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Daniel Ellsberg on the creation of nuclear doomsday machines,
the institutional insanity that maintains them,
and a practical plan for dismantling them.

By Robert Wiblin and Keiran Harris į Published September 24th, 2018

We are on the Titanic, going at full speed on a moonless night into iceberg waters. Have we hit the iceberg yet, and made it inevitable that we will go down? We donÕt know. É. thereÕs no way to prove it. It is definitely not a waste for some of us to keep trying to explore to see if thereÕs a way out.

Daniel Ellsberg

Robert Wiblin: Yeah.

Daniel Ellsberg: The Russians rely on their ICBMs in a way we donÕt. Because they donÕt rely on their submarines as we do. Their submarines have more of tendency to bump into each other or to fall to the bottom of the ocean. TheyÕve had a number of serious accidents. But more importantly than that, their subject to an American anti-submarine warfare which will not get all of their submarines, but which will get a number of them. TheyÕre not willing to rely entirely on their submarines and so they do rely on their ICBMs. ItÕs hard for me to imagine theyÕre getting rid of all of their ICBMs in that circumstance. Just as itÕs hard for me to imagine North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, getting rid of all of his nuclear weapons. I donÕt expect that to happen. He depends on that for his deterrents and his survival and Russia feels they depend on having some ICBMs.

We donÕt require those ICBMs. We donÕt benefit from them in anyway, other than the one I described, which is not by the way just imaginary, conjectural. To look crazy enough to buy these useless things does make us look crazy to launch.

Robert Wiblin: To use them.

Daniel Ellsberg: And that can be a deterrent.

Robert Wiblin: Yeah.

Daniel Ellsberg: But at this I say at the risk of destruction of everything. So we should get rid of those. No first use policy on our part, even unilaterally, all the better for Russia. All of these things are even better, much better, if Russia imitates them, which is not guaranteed. But they are good for us even if they donÕt imitate them and certainly our ability to press them in various ways. And shame them. Or educate them or whatever, to get rid of their first use policy and their launch on warning, depends necessarily on our getting rid of it. Although itÕs not guaranteed by it.

So those would be three major things I would do. I would thus reduce the number of our warheads first by the ICBMs, but also sub launched missiles, warheads. Not to zero, however.

Robert Wiblin: Yeah. So in light of that, should we want a ban on all nuclear weapons, or should we just be looking to reduce the number?

Daniel Ellsberg: Now we get to an important issue [Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons]. 122 nations have signed now, although I forget how many, but maybe 20 more, have actually ratified a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. And to make illegal any possession of any nuclear weapons. The Pope speaking, not legally but morally, has said now, in contrast to his predecessors, that any possession of nuclear weapons is morally condemnable. Now similar to the ban idea. Unfortunately, and predictably, all of those 122 nations are nations that do no possess nuclear weapons. And they are not allied to nations that protect them with the threat of nuclear weapons. So not one member of NATO has signed such a treaty. Nor has any member of the nine nuclear weapon states. Actually one member of NATO did take part in the negotiations, only one. [crosstalk 01:24:40]

Robert Wiblin: Netherlands, is that who it was? Yeah.

Daniel Ellsberg: Yeah, the Netherlands. But they were É They took part because they were ordered to do so by their Parliament. They wouldnÕt have done it on their executive branch. But they were ordered by the executive branch to vote against it. So, I donÕt foresee that approach by itself expanding very much. In part, because like the Pope, it is legally or morally condemning the position of any nuclear weapons and most of the people in the nuclear weapons states and their allies donÕt agree with that as a moral norm or as a prudent action.

Nor do I, actually at this point. Given that other countries, including opponents, have nuclear weapons. ItÕs hard for me to say É I canÕt see that is is morally condemnatory, for example, for China to have any nuclear weapons since itÕs had serious adversary relations with both the U.S. and Russia, the Soviet Union in the past.

Robert Wiblin: And India for that matter, yeah.

Daniel Ellsberg: And India. You could say likewise for India. Or that itÕs morally condemnatory to have some nuclear weapons rather than leaving a major adversary with a monopoly. ItÕs not only that most people will not agree, I will be among those who will not agree, that itÕs morally obligatory for us to unilaterally divest ourselves of all nuclear weapons while Russia retains some, leaving them with a monopoly. ItÕs not only É ItÕs not that I would expect Russia to attack with those weapons necessarily, or very quickly, but it is very plausible that it would encourage them to take aggressive actions of various kinds. Old actions, reckless actions that they wouldnÕt take otherwise, that might very well lead to conflict. And if not to immediate nuclear war by one side or the other, to a build up.

So it seems to me that whereas I do think that a world without nuclear weapons would be a very much safer place. And that is a desirable aim and should even be a practical aim, if not in our lifetime, in our childrenÕs or our grandchildrenÕs lifetime. But by the same token in the nuclear era in which we live, I would say that war, major way, should be abolished, in effect should not be an instrument of policy. Should not be tolerated or legitimated and prepared for. But that implies a considerable change in our world order, in our system of resolving conflicts.

And rather than say well in other words thatÕs like changing the gravitational constant, or some currently unthinkable thing, that should be thinkable. We should be aiming at that. And they go together. I find it hard to believe that there will be sufficient trust and verification and enforcement for countries who now rely on nuclear weapons entirely to rid themselves of them, so long as they do face a real risk of attack. Or of invasion. Or occupation.

You mentioned Castro earlier. Castro is the one major leader, you know a very small island, heÕs been faced with imminent invasion by a nuclear power. Let me take that back, Saddam was faced with that of course and did experience it. So has Afghanistan by Russia. So whatÕs the difference? They did not, those countries did not have recourse to nuclear weapons themselves. But Castro had nuclear weapons on his territory. Which, by the way, did not have locks on them and which his people couldÕve taken control of. Rather than say to Khrushchev, which would certainly look rational, ŅDo not use those nuclear weapons or we will be annihilated,Ó he couldÕve said that. And he couldÕve backed it up with non-nuclear force, taking over the weapons himself, but he wouldnÕt have had to with Khrushchev. I think Khrushchev wouldÕve agreed to that, almost certainly.

Robert Wiblin: Yeah, Khrushchev seems quite sane from the historical records.

Daniel Ellsberg: Yeah. Yeah. Now was it insane then for É What Khrushchev did do as the youngest leader around at that point, what he did do was say, ŅI assume youÕll use them. ThatÕs fine. And, therefore, if itÕs going to be a nuclear war, which it is, because weÕre gonna use them, you should go first.Ó And he said that under the mistaken impression that Russia had a couple of hundred ICBMs when in fact it had about 10. Some say 40. But socialists would not have prevailed. The Northern É Eurasia would have been annihilated. And actually some American cities wouldÕve gone, starting with Oahu because Khrushchev had ordered a nuclear É sub with nuclear missiles offshore Hawaii in case a war erupted.

Now to what effect É What good would it have done in the world for Hawaii to be annihilated while Russia was being annihilated? Nothing. No good. But that was his plan, secretly. He ordered that secretly. And not for deterrents. He didnÕt tell us that that would happen. He just did it. Nor did he tell us that he had nuclear warheads ashore.

Now this is to me inexplicable rationally. I canÕt imagine what that was except as a simple bureaucratic trend in Russia to keep secrets. Even when you would be safer if you exposed that secret. The secret being that he had nuclear warheads in Cuba. When I look at that warhead, I believe, and IÕve never seen anyone else say this or raise it, and I didnÕt get into it in my book for space reasons, the what if or the, you know, the hypotheticals that mightÕve occurred. I wanted to but my son said, ŅDad, this is not a book about Cuba. You donÕt have space for this.Ó But I wouldÕve liked to say Khrushchev couldÕve won that crisis at any point up until Saturday, October 27th, when he gave in by simply revealing he had nuclear weapons there, which he did.

In fact, if he didnÕt he still couldÕve said he did. But he did have them. And he couldÕve shown them to our surveillance, not all of them, just one or two. Opened them up for inspection, send your U2 over, send a low level over, take a real good photograph. Send a ground observer over, let him look at this thing. See. We have nuclear weapons ashore, which was true. Which would mean to Kennedy an invasion was out of the question.

