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Top secret information is 'like toilet paper' at the Pentagon, says the Vietnam War whistleblower

Matthew Loh   

Top secret information is 'like toilet paper' at the Pentagon, says the Vietnam War whistleblower
  • There's no reason to think the Discord leak has damaged US national security, Daniel Ellsberg said.
  • "Top secret is like toilet paper" at the Pentagon, said Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers.

Daniel Ellsberg, the man who in 1971 exposed Vietnam War intelligence that stunned the country, doubts the leak of Pentagon documents last year on Discord poses any severe threats to US national security.

Ellsberg, who is 92 and battling pancreatic cancer, commented on the Pentagon's handling of classified information in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post's Devlin Barrett.

"There is no reason to believe that it harmed American national security in any measurable way," he told The Post.

Public fears about the leak's consequences have been blown out of proportion because the US government tends to keep a "mystique of secrecy," he said, per The Post.

"At the Pentagon, top secret is like toilet paper, it's nothing," the former military analyst told the outlet.

CIA Director William Burns appeared to echo a similar sentiment on April 11 as he spoke at an event in Texas, CNN reported.

"I think there is a serious problem of overclassification sometimes in the US government," Burns said, per CNN. "Which I think needs to be taken on."

Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old Air National Guardsman charged with leaking the Pentagon secrets on Discord, was given top-secret security clearance in 2021 — less than two years after he enlisted, according to prosecutors.

The documents, which Teixeira is accused of uploading to his private Discord server, revealed details of the US surveillance on South Korea, Egypt, Israel, and Ukraine's governments.

Ellsberg said the leak, discovered by authorities earlier this month, in some ways mirrors the secrets he revealed five decades ago, per The Post.

American officials at the time believed the US was struggling in the Vietnam War but publicly claimed they were close to victory. In comparison, the new leak shows that Washington knows the war in Ukraine has slowed to a stalemate, though neither the US nor Russia will admit it, Ellsberg told The Post.

For his part, Ellsberg has taken responsibility for giving the Pentagon Papers to the press back in 1971. He'd become disillusioned with the war narrative at the time, according to multiple accounts of his life and the leak.

Like Teixeira, Ellsberg was charged by the US government in January 1973 for revealing classified information. The charges were later dropped in May 1973 after the Nixon administration was discovered to have burgled the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist to try to find dirt on Ellsberg.

Ellsberg has won several awards for exposing the Pentagon Papers. He's since spent years in political activism, protesting US military actions overseas, including the war in Iraq and the supplying of weapons to Ukraine.

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