About that ‘greatest whistleblower ever’: Ellsberg, Snowden, and the Secret Team

Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden

The political circus this week  narrowly voted down an amendment to ‘rein in the NSA’s mass surveillance infrastructure’. As if senators can – or would sincerely wish to – negatively influence the behemoth that is the Global Security State! Ever since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked ‘Top Secret’ documents to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, favorable comparisons have been made with Daniel Ellsberg, whose leaked ‘Pentagon Papers’ in 1971 revealed that the U.S. government knew, early on, that the Vietnam War could most likely not be ‘won’ (whatever ‘won’ means because its strategic goals were never defined), and that continuing the war would lead to many times more casualties than was ever admitted publicly.

Like today’s circumspect avoidance when it comes to blowing the whistle on 9/11 (with a few honorable exceptions that do not receive widespread coverage), the ‘greatest whistleblowers ever’ (and I include Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in this category) don’t leak the names behind purchases of pre-9/11 airline company ‘put options‘; they don’t leak the voluminous diplomatic cables that would sorely expose the NeoCon-Israeli scheming in the run-up to America’s ‘New Pearl Harbor‘; they don’t leak the satellite images that would rubbish the fairytale that ‘al Qaeda’ was responsible for ‘dustifying’ the World Trade Center, firing that missile at the Pentagon, and downing Flight 93.

Commissioned in 1967 by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who was concerned about the disastrous course of the war in Vietnam – or rather, the disastrous press coverage it was receiving – the report that became known as the ‘Pentagon Papers’ was ostensibly “a comprehensive history of the United States involvement in Vietnam from World War II [1945] to the present [1968, when the report was completed].”

Daniel Ellsberg served in the Pentagon from August 1964 under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. In one of those curious synchronicities of history, Ellsberg’s first full day as special assistant to McNamara saw the captain of USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin claim that it was under fire from North Vietnamese patrol boats. No such thing happened. According to his Wikipedia page, Ellsberg personally reported the ‘incident’ to McNamara. The subsequent Gulf of Tonkin Resolution resulted in a huge escalation of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. In fact, it transformed the situation from a 20-year long CIA ‘covert war’ to a full-scale military invasion and occupation.

Ellsberg is said to have experienced an epiphany attending a War Resisters League conference at Haverford College in August 1969, listening to a speech given by a draft resister. Thereafter he resolved to expose the collection of ‘top secret’ documents that went into making this Pentagon report, first petitioning Congressmen, then, two years later, the New York Times and Washington Post to publish excerpts from the multi-volume chronology of events in and around the Vietnam ‘conflict’. Instant fame followed and he became a champion of the anti-war movement – a role he still plays today, revered as ‘the most dangerous man in America‘.

Missing from this history is the information provided by Col. Fletcher Prouty in his incisive, insightful book The Secret Team: The CIA and its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, apparently written in response to the Pentagon Papers and first published the following year (1972). Prouty’s powerful and eminently reliable testimony (he was privy to far more than Ellsberg during this period), all of it backed up with extensive documentation, stands in direct opposition to the legacy worn by the Pentagon Papers, which became a source document for university professors teaching American history. The Secret Team and Prouty’s follow-up book, published in 1992, JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy, absolutely demolish the Pentagon Papers as “unreliable, inaccurate and marred by serious omissions, a contrived history, at best.”

In the introduction to his JFK book, a superb account of Kennedy’s assassination placed in proper historical context, Prouty wrote:

The history of the Cold War period that began before the end of WWII has been replete with fantasies. A number of those whom we call “historians” are no more than paid hacks with little or no practical experience, and a fixed agenda. Even the official “History of United States Involvement in Vietnam from WWII to the Present (1968),” popularly known as the Pentagon Papers, contains such amazing propaganda in the chronological record of that period as:

22 Nov 1963: Lodge confers with the President. Having flown to Washington the day after the conference, Lodge meets with the President and presumably continues the kind of report given in Honolulu. (see Vol. II, page 223)

That is the Pentagon Papers’ official account of that otherwise momentous day. What possible explanation can there be for the fabrication of that totally untrue bit of official record of the very day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as a result of a contract murder? This becomes all the more significant when we realize that this official history was directed by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and was compiled and written by members of his staff in the International Security Affairs section, under the task force leadership and direction of Leslie H. Gelb, later editor of the New York Times and now [1996] the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

This massive study, containing countless other fabrications and significant omissions, was officially presented to the newly appointed Secretary of Defense, Clark M. Clifford, on January 15, 1969. Since that time, as later researchers, writers and college professors have attempted to describe the thirty years of Vietnam War history, they have been misled by this work and by others that are equally false and contrived.