Now, when the Joint Chiefs contemplated the possibility that there were nuclear weapons ashore right at the end, their proposal was letÕs put nuclear weapons with our troops. That was refused. That was insane. What the hell were nuclear weapons on their troops gonna do if our invasion fleet was about to be destroyed by their nuclear weapons? You know. Having them even on the ship wasnÕt going to do anything for you. The ship was going to be vaporized if they had them. It does make the Joint Chiefs look insane and in important ways they were, but as I say, in a way that is institutionally endorsed. Normal insanity. Organizational insanity. I donÕt have even that, as I say for Khrushchev except that they just were generally very secretive and didnÕt notice that this was an occasion they should not be secretive.

To Castro, for him to say given that weÕre about to be occupied, better that we all be annihilated and theyÕd go down with us. See. And that capitalism go down. Now heÕs the only one really tested like that. Where he had an opportunity not to see nuclear war occur or to let it occur. And he let it occur rather than be occupied. Well that could be seen as saying well being occupied, letÕs say by the NaziÕs, or in this case by the Americans, we donÕt wanna be occupied.

Something very odd that IÕve never seen commented on was his armed forces were entirely organized for guerrilla warfare. They had some to power by guerrilla warfare only a few years earlier. They were now enormously greater than that. They had militia, they had the whole country organized. Much more than Vietnam did for example, for guerrilla warfare. So why was being annihilated preferable to-

Robert Wiblin: Being occupied probably temporarily.

Daniel Ellsberg: É guerrilla warfare? You know? They werenÕt quite as well situated for it as Vietnam in a number of ways. They were an island, they could be surrounded. But on the other hand they had a 600 mile mountain chain, the Sierra Maestra. We wouldÕve had a hell of a time occupying Cuba as would have been recognized a few years later, after Vietnam. But this was Õ62. So it wasnÕt as clear to us what a threat guerrilla warfare was to us. But Castro shouldÕve known that. ThatÕs how he won.

And amazingly enough, rather than be occupied, he made the choice that they should use the nuclear weapons at the cost of their annihilation. Well, this is I think you canÕt single him out as a single psychotic leader. I think that was a test of what humans in power do, how crazy they can be when it comes to questions of war and peace. And life and death. You know thereÕs no way to make real sense out of almost any of the decision making that led to World War I. You could give their reasons, they had reasons in every case, each country, for actions that led to the destruction of their empire. But they werenÕt good reasons. It was terrible.

And what I reveal in the Pentagon Papers was not just poor decision making, it was crazy decision making. But it was normal for humans. I forget how we got off this entirely, but É

Robert Wiblin: Well I was just thinking about, yeah, what is the most practical and useful thing that the U.S. could do to make the world safer? And [crosstalk 01:34:18]

Daniel Ellsberg: Yeah, to make it safer. So I have a number of things. Move against, there should be no armed conflict between the U.S. and Russia. That should be inconceivable now as it is not. WeÕre preparing for it. WeÕre deploying for it. WeÕre getting ready. ItÕs preparing to blow up the world in the sense in which IÕve described it for annihilating most large animals on the Earth. And that is scarcely necessary. It would be hard to imagine is was necessary even if you were confronting Hitler. That is reckless and ruthless. Not only ruthless, but recklessly expansionist. And we havenÕt seen that. We havenÕt seen a Hitler in great power, including atop the U.S. I think the reason there has not been a war in the 70 years since 1945, a result which was in fact hard to imagine for people in 1945, was that the phenomenon that was a reality then. Hitler, not with nuclear weapons, but up until that point might have nuclear weapons, but in Õ45 the expansionism of Hitler was easy to project onto the Russians, or the Russians on to us.

They expected a first strike. Actually, no president was Hitler and no leader of Russia was Hitler. Not in terms of ruthlessness, but in terms of wild gambling expansionism. We havenÕt seen that. If we had, we would not be here. In other words, if what people reasonably worried about in 1945 had occurred, had letÕs say an Idi Amin or what should we say? Saddam I think was very aggressive. But had he been on top of the U.S. or Russia, we wouldnÕt be here. The world wouldÕve blown up.

So itÕs important that that not occur, and that there be other ways of confronting reckless leaders somehow, other than threatening to blow the world up. For example, we should not be reproducing Cold War, which we are at this point, where you donÕt negotiate with Russia. When Trump speaks of negotiating with Russia some support that his followers, and many do not, and the Democrats É The latter are in my opinion not just wrong but crazy in this traditional widespread craziness. To say that we should not be collaborating with Russia, not cooperating because of Crimea letÕs say. And to analogize Crimea to HitlerÕs invasion of Poland, thatÕs a totally mistaken, misleading analogy for a lot of reasons. And a very dangerous one.

And IÕm saying the idea that that shows that we can no more negotiate and cooperate with Putin than we could with Hitler in 1939, could not be more dangerous. So in the short run I would want to change that. HereÕs an amazing irony. If you look at Trump Š Donald TrumpÕs policy views Š I would regard them as not just mistaken but as despicable in nearly every instance except one, which is that he wants to cooperate with Russia and not get into a war with Russia. Not over Syria, or Ukraine, or anywhere else. In my opinion whatever his motives Š and I doubt that theyÕre very creditable, I think they probably have to do with being under subject to blackmail by Putin Š they make him reasonable on this point.

Whatever his motives, heÕs right on that point. That is the point I think that most motivates the opposition to him from the Democrats. What they regard as his most vulnerable point, is the one point I would say where his policy is right and realistic. And that is his not preparing for war with Russia. Because youÕre preparing for a world omnicide basically when you do that, and not moving in a different direction. So why in the world are they attacking him on that point? Well partly because they think heÕs politically vulnerable, and the Democrats can get back in power that way, and they might be right about that.

But by pressing that point they are making omnicide more likely. And why by they way are they going for the Cold War, that happened before Trump. That was under-

Robert Wiblin: Well both Bush and Obama.

Daniel Ellsberg: Obama, and was definitely backed by Hillary in terms of the arms buildup, why? Because only Russia provides a target system that can rationalize advanced weapons to get through their defenses. We need a long range standoff weapons, so our planes can get through an air defense system which only one country in the world has like Russia. Others have similar weapons but not in the same network. Our planes have problems getting into only one country in the world, Russia. So for that we need a long range standoff weapons for Boeing and Lockheed or whoever makes them. You canÕt rationalized new Trident submarines against ISIS, or against Assad, you just canÕt. Only Russia allows that incentive.

And likewise ICBMs, and so forth. So in other words to keep these assembly lines going, and to keep rotten Connecticut working on attack submarines for example, you have to have somebody with submarines to attack, and thatÕs Russian. So in order for these you might say military Keynesian motives and for profit motives basically we are reproducing the Doomsday Machine. And encouraging the same kinds of factions in Russia to reproduce their Dooms Day machine. And this is a human tendency of people in power, to maintain their power, and their wealth and everything else, which I donÕt know how to change. I have to hope, and I do hope that we find a way to do it, but I donÕt yet know what that is.

Robert Wiblin: Yeah, so your preferred policy is that we get rid of land based ICBMs completely.

Daniel Ellsberg: And most of our Sea Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs).

Robert Wiblin: Yeah, okay so we go down to what?

Daniel Ellsberg: Bombers are little less dangerous because they can be recalled.

Robert Wiblin: Yeah okay, so weÕd end up with what, a hundred? Something like what the UK has?

Daniel Ellsberg: IÕll get to that right away.

Robert Wiblin: Yeah.

Daniel Ellsberg: The reason I want to get rid of the SLBMs which nobody else talks about is I prefer the Russians not think that their ICBMs are in danger of being destroyed entirely, which our SLBMs can do. And weÕve just put on super fuses on our SLBMs to make them capable of destroying hardened ICBMs. And that does nothing for us at all, except that it does give the Russians an incentive to interpret alarms from their radar of the kind that occurred in 1983, they got a false warning from their satellite system: Their ICBMs were in danger. Was that possible? Yes, we had enough weapons to do that. We should make it clear that we did not threaten to launch a warning, and we do not threaten counter-force against Russia, because itÕs hopeless, itÕs infeasible.

