Assange’s Indictment and the Ellsberg precedent

Daniel Ellsberg’s defence is being used by Julian’s legal team in relation to surveillance of Julian and lawyers in conference 

Extracted from Daniel’s extended biography

After still another invasion, of Laos in 1971, I gave most of the study to the New York Times.  When the Times was enjoined from publishing it further after three installments—the first such prior restraint in American history, a clear challenge to the First Amendment—I gave copies to the Washington Post and eventually, when the Post and two other papers were also enjoined, to nineteen papers in all.  For all these papers to publish these “secrets” successively in the face of four federal injunctions and daily charges by the Attorney General and the President that they were endangering national security amounted to a unique wave of civil disobedience by major American institutions.

Just before the Supreme Court voided the injunctions as conflicting with the First Amendment, I was indicted on twelve federal felony counts, posing a possible sentence of 115 years in prison.  My friend Anthony Russo, who had found a copying machine for me and helped with the initial copying, was charged on three counts.  These criminal charges against a leak to the American public were just as unprecedented as the earlier injunctions. But after almost two years under indictment and over four months in open court, all charges against us were dismissed—“with prejudice,” meaning we could not be tried again—just before closing argument, on grounds of governmental criminal misconduct against me.  That was another first, in American jurisprudence.

What had happened was that when President Nixon had learned, shortly after my first indictment, that I had also copied the Top Secret NSSM-1 from his own National Security Council and given it to Republican Senator Charles Mathias, Nixon reasonably–though mistakenly–feared that I had other documents from his own Administration, including nuclear threats and plans for escalation which had yet to be carried out.  He secretly directed criminal actions to prevent me from disclosing such embarrassing secrets, including the burglary of my former psychoanalyst’s office in search of information with which to blackmail me into silence, and later an effort to have me “incapacitated totally” at a demonstration at the Capitol.

When these crimes became known, they led—besides the termination of our trial—to the criminal convictions of several White House aides.  The same offenses, originating in the Oval Office, also figured importantly in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon that led to his resignation in 1974.  Meanwhile, in the political atmosphere accompanying these revelations of White House crimes and cover-up in the spring of 1973, Congress finally cut off funding for further combat operations in Vietnam:  initially, in the House with respect to Cambodia, on May 10, the day before our trial was dismissed, and totally on August 15, 1973.  Together, these developments were crucial to ending the war in Indochina in 1975.

Further Reading:
William H. Freivogel writes Is Julian Assange an International Version of Daniel Ellsberg and WikiLeaks the Modern Equivalent of the Pentagon Papers?
Searching Ellsberg fro Assange
Searching Wilkileaks for Ellsberg