News Release

Do Leaks Hurt National Security, Or Do the Policies they Expose? — From Indochina to the Mideast


Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently called for the prosecution of Edward Snowden by stating “this is someone who has chosen to violate a sacred trust for this country. And so I hope we’re able to track down whoever’s doing this, because it is extremely damaging to the safety and security of this country.”

FRED BRANFMAN, fredbranfman at
Branfman just wrote the piece “America’s Most Anti-Democratic Institution: How the Imperial Presidency Threatens U.S. National Security” and has been covering what he refers to as “executive secret war” since he brought the U.S. “secret war” in Laos to world attention in 1969.

He said today: “U.S. executive branch officials like Mr. Clapper base their prosecution of whistleblowers, journalists and activists on one basic claim: that they are protecting U.S. ‘national security.’ In fact, however, as U.S. executive drone and ground assassinations create exponentially more enemies in the Muslim world than it kills, motivates countless potential suicide bombers, destabilizes nuclear-armed Pakistan and increases the danger of its nuclear materials fall into anti-U.S. hands, it is clear that it is immoral, illegal and undemocratic U.S. executive secret war-making today that poses the greatest threat to the ‘safety and security’ of America. Whistleblowers and journalists who seek to provide Americans with the information they need to offer the ‘informed consent’ of which they have been robbed by executive secrecy and deceit are the ones who honor their ‘sacred trust’ to American democracy.”

Branfman has been writing about drone strikes and assasinations for many years. In 2010, he wrote the piece “Mass Assassinations Lie at the Heart of America’s Military Strategy in the Muslim World.”

He added: “Fifty years ago, U.S. executive branch officials such as Henry Kissinger dropped two million tons of bombs on tiny Laos, as much as was dropped on all of Europe and the Pacific in World War II, murdering, maiming and making refugees of tens of thousands of innocent rice-farmers, and totally destroying a 700-year old civilization on the Plain of Jars. They committed these acts in the name of U.S. ‘national security.’ But in the end they lost not only in Laos but throughout Indochina, sending 55,000 Americans to senseless deaths, maiming tens of thousands more, wasting trillions of dollars that should have been used to strengthen the U.S. at home, fatally dividing their nation, and thus seriously weakening U.S. national interests.

“And today’s U.S. executive branch policies pose an even greater long-term threat to U.S. strategic interests, not only abroad but at home. The evidence is overwhelming, including the statements by several dozen U.S. national security experts cited at the end of my recent piece, that U.S. leaders are not protecting national security but rather weakening it as never before. They have killed 3-5,000 people whose names they did not know in Pakistan through their ‘signature’ drone strikes, and only 77 named ‘senior al-Qaeda and Taliban’ leaders, many of whom were immediately replaced by more effective and/or ruthless successors. This relative military pin-prick, however, has led hundreds of millions of Muslims, including over 135 million in Pakistan according to a Pew poll, to regard the U.S. as their ‘enemy.’ U.S. leaders have sown a whirlwind in the Muslim world, and it is the American people who will pay an increasing price for executive incompetence and immorality in the coming decade. Only dramatic new policies, starting with ending militarily ineffective drone and ground assassinations, and then seeking to make nations like Pakistan allies rather than enemies by extending the economic aid President Obama recently called for in his May 23 counterterrorism speech, will genuinely protect U.S. national security.”

The University of Wisconsin Press has recently republished Branfman’s landmark book, Voices From the Plain of Jars: Life Under An Air War, termed by historian Al McCoy “arguably the most important single book to emerge from the Vietnam war.” It is the only book of 30,000 that was written by the peasants of Indochina who suffered most and were heard from least. New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis described the bombing of Laos as “the most appalling episode of lawless cruelty in American history” and that “no American should be able to read that book without weeping at his country’s arrogance.” Branfman has recently published “The New Face of Evil: Why Henry Kissinger Is Still Relevant Today” and “Tom Brokaw, Bill O’Reilly and Genuine U.S. National Security.”