It is as infeasible as a highly effective anti-ballistic missile system. Now that, the scientists are all lined up on saying thatÕs impossible, itÕs infeasible. The truth is that our counter force efforts against Russian are just as unfeasible. They have too many and they have submarines, and you canÕt get them. Unlike the ABM which may be fooled by decoys, and maybe not hit any warheads, the Anti-Ballistic Missile, our ICBMs can find and destroy their ICBMs. Not all of them probably, but a lot of them, and not the mobile ones altogether. But they really can hit it. They could make by the way hundreds of decoys over there, that was discussed in connection with our MX system. We could build lots of holes and they wouldnÕt know which hole itÕs in, but itÕs expensive and we didnÕt do that, and they havenÕt done it either.

So you say, ŅOkay, we really can destroy the ICBMs. IsnÕt that worth doing?Ó And the answer no is not being made by any politicians, because what does it pay them to do that. No one gives them a campaign contribution for saying that Boeing is just wasting money. No, you donÕt say that about Boeing, because Boeing would then come back and say your bridge to nowhere is not needed, or your infrastructure project here is not needed. So Congressmen donÕt oppose each otherÕs district profits,

Robert Wiblin: So what do you think of ChinaÕs current stance? It sounds like youÕd like us to get close to where China is?

Daniel Ellsberg: [crosstalk 01:42:49] No, IÕm saying I think China has a pursued a relatively sane even totally sane nuclear policy all along. At first we thought they only built a dozen or so ICBMs because they couldnÕt afford more, that was plausible. But only for the first 10 years or so after Õ64. Since the last 30 to 40 years itÕs obvious they could build many more, they could have as many as we do but they donÕt, they donÕt feel a need for parity which they donÕt have, which they donÕt need, correctly. Their policy has been no first use, and open explicit encouragement of a ban. ItÕs now a questioned for reasons I donÕt know entirely. Well I could see our Anti Ballistic Missiles might have some effect in reducing damage from a first strike against the small Chinese force, not against Russia, but against the Chinese.

So they have reason to think we might not be as deterred as we used to be against China. We seem to be preparing for a war against China. So they are now considering although so far havenÕt adopted launch on warning for the first time, that will make the whole world less safe if they do that, and I hope they donÕt. But theyÕre also considering building more survivable weapons, it means more weapons, more submarine weapons, more survival, more mobile weapons. With some bases that we donÕt look as deferrable as we should, because weÕre still threatening and weÕre still preparing. So unfortunately they are building up. I presume thatÕs reason they did not sign on to the ban. Otherwise, I donÕt why they wouldnÕt, itÕs totally compatible with their policy.

Their policy É ItÕs not compatible, I take it back a little. They have a minimum deterrent, so itÕs not compatible with a full ban, immediate ban.

Robert Wiblin: I think theyÕve said that in principle they would like a world nuclear weapons.

Daniel Ellsberg: In principle they want a world without nuclear weapon. Well É

Robert Wiblin: In principle, I guess, so would we itÕs just more of a fantasy.

Daniel Ellsberg: [crosstalk 01:44:48] Well okay. Now of course a number of our presidents have said that. Obama got a Nobel Prize for it. Trump doesnÕt say it but Reagan said it and Carter said it, but they each had a huge military buildup, so they said it. Now China has said it and has not had a huge military buildup. So theyÕre a lot more plausible that. No first use we favor elimination and a minimum deterrent. No pretense of damage limiting counterforce first strike capability. They do not pretend to believe in that or to be trying to get it unlike the US and Russia. So what I would like to see is China to press as a world leader on this. And IÕve asked whether that seems possible or not, unfortunately China experts tell me that China has such a strong tradition in the last century of saying we donÕt intervene in another country, we donÕt tell them what to do, we donÕt intervene, non-intervention the sovereignty.

That it is against their whole-

Robert Wiblin: Philosophy.

Daniel Ellsberg: É inclination and vision to be telling other countries do as we do. I wish they did actually on that point, and I donÕt know enough to say itÕs impossible. But people who do know China more say thatÕs extremely unlikely.

Robert Wiblin: TheyÕre probably right with that.

Daniel Ellsberg: Unfortunately, but I donÕt hesitate to say as an American we should look at China, and we should pursue a policy like ChinaÕs. And that means endorse and even negotiate toward elimination of nuclear weapons in the longer one verification policy than everything else. But in the meantime while other countries have nuclear weapons, we should maintain a small capability to respond. A survivable capability to respond in a limited way, which is not by the way to say we should necessarily use that capability. In fact, I can only think of one circumstance I wonÕt go into, itÕs just too complicated, where it might make sense to launch a nuclear weapon or more.

But in general except for a very small possibility, thereÕs almost no circumstance in which it would make sense for in my terms to respond to a nuclear attack with a nuclear weapon by the US. Any circumstance in which it would be necessary, desirable, optimal, anything but second use is as crazy as first use for the US.

Robert Wiblin: Is that because of course it canÕt protect you because the missiles are already coming, and I guess two me it just makes us off because you just get a worse nuclear winter.

Daniel Ellsberg: [crosstalk 01:47:20] what good is it gonna be of? If you send them over there what targets could be hit that would be of any benefit? Whereas if you send them in targets near cities, or in the cities youÕre just adding to the smoke. In the end the result will be the same a year later. But it will come a little faster, mass starvation will come a little faster if we burn cities in addition to our cities that are being burnt. But nevertheless a capability to do that should be taken very seriously by any adversary, because the likelihood that we will use that capability in revenge even if it doesnÕt do any good for us is very high, because weÕre human.

Robert Wiblin: Yeah, itÕs interesting. Okay so thatÕs your kind of medium or moderate disarmament policy.

Daniel Ellsberg: [crosstalk 01:48:06] how many weapons as they get down to, I would say by the way a handful of propositions here in my opinion these are normative statements. No country has the justification or good reason to have a doomsday machine first of all, which Russia and the US do, and the other countries are on the verge of it. All the countries except North Korea could cause starvation up to a third of the earthÕs population, thatÕs eight countries can do that, none of them should have that capability. What is that capability? Well itÕs something between 100 and 200 weapons, and eight of the countriesÉ LetÕs put this way, seven of the countries have at least 100. Israel probably has more, but is only estimated to have 80 or something, I think it probably has more than that because of the no news revelations many years ago.

North Korea doesnÕt at this point. So it follows from that, no nuclear weapons state is justified in having as many weapons as it now has, not one of them can justify. India canÕt justify having 100 nuclear weapons, no. To what effect. Or now we have Israel with itÕs 80 and so forth. You canÕt justify more than 100, letÕs say. That isnÕt to say you can justify a hundred, but you canÕt justify more than that right? Fourth, no country can justify having as many weapons as the smallest nuclear state other than North Korea. And you canÕt have as many weapons as Israel, certainly not as many as Pakistan or India or England or France or in that zone, as a first step toward ultimate elimination. But also toward a relatively stable situation.

I would say for the US and Russia to come down to the level of the other nuclear states, something between 80 and 120. Not striving for superiority which is meaningless except in conveying craziness, which has a diplomatic benefit under some circumstances, but one that comes at too high a cost, too a high a risk. So it means coming down to 100. Now what should they be? They should not be vulnerable weapons if possible. I am very unhappy that the Russians depend on ICBMs to the extent that they do, but at least if they could get down to 100 warheads, they would not be pretending to a disarming capability. They would not be encouraging the other to go, us to go launch on warning. Likewise, if we got down to 100 sub-launched weapons, and really how large?

Actually we canÕt really justify having thermonuclear weapons, hundred kiloton weapons. The Trident 2, has two capabilities for a warhead. One is 475 kilotons. You donÕt have a reason for that or a need for that under any circumstances including deterrence. What IÕm saying is to deter a country rational enough to be deterred at all, does not require an ability to annihilate them or to destroy the world. But if you were to say, a capability of hitting 10 to 20 of their cities thatÕs very deterrent, and to not have that in the face of their capability, does not make the world safer necessarily. It might but I wouldnÕt rely on and I wouldnÕt try to convince people that it was the case.

In other words to be a little bit more technical about it, weÕre talking about having very low yield sub-launched weapons because Russia has some. Actually you can burn cities with the fission weapons the Truman had in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They cause fire storms. ThatÕs the trigger of our weapons, so you could disarm all of the thermonuclear, the secondaries, what are called secondaries that lithium deuteride, H-bomb, fusion fuel and so forth.

