Dean, you were on the inside. You were the White House Counsel. What did he look like? What were you saying about him at the beginning, in 1968 and 1969?

JD: Frankly, the picture was being painted by somebody who knew Dan better than most of us: Henry Kissinger. And he was saying very unkind things about Dan.

AG: How did he know him?

JD: Their days together at Harvard, where Dan had actually taught some of Henry's classes.

DE: He called me his brightest student -- politist student. Interestingly, I had never been a student of his for an hour. He was taking credit for some reason. I never understood that.

JD: What happened is Nixon, as Dan alluded to, didn't have a particularly negative reaction when he first read the release of the Pentagon Papers in the Sunday Times, after his -- looking actually for the story on his daughter's wedding that weekend. That was the coverage he was interested in. He saw this other story and read it, and then he thought this was harder on the Democrats than it was on Republicans, so he didn't have a problem.

AG: Because it was on the history of the involvement in Vietnam.

JD: Yes. And it wasn't really until Monday, when Henry got a hold of him and came in, and Henry knew exactly which button to push to get Nixon's manhood involved and by telling the President, "Mr. President, if you don't deal with Dan Ellsberg and this problem, the world is going to think you're a weakling." And once Nixon's manhood is involved, that's why we got him pounding on the desk, "I wanna break-in at the Brookings! I want this!" It was really very threatening to Nixon personally that Kissinger would think him less than the man he should be in this office, filling these shoes that have so much history in them.

DE: But if I may say, the Plumbers were really set up a little bit later after that to neutralize me. That was the word used.

AG: And the Plumbers, of course, to deal with leaks. That's why they were called the Plumbers.

DE: Well, to deal with leaks, but as I say, in the tapes here that I present in the book and that I've listened to a lot, his attitude toward leaks was, "I want him tried in the press. Do you understand? Leak it out. Leak it out. Everything you have on him." And that's what they were trying to get on me. But the reason was, as I said, that they were worried about current documents. His attitude toward the Democrats was "This is great. Let's get out more." But on him, he didn't want leaks.

That brings us up to the present right now. If I can really sum up a lot of what we've been saying, listening to John also, and my situation, what does a patriotic official who's taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, which is what we all did, including the President, not to uphold a Fuhrer or a Commander-in-Chief, but to uphold the Constitution, what should she or he do when he discovers that the administration, under the direction of the President, is violating the Constitution or greatly endangering the public, the country, the security, as is happening right now with our plans to attack Iran? And we listen to the -- with the Iranians promising that they will retaliate against Americans in Iraq and here. They can lie. They can bluff. I believe that threat. I think that these plans are endangering us. Okay, what do you do then if you know that the public is being lied to about very dangerous plans?

The rules say go up the chain. Tell your boss. Tell the agency. Tell your inspector general. Tell the President. As a matter of fact, the woman just fired had written a letter to the President, saying -- Clinton in that case --disagreeing with his decision to bomb Sudan on the grounds that he didn't have really good evidence for it. But she didn't go outside, and that wasn't known, didn't affect the President. I would say that under those circumstances, you have to do what I did belatedly -- I wish I had done it years earlier -- and what JD: did when he went before the committee and when he talked to the prosecutors: tell the truth. Uphold your oath to the Constitution.

What offset Dean, correct me if I'm wrong, athwart, at odds with the administration was that he refused to lie under oath, refused to perjure himself. In my case, I failed my promises to keep secrets when I discovered that those secrets were lies about dangerous criminal activities. And I'm saying to the people right now, whoever it was who put out that information about the illegal N.S.A. wiretaps -- we don't know who it was yet -- whoever it was who put out the information on the secret torture camps and detention and kidnapping -- may not have been Mary McCarthy, her lawyer has denied that -- whoever it was was acting patriotically, courageously, in interest of their oath to the Constitution, and frankly, their colleagues who didn't tell that were not upholding their oath to the Constitution, and they can do better. And they can learn from that example.

AG: So, you're calling for them to speak out.

DE: I'm calling for them to speak out with documents.

AG: John Dean are you also calling for people to speak out with documents?

JD: If Dan says that alone, we don't have a conspiracy. We'll -- let's have Dan say that alone.

DE: Well, you can say it separately. Now, we're on the same table together.

AG: We have 30 seconds.

DE: But, okay. I would say, for example, whoever that was, if they find them with their lie-detector tests or -- I don't think they've gotten to the point of torturing Americans citizens yet, although notice that whereas the break-in to my psychiatrist's office would now be legal under the PATRIOT Act, as would the wiretapping, as far as the President sees it -- I was overheard on warrantless wiretaps, that's legal in the President's eyes -- some things are not yet legal. The attempt to incapacitate me are not yet legal. I would say to people who knew of that sort of thing, if they get found out, I hope they will call on me for their fundraising in their trials. Don't rely on the New York Times, by the way, for helping them on the trial. I didn't get any help on there. But I'll be happy to support them, just as Jack Anderson did support me. They're doing the right thing. That's what I'd love to say. And I want more people to do more of it.

AG: We're going to have to leave it there, and I want to thank you both very much for being with us and for having this first conversation around the country in a national broadcast. The man who exposed the break-in of Dan Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, John Dean, and Dan Ellsberg, thank you.

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ }}
@2023 - AlterNet Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. - "Poynter" fonts provided by