Politics & Government

Pentagon Papers leaker Ellsberg testifies at Iraq war protester's trial

A historic figure from the Vietnam War era testified Thursday in Pierce County District Court that sometimes it's necessary to break the law to achieve a greater good.

Former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg took the stand on behalf of Olympia resident Patricia Imani. She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for stepping onto an Interstate 5 offramp two years ago to block a flatbed truck carrying an Army Stryker vehicle to Fort Lewis for repairs. The Stryker vehicle had been shipped to the Port of Olympia on its way back from Iraq.

Imani, 48, admits her actions but contends she committed no crime because they were necessary to stop a greater evil. She testified Thursday she believes the war in Iraq is wrong and that blocking the Stryker was a peaceful way to protest the conflict.

"I did feel this was necessary," Imani testified. "My sole intention was to prevent harm. It was urgent then. It's urgent now."

She faces up to 90 days in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor charge.

Her attorney, Lawrence Hildes, called Ellsberg to the stand to bolster Imani's "defense of necessity."

In 1971, Ellsberg, now 79, was working for the Rand Corp. when he leaked to The New York Times a top-secret government report on the United States' involvement in Vietnam.

That report, dubbed the Pentagon Papers, revealed the United States was expanding the war in Vietnam without the public's knowledge and that past administrations had deliberately misled people about their intentions in Southeast Asia.

Some scholars credit the publication of the Pentagon Papers with contributing to public dissatisfaction with the war that ultimately led to the United States pulling out of the Vietnam War.

Ellsberg, who went on to become a peace activist, testified Thursday that the Iraq war "is a clear-cut crime against the peace."

Civil disobedience is necessary when lawful means — lobbying Congress, voting for anti-war candidates, making public statements — fail, Ellsberg testified.

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