Disarm it, take it out or make it incapable. You donÕt need boosted weapons, you donÕt need 50 kilotons weapons which they all go for. That involves injections of tritium into the core do without that. As Herbert York put it, what does it take É Who was the first director of Livermore Laboratory, and then director of research and engineering and then in the Defense Department, and then a major arms control negotiator. He asked at Livermore the question, how many weapons does it take to deter an enemy that is capable of being deterred from a nuclear attack? And he said one or 10, or if you really stretch, a hundred. He got to that by saying 100 weapons give you the capability of one individual to destroy as many people as died in World War 2, 60 million in a day or two. It shouldnÕt have more than that.

So he said the number you need for this purpose then is between one to 10 to 100, and closer to one than 100. That gets you down by the way to the area of North Korea pretty much. Now North Korea does not have adequate deterrence right now unfortunately, theyÕre facing a lot of threats, but thatÕs because theyÕre going for a bigger capability. They would be pretty safe I think if they gave up their ICBM and H-bomb test right now. The threat against Korea and Japan, which does not require that should be enough to keep even Trump É Even you know Trump É TrumpÕs excuse for hitting them anyway is that theyÕre trying to get a capability against the US. Let me make one point here, historic point that has been made to my knowledge only by Noam Chomsky in the past.

And he bases it on McGeorge BundyÕs comment in his book about nuclear war as follows. Bundy said, having addressed this question in 1952 when the first test was approaching, said itÕs notable in reflection that there was no discussion of avoiding H-bombs altogether on the grounds that they would make ICBMs feasible. Now it was the H-bomb that did make the ICBM look feasible to us immediately. And the reason for that was that it was known that the early ICBMs would have a very large error probably, very inaccurate. Half of them would not land within perhaps seven to 10 miles of a city, which means even an A-bomb would not have much effect, even on a city landing seven or 10 miles away, but an H-bomb would. And so a small H-bomb you could put on a missile could destroy a city at least even if the missile was very inaccurate, which they knew the early missiles would be.

As soon as they developed a feasible H-bomb warhead, the TellerŠUlam device in early Õ51, 1951. A guy at Rand actually É What his name Bruno Augenstein immediately said this makes an ICBM effective. Now why should that have been avoided, because only ICBMs threatened American society. When I was born in 1931 and until much later no American city was susceptible of being destroyed by an enemy.

Robert Wiblin: Ever.

Daniel Ellsberg: It hadnÕt happened since 1812 when the British invaded from Canada and burned the White House. In the Civil War we burnt Atlanta and so forth but that was our own people at short range on the ground. American cities É I lived in Detroit the arsenal of democracy, we had air raid drills but they were just for show, like duck and cover in the Õ50s, there was no danger of Detroit being destroyed. With long range bombers you could destroy a city with an A-bomb, but not more than a couple, we could have air defenses. You could keep A-bombs from getting through to us in large numbers, ICBMs you couldnÕt. So ICBM would make American society É in large numbers would make an American society vulnerable to destruction, as it has been ever since the mid Õ60s which is when there was, the Russians had a lot of ICBMs, so why not aim then at no ICBM. Why didnÕt we aim at having no ICBMs and along with that no H-bomb warhead that could give you the ICBM okay?

The answer seems to have been that we were worried about all our bombers getting through their defenses, and so we wanted an ICBM that would get through their defenses. We already had thousands of planes that would get through but weÕd lose a lot of them, so what? What possible purpose could it serve to have several thousand warheads there instead of a handful, or a couple dozen if weÕre talking about deterrence? But our plans were based on getting through their differences, for that we wanted an ICBM, for that we allowed the Russians to get an ICBM. We could have prevented that very easily by a test ban, our radars were absolutely capable of verifying whether missile tests were taking place and how large they were. They were also capable of verifying H-bomb tests at that point because theyÕre so large. So if you wanted to stop those you just have a test ban, and there was some consideration of that, but it wasnÕt pressed, and it wasnÕt exposed to the public.

Fermi, Enrico Fermi that I was discussing earlier and Isidor Rabi said in 1949 we should not be the first to test this stuff, and we should try to achieve a test ban. But no we wanted it even at the cost of their getting it, and that meant we wanted an improved capability to destroy them when we already had 10 times over the capability to destroy them at the cost of our moving from being invulnerable to being vulnerable, and that was the choice that was made. And it was just a lot better for Boeing and Lockheed and Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics to go that way than not to have them, then they wouldnÕt be selling the weapons. And by the way what IÕve learned just recently by books like É A guys named Kofsky wrote a book called Harry Truman And The War Scare of 1947.

Reveals that at the end of the war, Ford and GM who had made most of our bombers went back to making cars very profitably. But Boeing and Lockheed didnÕt make products for the commercial market, only for commercial air except there wasnÕt a big enough market to keep them from bankruptcy. They had suddenly lost their vast orders for military planes in mid 1945. The only way they could avoid bankruptcy was to sell a lot of planes to the government, military planes. But against who? Not Germany we were occupying Germany, not Japan we were occupying Japan. Who was our enemy that you needed a lot of planes against. Well Russia had been our ally during the war, but Russia had enough targets to justify, so they had to be an enemy and they had to be the enemy, and we went off from there.

I would say that having read that book and a few others I could say, I now see since my book was written nine months ago, that the Cold War was a marketing campaign for selling war planes to the government and to our allies. It was a marketing campaign for annual subsidies to the aerospace industry, and the electronics industry. And also the basis for a protection racket for Europe, that kept us as a major European power. Strictly speaking weÕre not a European power. But we are in effect because we provide their protection against Russia the super enemy with nuclear weapons, and for that purpose itÕs better for the Russians to have ICBM, and missiles, and H-bombs, as an enemy we can prepare against. ItÕs the preparations that are profitable. All wars have been very profitable for the arms manufacturers, nuclear war will not be, but preparation for it is very profitable, and therefore we have to be prepared.

Robert Wiblin: IÕm curious to know what other policies might help other than disarmament. So one suggestion that IÕve had is that we should help the Russians get better detection equipment, so they can detect attacks earlier.

Daniel Ellsberg: ThatÕs a terrible, a really terrible idea.

Robert Wiblin: Oh okay.

Daniel Ellsberg: ItÕs true that the world is less safe than it used to be because Russian air warning has gone down, theyÕve lost the satellites, their equipment is eroded and so forth, theyÕre more prone to false alarm than they used to be. So are we less safe now than we were before? Yes in that sense. And we would be more safe if we improved their system. WeÕd be back up to where we were before which nearly blew the world up in 1983 and 1995 and others. They should not have a launch on warning system, nor should we. We probably canÕt get them to give up their ICBMs, but we can give up the threat to their ICBMs. Our SLBMs, our submarine launched missiles are not under threat.

China by the way doesnÕt threaten the counter force of either Russia or the US. Do they have adequate deterrence? Yes. Would they have better deterrence if they had a thousand warheads instead of 300? No. There is such a thing as having too many warheads which we do and the Russians do [crosstalk 02:01:36] the Chinese do not. They canÕt really justify 300 either by the way, thatÕs more than they can really justify. Probably most of those are tactical weapons against Russia. But what will that do for them? A tactical war against Russia will preserve Beijing? No, I donÕt think so, or in a war with India for that matter. So they have more than they need or should have too, but a lot less than in our case. So China has been wiser on this point and is worth imitating right now.

Robert Wiblin: So Russia has dead hand, this literal doomsday machine where if it detects a nuclear explosion in Russia, or at least if it did during the cold war, it would send out rockets that would launch all Soviet nuclear weapons at various targets across the Northern Hemisphere.

Daniel Ellsberg: Yeah, thatÕs crazy for them.

Robert Wiblin: Why is that crazy?

Daniel Ellsberg: Except in this respect. I donÕt criticize their assuring that decapitation is easy or possible even. Decapitation will not protect us even against Kim Jong Un, but not against Russia. Of course they will have arranged for their weapons to reply, but that doesnÕt mean we donÕt plan for it. We plan for it. ItÕs crazy. It has always seemed É I go back to when I was working on the war plans in Õ61, that was over half a century ago. It seemed to me crazy to leave the Russians which what we then believe were large numbers of ICBMs which came to be true a few years later, it wasnÕt true then. To leave them decentralized without a Moscow to tell them to stop, or surrender, or end the war, just let them fire away. That looked to me crazy, but itÕs what we planned. It was something you could do, it might work. Yeah I canÕt prove it wouldnÕt work. ThereÕs what is it? One chance in a million that it might and so forth.

