What lessons do the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the "war on terror" offer about the abuse of power by the executive branch in times of national crisis?
Join Daniel Ellsberg, the RAND strategist whose leak of the Pentagon Papers helped bring down the Nixon presidency and end the Vietnam War, and John Dean, White House counsel to Nixon and later a key whistle-blower on the Watergate scandal, for a conversation about the perils -- then and now -- of presidential overreach and excessive secrecy.
The event, sponsored by the Open Society Institute National Security and Human Rights Campaign, comes on the eve of the U.S. premiere of the feature documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith present clips from the film.
Ann Beeson, executive director for U.S. Programs at the Open Society Institute and former associate legal director at the ACLU, moderates the discussion with Ellsberg and Dean.
Ann Beeson, a distinguished human rights advocate and litigator, joined the Open Society Institute in June 2007 as the director of U.S. Programs. She is working on the most acute challenges to open society in the United States, including race discrimination in the criminal justice system and immigration and national security policies that threaten human rights.
Prior to joining OSI, Beeson was associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. At the ACLU, she spearheaded groundbreaking initiatives to stop the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security and to expand the use of international human rights strategies in the areas of immigrants' rights, women's rights, and racial justice.
Beeson has argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court. In August 2006, she won an important ruling on behalf of prominent journalists, scholars, and attorneys challenging the National Security Agency's illegal surveillance of Americans without a warrant.
In June 2007, Beeson was named one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America by the National Law Journal, and was also featured as one of American Lawyer magazine's 50 rising legal stars under the age of 45. She has published essays in two books, Liberty Under Attack and The War on Our Freedoms.
Beeson graduated from Emory University School of Law, where she was editor-in-chief of the Emory Law Journal. She is a Texas native, and holds a master's degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Texas.
John W. Dean III
John Dean was White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon and became deeply involved in events leading up to the Watergate burglaries and the subsequent Watergate scandal cover-up. Despite his initial involvement, Dean became a key witness for the prosecution and was the first administration official to accuse Nixon of direct involvement with Watergate and the resulting cover-up. His accusations were confirmed when the secret White House tape recordings were made public. Dean's cooperation with the investigation led to a reduction in his prison time.
But for Dean blowing the whistle on Nixon's misdeeds it is highly questionable whether the Watergate scandal would have resulted in Nixon's resignation.
Judith Ehrlich is a filmmaker and co-producer of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.
Daniel Ellsberg, a former U.S. military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation, sparked a national controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.
The Pentagon Papers revealed that the government knew early on that the Vietnam War was not likely winnable and would lead to many times more casualties than ever admitted. After failing to persuade a few U.S. Senators to release the papers on the Senate floor, Ellsberg decided to risk prison and leaked the documents to the New York Times. Ellsberg went underground for 16 days before turning himself in. Fortunately, the charges against him were eventually dropped due to gross government misconduct and illegal evidence gathering by the Nixon administration and the notorious White House "Plumbers Unit."
These efforts included breaking into Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office and were undertaken directly by the Nixon White House to smear and discredit Ellsberg in the news media in retaliation for his Pentagon Papers whistleblowing.
Rick Golsmith is a director/editor/producer/sound recordist/screenwriter and filmmaker of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.
Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, argues that the late President Richard Nixon never intended to fully end the Vietnam War in 1973. Instead, he planned to resume bombing the country after all troops had been removed.
Ellsberg says that Nixon reversed his plans on account of John Dean's decision to become a key witness in the Watergate scandal.
John Dean, former White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon, discusses the "excessive" amount of executive power made available to the U.S. presidency by former President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. He also examines the Obama administration's use of enhanced national security power.