The key word there is misled. Prouty does not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The Pentagon Papers, like the diplomatic cables and war logs released by WikiLeaks, and the NSA presentations released by Snowden, in and of themselves are potentially valuable. The problem, Prouty explains, is that valuable context is either missing, or – wherever it’s provided – is dangerously misleading. The result is that the true ‘line of force’ is obscured and even ‘the very elect’ find themselves enticed into a trap set by the “masters”:

In this book, I have used various editions of the Pentagon Papers as reference material. They are useful and they are quite accurate as far as individual elements go, but they are dangerous in the hands of those who do not have the experience or the other sources required to validate and balance their content. This is because their true source was only marginally the Pentagon and because the clever selection of those documents by the compilers removed many important papers. This neglect of key documents served to reduce the value of those that remained to tell the story of the Vietnam War. From the beginning, the Pentagon Papers were a compilation of documents designed to paint President John F. Kennedy as the villain of the story, and to shield the role of the CIA. (JFK, p.275)

Prouty was there when all this, and more, was going down. He remains a relatively unknown ‘whistleblower’ (if we can call him that – he only began speaking out after retiring from the military). He’s perhaps best remembered for his work with movie producer Oliver Stone on the excellent JFK, in which he was portrayed by the ‘Mr. X‘ character, but I encourage anyone interested in real 20th Century American history to consult the man’s own works and recorded interviews, which are available on YouTube.

In his preface to the first edition of The Secret Team, which made it to print only for its entire stock to be bought up by persons unknown, then disappeared from bookstores, Prouty wrote:

This treasure trove of TOP SECRET papers was delivered to the New York Times, and other newspapers in mid-June, 1971, by a then-unknown “Hippie” of that period. His name was Daniel Ellsberg. What few people have learned since that time is the fact that both Daniel Ellsberg, who pirated these highly classified papers, and Leslie Gelb the Director of that Task Force, had worked in that same office of International Security Affairs (ISA).

The “misappropriation” of those documents was not the work of some “true patriots” as Noam Chomsky wrote in 1972. Rather it was an inside job. That ISA office had been the home of many of the “big names” of the Vietnam War period, among them Paul H. Nitze, John T. McNaughton, Paul C. Warnke and William Bundy, among others. The fact that I had many of them in my office, that I had worked with them, and that I had written parts of some of them proves that they were not genuine Pentagon papers, because my work at that time was devoted to support of the CIA.

To look at this matter in another way, the man who has lived and experienced this unnatural existence becomes even more a victim of its unreality. He becomes enmeshed beyond all control upon the horns of a cruel dilemma. On the one hand, his whole working life has been dedicated to the cause of secrecy and to its protection by means of cover stories (lies). In this pursuit he has given of himself time after time to pledges, briefings, oaths, and deep personal conviction regarding the significance of that work.

Even if he would talk and write, his life has been so interwoven into the fabric of the real and the unreal, the actual and the cover story, that he would be least likely to present the absolutely correct data.

On the other hand, as a professional he would have been subjected to such cellularization and compartmentalization each time he became involved in any real “deep” operation that he would not have known the whole story anyhow. This compartmentalization is very real. I have worked on projects with many CIA men so unaware of the entire operation that they had no realization and awareness of the roles of other CIA men working on the same project.