And weÕve known that they had arrangements to launch anyway, so whatÕs the one in a million?

Robert Wiblin: Well the funny thing is that, it seems like RussiaÕs Dead Hand system if we were more rational could make things more-

Daniel Ellsberg: We have it, we have it.

Robert Wiblin: Oh we have a same [crosstalk 02:03:30].

Daniel Ellsberg: Well itÕs effectively the same. [crosstalk 02:03:30].

Robert Wiblin: So if RussiaÕs like literal doomsday machine seems like it would make the world more safe if we were more rational, because it would mean that we would never have any reason to attack them, because it would be absolutely guaranteed that..

Daniel Ellsberg: Well we donÕt. But we can pretend we do. We can pretend we do and that is not without benefit. I have to keep saying it sells weapons, but there is another benefit. By pretending that we believe we might decapitate them, we make ourselves look crazy enough to launch a war if they provoke us. It also makes us crazy enough to launch a war when we donÕt provoke us by a false warning, but we live with that.

Robert Wiblin: IÕm curious to know, why is it that Russia kept Dead Hand secret? ItÕs like a paradox, that you create this machine you want everyone to know about, but you never tell them.

Daniel Ellsberg: The same as us. Our delegation of authority was one of our closest-held secrets, and effectively held secrets for decades, and to a large extent to this day. I put it out in my book, and people are startled by it, but, actually it was in SchlosserÕs book, and there have been quite a few revelations in the national security archive, going back to the 1990s. So, thatÕs 20 years ago, so itÕs been available to some extent. Why was it ever secret? The whole point of delegation is to prevent your being paralyzed by a decapitating attack-[crosstalk 02:17:23]

But, to not be paralyzed, to respond to the attack by attacking, only hastens nuclear winter. It doesnÕt do anything for you. The only advantage to delegation is to deter decapitating attack, but you can only do that if you assure the Russians that we have delegated. On the other hand, if we keep that a huge secret and deny it all the time, and keep saying only the President can control this, the Russians unfortunately could conclude, maybe theyÕre telling the truth. Maybe only the President can do it, and thus be led to a decapitating attack. So, it was exactly the same in Russia as here. ItÕs crazy for Khrushchev to keep that a secret, and it was crazy in exactly the same way for us to keep it a secret.

Why, in either case? Because what is being kept secret looks dangerous. Now, granted, if you want a deterrent effect, you pretty much have to delegate. But that does raise the question, is this the best way we should be assuring our safety altogether, as opposed to cooperation, coordination, collective security, what Gorbachev was calling for, when he was in power? Collective security, letÕs donÕt increase our own security by reducing their security. The new way of thinking that Gorbachev, which is still called for É that he proposed, was, ŅWeÕre in this together, and you donÕt increase your security by, in the traditional time-honored way, of decreasing their security, in a nuclear age.Ó

Increase our security together, by, for example, making nuclear winter impossible, which could be done, without eliminating nuclear weapons. You could still have deterrence, but if no country had more than, letÕs say, 10 or 20 weapons, like North Korea, you couldnÕt get nuclear winter. That would be good.

Now, if they were all vulnerable weapons, by encouraging preemption, encouraging, that could make the world even less safe than it is now. But if you had submarine-based weapons, for each nuclear weapons state, letÕs say, a small number, with no pretense of targeting or disarming your opponent, weÕll need the capability to retaliate in kind, well, if you retained that, you would have eliminated nuclear winter and probably nuclear war. There would be no advantage to it. And then we couldnÕt pretend to be protecting Europe. And they would be more on their own, economically.

Robert Wiblin: So are the other any other policies that you think would be good other than disarmament?

Daniel Ellsberg: Oh yeah and no IÕm saying is not just as disarmament, much more important than that is to make very clear we do not threaten an armed conflict with Russians, there shouldnÕt be any prospect of that. We should protect our allies by means other certainly than nuclear, initiating nuclear war. We should protect allies by means other than threatening to blow up a most life on earth. And the danger of a non-nuclear conflict between US and Russia, is such that letÕs say they did invade a Baltic country, which is not impossible. First do we need a nuclear weapon against that? Even in military terms no. Our air power against their reinforcements in the Baltics. But we canÕt match them probably man for man in Latvia or somewhere, but in terms of ability to cut off their forces by air power, we have a very great ability do that.

But second, in terms of their relations to the rest of the world, theyÕre not Albania or North Korea. Well North Korea is not at all cut off letÕs say from China. But theyÕre not autonomous, and the effects the political effects of that should be enough to dissuade them from doing that. If they did do it, they should face economic other military É What they would get is an enormous arms buildup for good or bad, I would say bad, but thatÕs what they would get if they did that. We should be aiming at what Trump talks about. For his bad reasons I assume are causing him to differ with the insanity of the cold warriors in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party both, theyÕre for preparedness. A great profit on both parties, even Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren and as far as I know Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez donÕt think at all about lowering the arms race they havenÕt talked about it, because thatÕs like gratuitously going against the tobacco industry or Exxon on climate. Why stack the odds against you that way in our society.

Well, the idea of showing the dangers of a Cold War, and assess the urgency of collaboration on climate. Right now we have a collaboration on pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Putin wants to use his Arctic oil reserves thatÕs why he liked Tillerson who was trying to make a huge deal for Exxon in burning oil and condemning us all to a climate holocaust, and that should change, there should be collaboration against climate change. Again China by the way has mixed, obviously a mixed policy of this. On the one hand they are leading the world I believe in renewable energy, and on the other hand theyÕre leading the world in coal fired plants.

Yes there are ways like your improving their air defense system. The world would be safer if we gave them several of our Trident submarines, but that isnÕt going to happen. And you know that theyÕre more dependable-

Robert Wiblin: I donÕt think I trust [crosstalk 02:07:23].

Daniel Ellsberg: É and they could É If we could give them Trident submarines and they would get rid of their ICBMs, the world would be a lot safer. But that A, isnÕt going to happen for a lot of reasons. And B, there are better things to do than that.

Robert Wiblin: You talk mostly about the risk of war with Russia. I would think that in the 21st century thereÕs kind of a greater risk of war with China over Taiwan or some other thing. Do you have a view on that?

Daniel Ellsberg: By the way why should we get into a war with China over Taiwan? Taiwan has the capability to mount perfectly good non-nuclear defense against China, I would think they did, why not?

TheyÕre richer than China on the whole, are they not, man for man? And there should not be a prospect of war with China. And look, how impossible is this? Look at the European Union. Most of the countries in that were at war with each other, not just once, but twice, in the last century. And now?

Robert Wiblin: ItÕs unthinkable.

Daniel Ellsberg: Pretty low. But, you say unthinkable? Well, I think thatÕs a little fast to say, but-

Robert Wiblin: Probably not France and Britain.

Daniel Ellsberg: Montenegro.

Robert Wiblin: Yeah.

Daniel Ellsberg: Turkey and Greece for example. Is that unthinkable?

Robert Wiblin: Western Europe at least.

Daniel Ellsberg: Yeah. So, we did manage to get beyond that, and without having even as much world government as they should have, as we see from the Greek case, and from the European currency case. They should have more of a federal government than they do, and the European Parliament should have greater powers than it does. But even so, they have enough to make that very unlikely, since 1991. There has been no reason that Russia should not be in that same relation with the reciprocal policy. I would say it was extremely unwise on the part of the GHW Bush, Clinton, George W Bush, to move instead toward neglecting Europe, Russia, humiliating it and not allowing it into things.

Secretary Defense William Perry, deputy under Carter, Secretary of Defense under Clinton, was strongly in favor of an alliance relation with Russia. Partners for Peace program, it was called. Strongly against the expansion of NATO, which, by the way, I think the best, first approximation reason for that expansion was selling arms to East Europe, to, quote, Ņbring them up to NATO standards,Ó at great profit to our arms-makers.

