Prosecution drops all charges against Vandenberg 15
By Robert Bernstein
Daniel Ellsberg was a military analyst during the US war in Vietnam and very much believed in the cause. But the more he learned, the more he realized those in power were lying to the American people. The result: He risked going to prison for life in order to smuggle out the Pentagon Papers.
He was the Bradley Manning and the Julian Assange of his day.
Ellsberg's life would never be the same. In the decades since (he is now 81), he has been arrested numerous times to draw attention to illegal and unethical activities by the US government, mostly on military matters.
Back in February, he was part of the "Vandenberg 15" who were arrested on their way to protest a missile launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
This Tuesday, October 16, he and most of the rest of the Vandenberg 15 explained why they were there.
Ellsberg explained that the US is in violation of numerous laws because of its continued testing and development of nuclear weapons and missiles. For decades, the US has been obligated by treaty to eliminate all nuclear weapons and nuclear missiles. It has failed to do so.
As John Amadon of Albany, NY explained, this was not civil disobedience. It was "civil resistance" to highlight the illegality of US nuclear weapons policies.
Also speaking at the event was David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, sponsor of the event. And Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in the US war in Iraq.
During Q&A an audience member described how Ellsberg had given him the courage to speak up quietly with a sign to protest another violation of law. The occasion was a speech by John Yoo at the Reagan Center. Yoo had signed off to torture captured prisoners of war during the Bush Administration, in violation of both US and international law.
Ellsberg was honored that he had helped inspire such courage. Ellsberg went on to say that he himself had been inspired to his courage by those who had come before him.
The Vandenberg 15 had gathered in anticipation of their trial. They had been warned by the judge that they would not be allowed to introduce any substantive evidence or issues regarding nuclear weapons or policy and the relevant violations of law by the US government. It would only be treated as a trespassing case.
But, at the last minute, the government asked the case to be dropped. As in the Pentagon Papers case, the government itself had apparently violated the law in its zeal to go after the protestors and it wanted the case to end before it started.