Another group of writers, about the world of secrecy, are the “masters”- men like Allen W. Dulles, Lyman Kirkpatrick, Peer de Silva and Chester Cooper. My own choice of the best of these are Peer de Silva and Lyman Kirkpatrick. These are thoroughly professional intelligence officers who have chosen a career of high-level intelligence operations. Their writing is correct and informative — to a degree beyond that which most readers will be able to translate and comprehend at first reading; yet they are properly circumspect and guarded and very cleverly protective of their profession.

There is another category of writer and self-proclaimed authority on the subjects of secrecy, intelligence, and containment. This man is the suave, professional parasite who gains a reputation as a real reporter by disseminating the scraps and “Golden Apples” thrown to him by the great men who use him.

This writer seldom knows and rarely cares that many of the scraps from which he draws his material have been planted, that they are controlled leaks, and that he is being used, and glorified as he is being used, by the inside secret intelligence community.

Allen Dulles had a penchant for cultivating a number of such writers with big names and inviting them to his table for a medieval style luncheon in that great room across the hall from his own offices in the old CIA headquarters on the hill overlooking Foggy Bottom. Here, he would discuss openly and all too freely the same subjects that only hours before had been carefully discussed in the secret inner chambers of the operational side of that quiet Agency. In the hands of Allen Dulles, “secrecy” was simply a chameleon device to be used as he saw fit and to be applied to lesser men according to his schemes.

It is quite fantastic to find people like Daniel Ellsberg being charged with leaking official secrets simply because the label on the piece of paper said “TOP SECRET,” when the substance of many of the words written on those same papers was patently untrue and no more than a cover story. Except for the fact that they were official “lies”, these papers had no basis in fact, and therefore no basis to be graded TOP SECRET or any other degree of classification. Allen Dulles would tell similar cover stories to his coterie of writers, and not long thereafter they would appear in print in some of the most prestigious papers and magazines in the country, totally unclassified, and of course, cleverly untrue.

Lastly there is the writer from outside this country who has gained his inside information from sources in another country. These sources are no doubt reliable; they know exactly what has taken place – as in Guatemala during the Bay of Pigs era – and they can speak with some freedom.

In other cases, the best of these sources have been from behind the Iron Curtain. In every case, the chance for complete information is very small, and the hope that in time researchers, students, and historians will be able to ferret out truth from untruth, real from unreal, and story from cover story is at best a very slim one. Certainly, history teaches us that one truth will add to and enhance another; but let us not forget that one lie added to another lie will demolish everything. This is the important point.

With this in mind, is it cynical of me to wonder what game is afoot behind these ‘scandals’ over solitary NSA powerpoint slides marked ‘TOP SECRET’? Do we think U.S. intelligence agencies no longer function in this (or a similar) way? Did you catch the above remark about Noam Chomsky lauding Ellsberg as a “true patriot”? The darling of the American Left recently said of Ed Snowden:

I think he has carried out a heroic act. That is the proper act of a citizen to let people know what their government is doing. For the most part, the public should know what their representatives are doing.

Allen Dulles, Gen. Ed Lansdale, Gen. Charles P. Cabell, Mr. Nathan Twining.

Following the Tonkin false-flag non-event, Ellsberg spent two years (1965-1967) in Vietnam working under General Edward Lansdale as a civilian in the U.S. State Department. Lansdale was formally a U.S. Air Force man, but Prouty explains that his entire ‘military career’ was cover for his role as the CIA’s chief of counter-insurgency operations in Vietnam and elsewhere. I don’t think I’m going out on too much of a limb to say that Ed Lansdale was probably involved in the assassination of JFK. Prouty and others identified him in a photo taken at Dealey Plaza that fateful day:

Why was General Ed Lansdale in Dealey Plaza? Those who knew him, say this man is Ed Lansdale. Photo taken Nov. 22, 1963.

Prouty has more to say on this:

Bear in mind that these ‘tramps’ were supposedly apprehended in the railroad yards behind the white picket fence on the grassy knoll right after Kennedy was shot. They are prime candidates for being one of the teams of hitmen that caught Kennedy in the cross-fire.