Why is Europe right now being É and this is not his finest hour now, weÕre outside the realm of TrumpÕs sanity É is calling on them to increase their NATO expenditure to 3% or even 4% of their GNP. Why? Without doing that, they are, without the US, four times the budget of Russia already. Why should they increase that? For one reason. He just gave it last week, ŅWe have very good arms for sale by ÉÓ And he named the firms. Boeing, Lockheed and Raytheon, or Northrop Grumman, I think he said.

And what could be more blatant than that? They should buy our arms, for our balance of payments, and our jobs, and our profits. ThatÕs why they should expand. They have no other reason. Germany isnÕt going to do it, as far as we know. ThereÕs no reason in the world for them to do it. HeÕs calling on them, absolutely idiotic proposal, simply for our national benefit, profit.

Robert Wiblin: It sounds like a lot of your model of this is based around this idea that thereÕs corporate lobbying in favor of these policies, to make money. How confident are you that that is the explanation? Because I imagine that some listeners might be skeptical-

Daniel Ellsberg: No, itÕs relatively new for me, frankly.

Robert Wiblin: Okay, yeah.

Daniel Ellsberg: And thereÕs been not nearly as much research on that as there should have been. I would like to know more about it. I just sent to Amazon for a book, itÕs on the way, called Buying for Armageddon, that IÕve been told is good on this subject. I mentioned the one by [Kovski 02:11:24]. There is a very good article,, by a guy named, I think [Conroy 02:11:29], but the title is memorable, Lockheed Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. And itÕs a play on the British action movie, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but itÕs an extremely detailed, well-researched article on the role of Lockheed in putting its own officers into the government to promote these sales.

By the way, the current Deputy, John Bolton, as of the last month, is a former Boeing vice-president for strategic systems. So the ICBMs are said to be in no great danger of reduction by Defense One, an online defense journal that I see.

Robert Wiblin: If you spoke to the Generals, they would not say that theyÕre doing it to-

Daniel Ellsberg:No, no, and they go out to highly-paid jobs in defense industry, and to be commentators on MSNBC and Fox and others, when they go out. ItÕs a very deeply ingrained situation, our military industrial complex. So I would say a major need is for investigation of the influence of lobbies on this arms race, as on climate, which weÕre beginning to learn, about Exxon and the climate problem. And there hasnÕt been nearly as much research.

Granted, they are as secretive, if not more so, than the Defense Department, without the benefit of an Espionage Act, or an Official Secrets Act. They canÕt threaten prosecution for revealing their company secrets. They can only threaten a civil suit for violation of non-disclosure agreements. But that is more than enough to keep their secrets very, very well. And so we donÕt know nearly as much about the inner decision-making by any of the firms IÕve mentioned, or DuPont, or the other arms manufacturers, as we do about the Pentagon, and we donÕt know nearly enough about that. So, the field for investigation of that by journalists and academics is very important.

Also, in theory, and to some extent in practice, if you go to work for [Kleinboroughs 02:13:34], you can work against the effects of these lobbyists, rather than base your job on conforming to them. There has been effective legislative reform of tobacco by investigations by various people, and by whistleblowers, by the way, from inside the industry. Merrell Williams and Jeffrey Wigand, I mentioned earlier, did just what I did, brought thousands of pages out for the help of Congress. And that has reduced the deaths from secondhand smoke in this country. It hasnÕt reduced their profits generally, because theyÕve increased their profits selling to Third-World people, and to the rest of the world. So I think their profits, if anything, are up, which is despicable.

Robert Wiblin: I think actually the number of cigarettes sold is at an all-time high.

Daniel Ellsberg: And, by the way, that was true before the Cold War ended, by the socialist countries of Communist China and Russia. I think ChinaÕs had a monopoly of cigarette sales. I donÕt know where they are now.

Robert Wiblin: ItÕs a government monopoly still.

Daniel Ellsberg: Maybe you happen to know, but I donÕt. What has happened to cigarette consumption in this country?

Robert Wiblin: It has gone down, in the US.

Daniel Ellsberg: Now, I understand itÕs particularly gone down for young people.

Robert Wiblin: Yeah, IÕm not sure. We could look that up.

Daniel Ellsberg: IÕd like to know that, and what has happened to profits for sales in this country. But I can believe theyÕve gone down, but they haveÉ increased abroad, which is despicable. As Lindsey Graham put it, the lives are over there. Selling cancer to people in the rest of the world is more acceptable than É once we learned that itÕs over here. So, opposing lobbies, investigating them, revealing, being a whistleblower, going É making the secrecy system less sacred and legitimate and impenetrable, having a public interest defense for whistleblowers, I would É IÕll bet there could be legislative action that would restrict the effect of non-disclosure agreements, when itÕs a question of criminal behavior or concealing results. That, of course, we find something new on that almost every day, something comes up, from asbestos to the airbags. Well, every week, thereÕs some new relation-

Robert Wiblin: Yes, some misconduct.

Daniel Ellsberg: É to people who have been behaving criminally. Oh, yeah, Purdue Pharmaceutical. An article in Time last week pointing out that a deal was made, where the Purdue funds É over who knew, admitted that they knew they were selling to non-prescription people. They know they were enormously contributing to the opioid epidemic, which is now the killer of young people. They knew that, and not one criminal prosecution. And now there are several civil suits against people, but thatÕs not enough to É These civil suits are just cost to business. There should be criminal prosecutions for this mass murder they are complicit in.

Robert Wiblin: In terms of what listeners can do concretely with their career, to try to make a difference here-

Daniel Ellsberg: Well, I donÕt have much of an answer there, except to say they can do otherwise, and often better, outside the government, the executive branch.

20, 30 years ago I would have said that to know what the situation is by what might be done by it, one almost had to be on the inside however problematic that is, and to have clearance and to have access to it. I can now say thatÕs definitely not the only way to do it. I would say on the whole not the best. The chance of being compromised or co-opted in oneÕs intellectual attitudes and values on the inside is very great. ItÕs not that people canÕt see and even recommend what would be very bitter policies from the inside, but the chance of having those implemented is negligible.

ItÕll simply be overridden by the interests that go in the other direction. ThatÕs been the experience. Now you can almost say the same from the outside because that hasnÕt been very effective either. But there are some effects that would not have been achieved from the inside. The Test Ban Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which we still havenÕt ratified, would never have been signed or come about without enormous pressure by scientists and others. By whole international movement in that case. Many, many people, millions, many millions on the outside.

Likewise we would have wasted perhaps a trillion dollars on ballistic missile defense without tremendous outside pressure, a lot of scientific É The whole field of ecology has grown up in the last few decades and led to several conferences on the violations on humanitarian law that would come about through any nuclear war. And more specifically not just on law, but on human survival. That has come almost entirely from the outside.

Here we have one peer reviewed article coming out from Los Alamos recently on nuclear winter, questioning it, fine, but they could do this study with their left hand any time. They couldÕve done it any month, any time this year. This is the first one weÕve ever seen. And certainly not gonna be the last. So I mean the study on the subject. So it just doesnÕt get done from the inside.

Now itÕs true you do learn a lot on the inside that youÕre not gonna get otherwise. IÕve asked myself whether it could make sense for someone to go in to the cleared area, to the community, get a clearance, do this stuff in order to learn and leak. And itÕs hard to say that that would be wrong, but itÕs a kind of deliberate spying in effect which I would find uncomfortable, even when I rationally look at it and say, ŅWell this is for the good of humanity.Ó But it does involve lying from the very beginning as to what your intentions are. And I donÕt É canÕt advise someone to do that. I canÕt say that I wouldÕve ever been willing to do that, even though many lives wouldÕve been at stake.

On the other hand, I do É I would encourage anybody who goes in to the get the clearance to, in their mind, when theyÕve signed nondisclosure agreements, which is what the security so-called oath is, it doesnÕt involve an oath in nearly any case. So help me God I swear that I will not reveal and so forth, itÕs a nondisclosure agreement as in corporations or unions. I understand that I can be fired and even prosecuted for revealing this information. Now I signed that many times, without being aware that no one ever had been prosecuted, before me. I was the first. So in a way it was true. I couldÕve been prosecuted, I was prosecuted. But I was the first.

