What was it that prompted me in the fall of 1969 to begin copying 7,000 pages of highly classified documents — an act that I fully expected would send me to prison for life? (My later charges, indeed, totaled a potential 115 years in prison.) The precipitating event was not Calley's murder trial but a different one. On Sept. 30, I read in the Los Angeles Times that charges brought by Creighton Abrams, the commanding general of U.S. forces in Vietnam, against several Special Forces officers accused of murdering a suspected double agent in their custody had been dismissed by the secretary of the Army.Elsberg hopes Iraq War insiders will draw the same conclusion soon.
The article, by Washington reporters Ted Sell and Robert Donovan, made clear that the reasons alleged by Secretary Stanley Resor for this dismissal were false (and that the order to dismiss the charges had most likely come directly from the White House). As I read on, it became increasingly clear that the whole chain of command, civilian and military, was participating in a coverup.
As I finished the article, it hit me: This is the system I have been part of, giving my unquestioning loyalty to for 15 years, as a Marine, a Pentagon official and a State Department officer in Vietnam. It's a system that lies reflexively, at every level from sergeant to commander in chief, about murder. And I had, sitting in my safe at Rand, 7,000 pages of documentary evidence to prove it.