Wendell Potter, the former communications chief for health insurer Cigna who turned whistleblower and exposed the insurance industry’s most deceptive practices, has come out in defense of secrets outlet WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
In an interview with Raw Story on Monday night and Wednesday afternoon, Potter said he certainly finds similarities to the Pentagon Papers released by Daniel Ellsberg during the Vietnam War.
“Well, it takes me back,” he said. “The Nixon Administration came after Ellsberg and tried to shut it all down and tried to intimidate the news media. There are a lot of parallels here.”
Potter called the freezing of WikiLeaks accounts in recent days by corporations such as MasterCard, VISA, Amazon and PayPal – Amazon after calls from US senators including the chair of the homeland security committee Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and PayPal at the request of the US State Department – “a disturbing trend.”
“This kind of action, this kind of involvement is dangerous,” he warned. “What’s most important is freedom of information. So I think this is a disturbing trend.”
Potter, who is currently a senior fellow on health care for the Center for Media and Democracy and author of the newly released book Deadly Spin, which details his transformation from health insurance spinmeister to whistleblower, said that he understands concerns about the possibility of sensitive documents being released.
But he pointed out that “a lot of this information that is now public is important for the public to know.”
Asked to respond to claims by some members of the Obama administration and the news media that the WikiLeaks documents have revealed nothing of importance, Potter called that “nonsense.”
“I think that’s entirely wrong,” he said.
“If they were revealing nothing of importance,” he explained, “why would the media pay attention to it at all? Why would The New York Times be writing stories about it?”
Potter added, “It is information that has not been publicly disclosed before, so I think that’s nonsense.”
He also said that the denial of service attacks to shut down WikiLeaks and federal government and corporate actions to squelch WikiLeaks’ hosting and funding sets a “very scary precedent” for the future of free speech on the Internet.