And the reason for that was that our First Amendment had always been understood to preclude a British type Official Secrets Act, which would criminalize any revelation of classified information, whatever the circumstances. We still donÕt have an Official Secrets Act for that reason. Although itÕs often been proposed in Congress or by the Executive, but Congress has never passed it because of our First Amendment which Britain doesnÕt have. But they have been using the Espionage Act as if it were an Official Secrets Act. And it was intended against spying, that is working for a foreign government, in particular an enemy during wartime to give them information that is properly protected from them. And that was used often before me for against spies. I was the first to be tried under that for a non-espionage action for informing the American public.

And itÕs written in a way that does not take into account your possible good motives or patriotic motives or any kind of motives, for giving this information to the public. After all, if youÕre giving it to a foreign government, especially in terms of warfare, itÕs hard to cut in the ice with a jury by telling them what your motives were, itÕs hard to make that look acceptable, unpatriotic. Now if youÕre giving it to the American public, you should be able to argue why you think you needed to have it and what the effects were and whether there was any harm or that there was any benefit. But currently, you canÕt do that.

So something that should change is for Congress to pass what has been proposed, a Public Interest Defense, which would allow you to argue your motives before a jury. But that doesnÕt exist now. So one would have to say now to make these revelations, whatever you thought was in the public interest would be a jeopardy of being convicted under the Espionage Act, should you ever do that? And I would say, yes, there are circumstances under which I think I was right to do it and others have been right to do it. Snowden I believe was right to do it. Chelsea Manning was right to do it. And even though conviction was certain for them.

And, under the existing law, with what intention should someone ever take that agreement not to reveal secrets? And I would say it should be with the private understanding of what should be explicit so long as keeping the secret does not unjustly condemn others to death. Or does not conceal criminality or unconstitutional behavior. In other words, secrecy should not protect unconstitutional or criminal behavior, enormously reckless, dangerous behavior. But it does. All the time. Now thatÕs the reality of it. But I think a person should be well aware that they should not feel bound by that. That an agreement to keep secrets should apply absolutely only under the circumstances when that does not involve protection of criminal behavior. Watergate for example.

But this applies all the time. I mean things like that are going on all time. Should the people in the tobacco industry have felt bound by their disclosure agreements? Well they were open to suit when they did violate and tell the public that, Congress, that in fact contrary to the sworn statements of the tobacco executives in Congress, those executives new that their product was carcinogenic and addictive and they were selling it to minors. But one person, two people I think have actually, one named Merrell Williams and the other Jeffery Wigand, did in fact violate their non-disclosure agreements and reveal this fact. And may have saved just countless lives as a result.

So itÕs not on the government thatÕs involved here. Same thing, thereÕs the tobacco, same thing applies right now to climate. Clear now that Exxon has been lying for decades about what they knew as to the effects of the carbon dioxide they were releasing. And what have we been saying in this whole talk is that the effects on human survival have been knowable, whether they investigate them or not, for decades now, been deliberately kept from investigation by the government, and É ItÕs so funny what weÕre discussing just today, even a study which purports to contradict the dangers here is based on classified data that canÕt be examined by other scientists, including the scientists theyÕre criticizing, who as Alan Roebuck said to me today, ŅThatÕs not science. ThatÕs not what we call the scientific method.Ó

So in other words, it is possible for people to save countless lives and preserve our Constitution, or help to preserve it, attempt to preserve it. Avoid wars. They have more power to that than most of them ever imagined if theyÕre willing to risk their careers and even their freedom and theyÕre associations and their way of life, by telling the truth. That the power of truth telling is very great. And not only by putting out the information, but by serving as an example to others that this is a patriotic and worthwhile, admirable even, thing to do at whatever risk. Not likely though, because the risk is great, personal risk. And thereÕs also the risk that you will be wrong, that will you have actually endangered people by doing this, yes, thatÕs a reality. But people who are in this position with this information generally are in as good a position to judge that reality as anyone else. Not always. And they could be wrong. And I couldÕve been wrong.

But itÕs very hard to find an example where people took that risk to their personal lives and had the effect of actually worsening dangers. In fact, no example comes to my mind right away and instead of this right away. That isnÕt to say it couldnÕt happen. But despite charges that Ed Snowden or Chelsea Manning had blood on their hands by their revelations, the government in years and years now of opportunity, has not given a single instance in which an individual was harmed by what they did, physically harmed. Having claimed É Whereas of course the secret keeping has resulted in wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of people. So that experience should be kept in mind.

Robert Wiblin: I know that many listeners are interested in pursuing careers in Congress or in the military or the intelligence services, so what would you say to them about your skepticism?

Daniel Ellsberg: What I said there was, if Congress could get back, and you could help it get back the powers it had as co-equal branch of government, which it has given up to a large extent, that would be for the good. The founders had it right, I think, and weÕve pretty much rejected that. But that model is there, that was their way of thinking, they was new in the world, and it was a good idea. We get back to a role for Congress, to an investigative role, which theyÕve largely given up, to work for Congress in that respect, very good.

If you go in the executive branch, to be prepared to give it up, if called for, to be prepared to sacrifice yourself as a civilian, as people routinely do in the military services. That would be a change for the better, and to spread that word, to improve the chances for whistleblowing.

Inform yourself as to what the history of those institutions is, what the traditions of them really are. When Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, was saying that something he proposed was against the traditions of the service, he said, ŅHa. Traditions of the Navy É rum, sodomy and the lash.Ó Yes, quite true, and empire.

So, I would say, spending a career as an anti-imperialist is better spent than working for the empire. But if you do go work for the empire, discover what the history is and become aware of what youÕre involved in, that should not be happening. And then consider telling the truth about it, even at the cost of your own freedom, and your life, in the pursuit of saving many lives and preserving our Constitution.

We havenÕt even talked about movements here, but thatÕs another huge subject. IÕve spent the last 40 years of my life trying to build a movement against nuclear weaponsÕ use. Use, and you risk É like the one against the Vietnam War, and with some success in the 80s, but not since. So, all that can be done. I continue to participate in civil disobedience there, to keep the idea alive, for when again it might be powerful.

Robert Wiblin: Are there any individuals or projects or organizations outside of government, working on nuclear safety, that youÕre particularly enthusiastic about?

Daniel Ellsberg: Well, on safety, I imagine there are, but IÕm not sure what to identify. On the dangers of nuclear weapons, very much so. Peace Action, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Peace Action used to be SANE, nuclear freeze campaign, which still exists. The Natural Resources Defense Foundation used to be very good on this, but theyÕve moved away from it. Most people have given up nuclear research. I give a whole list in the end of my book, youÕd have to look at it. I tried to remember. ItÕs 11 or 12 organizations that are on this.

There is a fairly big movement for this ban movement, the ICAN, that is very good for a lot of people in the world. I donÕt see that becoming powerful in the nuclear weapons states. It hasnÕt shown it, and in part because the idea of a ban is not even normatively compelling against maintaining some survivable minimal deterrent in those countries. But thatÕs not what any of the nuclear states actually have.

So, without saying that itÕs illegal for them to have any nuclear weapons right now, itÕs much easier, I would say, to make a compelling case that they should not have the number and types that they do have right now, and that that should change, even unilaterally, as soon as possible. And thatÕll be hard to achieve, but I think less impossible than convincing people that we should unilaterally disarm ourselves of all nuclear weapons and leave Russia with the monopoly.

Robert Wiblin: Yeah, I agree with that. How important is game theory? How important historically was game theory?

Daniel Ellsberg: Very simply, not at all. IÕm not aware of its having had any influence on anything. If weÕre talking about classical game theory, stemming out of von Neumann and Morgenstern and the work after that, including very intelligent, very brilliant work by a lot of other, mainly mathematicians, which as far as I know, has not had any effect on any defense capability, and never did have. The people I worked with that ran in the economics department, social sciences, even engineering, had no background in game theory of any kind.

I was the only one, in effect, and I was a critic of game theory, in my earlier publications. My honors thesis, actually, I wrote perhaps, as far as I know, the first critical account of zero-sum two-person game theory, so I was mainly a critic, but I knew the literature. And I was very influenced by Tom SchellingÕs kind of work, which was not in that tradition at all. It was bargaining theory, very ingenious, very innovative, he got a Nobel Prize in the end. I wouldnÕt say that his theorizing had any effect. He himself was a consultant and had some influence on É I could say a number of individuals, my boss, John McNaughton, and a few others, Henry Kissinger, even. But, as a personal É It wasnÕt his theorizing that had the effect.