In noting Ellsberg’s proximity to the dark actors and covert operations during the sixties, I don’t necessarily mean to suggest that he was a witting participant in the scheming to remove JFK and embroil the U.S. in Vietnam, but rather that, like most others who find themselves caught up in the intrigues of state, Ellsberg was in way over his head, and that by leaking the Pentagon Papers, he had unwittingly continued to serve his masters’ interests. Prouty, however, came down somewhat harder on Ellsberg:

[…] certain aspects of the release and publication of the Pentagon Papers [are] deeply suspect, especially since the man who says he released these vast volumes to the newspapers, Daniel Ellsberg, was ideally suited for this role by virtue of his Vietnam experience with the very same Edward G. Lansdale. No matter what one might wish to believe the intentions of Ellsberg were when he did this, it would be most difficult to accept that he of all people did not know all the facts. And if he did know all of the facts I have described, why did he want to make it appear that it was Pentagon policymakers who went ahead “despite the intelligence estimates prepared by their most senior intelligence officials”? Why has so much care been taken to make it appear that these are papers from the Pentagon that he has dumped on the news media’s doorstep? Why has no one made the proper distinction that the majority of these documents were not really Pentagon originated at all, but were originated in, among other places, the CIA (Covert side)? Certainly if his facts, as well as those presented by The New York Times, are right, the CIA (Covert side) was in a much better position to heed its own CIA (Intelligence side) warnings and advice than any other department or agency in Washington.

The answer to these questions becomes obvious. The CIA uses its intelligence role as a cover mechanism for its operational activities. Furthermore it uses its own secret intelligence as an initiator for its own secret operations. This is what pleased General Donovan when President Roosevelt unleashed him with the OSS and it is what has been the driving force behind the hard core operational agents within the intelligence community since that time. [The Secret Team, p.55]

Such is the CIA’s dual function as both lie factory and war-maker. This schizoidal division of labor at the heart of the CIA remains very much in evidence today: just think of the hundreds if not thousands of Muslims and people of Middle Eastern ethnicity kidnapped off streets around the world and subject to ‘extraordinary rendition’ for ‘extracting valuable intelligence on terror networks‘.  The CIA chiefs and fellow psychopaths pulling the strings behind the U.S. regime know perfectly well that the intelligence value – in terms of extracting objective information – from torturing people is nil. They know the tortured will confess to whatever they think their torturers want them to say in order to immediately end the pain. The CIA then uses that ‘information’ in the ‘intelligent reports’ it sends to policy-makers, while the FBI uses it to spin fantastical stories about eeevil Muslims under every bed.

Ellsberg has since claimed that he later regretted not publicising the contents of his Pentagon safe seven years earlier, when blowing the whistle could really have made the difference between 3,000,000 Vietnamese losing their lives and 2,600,000 Americans being put through the war-machine meat-grinder:

I’ve long regretted that it didn’t even occur to me, in August 1964, to release the documents in my Pentagon safe giving the lie to claims of an “unequivocal, unprovoked” (unreal) attack on our destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf: precursors of the “evidence beyond any doubt” of nonexistent WMDs in Iraq, which manipulated Congress, once again, to pass the exact counterpart of the Tonkin Gulf resolution.

It might be interesting to ask at this point, had Ellsberg immediately revealed that the (overt) Vietnam War was about to be launched under false pretenses, would he would have met the same fate as Dr. David Kelly?

One of the spin-masters listed by Prouty above – Chester L. Cooper – wrote an article entitled ‘The CIA and Decision-Making‘ that was published in the January 1972 edition of Council on Foreign Relations journal, Foreign Affairs. Cooper wrote:

“Thanks to Daniel Ellsberg, those of us who have not seen a National Intelligence Estimate for many years, or who have never seen one, can address the matter with somewhat more confidence than we could have a few months ago. Although it probably did not cross Ellsberg’s mind when he released the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, he succeeded in doing what the Agency, on its own, has rarely been able to do for more than twenty years: he made the CIA ‘look good’ through what inhabitants of the Pickle Factory* themselves would call a ‘highly credible source’.”

[*A slang term for the CIA used by its employees. How cute.]