The idea that game theory had an influence is a mistake, on the whole, or that it should have had, I would say. It wasnÕt suited for it. Tom SchellingÕs kind of theorizing was relevant to what you could call two-person or n-person non-zero sum games, that notion. His theories of bargaining and threats were relevant, and in some cases could potentially have been very good on arms control, for example. But there they werenÕt applied. Where they were applied, to some extent, was not very favorable. And, for example, in his later years, at the time he got the Nobel Prize, he was very optimistic about low risks of nuclear war. I think he was mistaken in that.

Robert Wiblin: I guess one last question is, it can be easy, I think, to be a bit demoralized, because this problem doesnÕt seem easy to solve. The institutions that create this risk are somewhat resistant to reform. Look, what is it that gives you hope that itÕs worth working on, I guess? What can help motivate people to-[crosstalk 02:28:42]

Daniel Ellsberg: A friend of mine said just the other day, ŅHope is not a feeling, itÕs a way of acting.Ó

Robert Wiblin: Yeah.

Daniel Ellsberg: I know that what looks impossible is something that should never be confident of, because good things that looked impossible, like the ending of the Berlin Wall, or the ending of the first Cold War, looked impossible, not just unlikely, in that period of time. And they did happen, thanks to Gorbachev and anti-nuclear movements, various things. And the idea that Mandela would come to power in north Africa without a violent revolution didnÕt look unlikely, it looked impossible. And it did happen.

So, to say that we canÕt get out of this, there is no good basis for that. We donÕt know the future that well. I can say, as in those cases, I canÕt see the way in which it will happen, but thatÕs what anyone would have said about the downing of the Berlin Wall. How was that going to come about? ItÕs not going to come about. But it did.

And, so to say that the stakes are very high for continuing to try to explore and to try to challenge the obstacles that we can see in the way of that happening, like the role of É and this is new for me, the role not just of the Air Force, but of the corporations and the budget process. How do you affect that? I donÕt know, but I wouldnÕt say it was impossible. It was done, as you say, in the case of the tobacco companies, domestically, and everything is at stake.

So, weÕre talking now about properly-called existential crises now, and dangers that simply did not exist before. You could say, by the way, IÕm just É Off the top of my head, a kind of epidemic that would destroy, was probably possible in some sense, but bringing it about, the genetic engineering that weÕre working on right now, that was not possible then.

Robert Wiblin: Should we have been equally concerned about bioweapons during the cold war, as we were about nuclear weapons? Is there a good chance they could have also led to human extinction? And worried are you today about bioweapons compared to nuclear weapons?

Daniel Ellsberg: We now know, only recently, big book on this by Milton Leitenberg and others, on the Soviet biological warfare program and chemical warfare program. Brezhnev was sure that when Nixon signed the convention against biological warfare, that he would continue a covert program on a large scale, and so they had to have one too. Now, whatÕs the use of doing that if you donÕt use it deterrently, if you donÕt make it public? How can it be a deterrent? It canÕt, but then how could they say, ŅWeÕre assuming youÕre breaking this, so weÕre breaking it too?Ó

You couldnÕt prove that Nixon was doing it, and, amazingly enough, Nixon wasnÕt doing it, as far as we can tell. They did preserve some smallpox at CIA, and some anthrax, and this and that, but only a refrigerator-full, sort of. The Russians maintained that. Are you aware, of hundreds of thousands of gallons and pounds of anthrax and botulinus and improved forms, against vaccines.

Robert Wiblin: I didnÕt know that.

Daniel Ellsberg: Now, thatÕs as close to insanity and evil as you can get to. As one disarmer said when he looked at the huge vat that remained for anthrax, he said, ŅIÕm looking at pure evil.Ó Well, fair, enough, it would seem so. Who continued that? It was done under Brezhnev, kept very secret, as far as we know, was not revealed, it is strangelovian, and kept secret, not for a deterrent, continued under Gorbachev.

How could Gorbachev possibly continue this insane, evil program? He told Larry Brilliant, who had been instrumental in eliminating smallpox from the world, when Brilliant asked him É and I have a memoir by Brilliant on this. He talked to Gorbachev, and he said, ŅHow could you have done this? We were eliminating smallpox. You were providing huge amounts of smallpox here.Ó

Gorbachev got very disturbed, anxious, uneasy, anguished, and said he knew, he was most ashamed of that of anything heÕd ever been involved in. He said, ŅThe military came to me, and said, ŌIf you donÕt continue this, you cannot stay in office. We will overthrow you.'Ó And he looked at all the things he was doing, reducing nuclear weapons, Glasnost, opening up the society and all that, and rather than give all that up, he continued this insane program, which is very human, very normal.

ThatÕs not to excuse him. It was horrible, it was culpable, and yet, that was the choice he made, like Castro and the others. ItÕs what most Americans would have done, and kept it secret, okay? So, when you look at that kind of behavior by Gorbachev, I think the person most influential for good that I can think of, in the last century, my hero, so far. But nobodyÕs perfect, and not just imperfect, this was horribly imperfect, okay? But in a very natural way for humans to do in power.

When you look at that human characteristic, itÕs hard to be confident humans will survive. To me, itÕs crazy to be confident, I have to say. To think that itÕs highly likely we will survive nuclear weapons, a climate change, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, biological warfare, to be confident like that is to be either totally ignorant, which is true of most people in that respect, to be unaware and ignorant. To be ignorant of the nature of humanity, which most people are, or to be crazy.

Or to be hired by É to be corrupt, and hired by people who make this stuff, and so decide. ItÕs like working for a tobacco company. Probably a lot of them manage to believe that itÕs not carcinogenic. ItÕs hard to believe, isnÕt it? But itÕs not hard for me to believe that there are tobacco executives who think this is all a witch-hunt. TheyÕve convinced themselves. You can believe anything that your job depends on.

But, how about thinking itÕs likely weÕll survive? I canÕt believe that. I think itÕs unlikely, very unlikely, but not impossible, and I donÕt believe itÕs impossible. I donÕt have confidence, impossible. I donÕt think that my age and experience doesnÕt permit me to be confident, that thereÕs no way out here. Because humans are adaptable, and things do change, and the ones I mentioned are possible. We are on the Titanic, going at full speed on a moonless night into iceberg waters. Have we hit the iceberg yet, and made it inevitable that this will go down? We donÕt know. It may turn out that, a while ago, we went past the no-return point. But we donÕt know that, thereÕs no way to prove it.

As I say in the book, ŅI propose, I do act as if we had a chance to find our way out of this. And I donÕt know what it is yet, but that doesnÕt tell me there is no way.Ó So, I urge others, I encourage them. And if they give up, or devote themselves entirely to pleasure, letÕs say, and a life like being on the Titanic and drinking the champagne, after theyÕve hit the iceberg, I canÕt say thatÕs crazy, or even culpable, but I donÕt join that. And, if they stop trying to save the world and just try to ease the pain of some other people, or help people in some way, I think thatÕs very reasonable, very good, and I just think that it is definitely not wasted, for some of us to keep trying to explore to see if thereÕs a way out of this.

Robert Wiblin: My guest today has been Daniel Ellsberg. Thanks for coming on the podcast, Daniel.

Daniel Ellsberg: Thank you for the opportunity.

Rob Wiblin: I hope you enjoyed that episode! If you know a community that could benefit from finding out about this episode, please share it with them. That could include subreddits, facebook groups or email lists.

As I said at the top of the show IÕll now read a blog post we released recently, which seems relevant to nuclear security careers, for at least some listeners. If it doesnÕt sound relevant to you feel, donÕt feel any need to listen.

IÕm undecided whether this should be a regular feature of the program, or how much we should make audio versions of articles on the 80,000 Hours website in general. If youÕd like to share your thoughts on this, email us at podcast at 80000hours dot org.

The 80,000 Hours Podcast is produced by Keiran Harris. Thanks for joining, talk to you in a week or two


Version: 12.2.2019

Address of this page


Joachim Gruber.