JFK: “I want to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

Prouty comments on Cooper’s wink-and-nod as follows:

To those well steeped in the ways of the real CIA, and unfortunately there are too few who are, the above statement fits the pattern. Here is an Agency partisan praising Daniel Ellsberg. This does much to support our earlier contention that one of the real reasons these papers were delivered to the public was really on behalf of the CIA and the Secret Team and not the other way around.

The CIA would have us believe that it was an objective and blameless intelligence agency all through those horrible years of the Vietnam build-up. However, it was the CIA that hid behind its own cover and that of State and Defense to fan the flames of a smoldering conflict. To add insult to injury, the CIA would have us believe that Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, the DOD, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon were all to blame because they would not read and heed their NIE. Where were the CIA officials of the clandestine sector when their own men were writing these National Intelligence Estimates? [The Secret Team, p.136]

What then was the driving force behind the creation and dissemination of the Pentagon Papers? Prouty continues:

The Agency is very much aware, too, that it cannot look back, because fate is creeping up on it. The tremendous pressures in this country that have built up during the long tragic years of the conflict in Indochina are driving researchers, politicians, and other concerned Americans to search for the origins and sources of responsibility for that disaster. This is bringing them closer and closer each day to the curtain of secrecy that has effectively veiled these areas from sight for more than a decade. This pressure is now forcing Agency and Secret Team supporters to begin a serious program of rewriting history, in a massive effort to protect and shield the Agency while shifting the search into other avenues. We have already said that the work of Daniel Ellsberg and the number of people who helped him may have been the first major step in this effort. The released Pentagon Papers do much to portray the CIA as it is supposed to be, while doing all it can to shift any censure of the CIA as an organization primarily concerned with clandestine operations, to the military, the National Security Council, and the White House. [The Secret Team, p.135]

The Pentagon Papers were crafted to safeguard the CIA’s role as ‘Praetorian Guard’ for the psychopathic oligarchs ruling the U.S. empire. The Secret Team had, at this point in the 1960s, assassinated the JFK brothers, many important civil rights activists and social leaders, brutally suppressed mass demonstrations, subverted political protest movements at home and abroad, sent hundreds of thousands of young Americans to fight an enemy of its own creation in Vietnam, and flooded the country with drugs they’d been testing as biological and chemical warfare agents since the 1940s. This stimulated – or amplified, depending on how you look at it – a wave of popular dissent and thirst for social justice that the oligarchs read as “stemming from an excess of democracy“, not the other way around!

In order to avert the dangers this clamor for progress posed to their future proprietorship of the American plantation nation, the Secret Team did what it and its older incarnations have always done: it rewrote history to meet its current political requirements. Just as a psychopath will be several moves ahead of its mark, the Secret Team is always one or more steps ahead, feigning one move to make quite another, throwing fake victories and scapegoats to ‘the mob’, and always keeping in mind its goal of staying ahead and staying on top.

By casting JFK as ‘a commie’, a ‘peacenik’ and ‘unAmerican’, a key part of that rewriting of history involved lobotomising from memory the glimpse of ‘Camelot made manifest‘, truly transformative change and democratic progress for all, during JFK’s brief campaign of wresting control of the country – and therefore the empire – from America’s ‘optimates’.

While the “master writers” set to work on shaping public perception, they have operatives like Ellsberg’s one-time boss, Ed Lansdale, busy ‘establishing facts on the ground’ in Vietnam and Iraq and Syria for the policy-makers back home, saying one thing while doing another to manipulate outcomes favorable to their goal – namely, suppressing the establishment of secular progressive government that would rule ‘by, for and of the people’.

History may not exactly repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes.

Inside joke? Biblical inscription inside the CIA’s Langley HQ

Published by Niall

Website of Niall Bradley – writer & researcher

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    1. Interesting, thanks. They will, of course, argue that that increase is down to improved observational technologies – even though budgets have decreased inversely as NEOs increase. Go figure! Anyway that data refers to Near Earth Objects (asteroids/comets) that are observed in the inner solar system. The NASA bolide story is about something else: actual impacts of objects 1m+ in diameter (estimated based on the amount of energy their atmospheric explosions produced) between ’94 and ’13.

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