As Edward Snowden‘s NSA leaking is assessed in the media, Daniel Ellsberg — the man initially prosecuted in the 1970s for leaking sensitive papers about Vietnam known as the Pentagon Papers — has hailed the young American as a hero who did America an “enormous service.”
Daniel Ellsberg was prosecuted for his actions in revealing information to the American public, but later acquitted when it was revealed the US government had illegally wiretapped him. And speaking of Edward Snowden, Ellsberg says he sees a young man with his whole promising life ahead of him, who risked it all to serve his fellow Americans in a risky act of whistleblowing.
Ellsberg spoke to CNN’s Don Lemon about Edward Snowden’s actions with the context of his own experience with the US government — and saying what Snowden revealed was a “recipe” for “tyranny in this country, the Pentagon Papers leaker said:
“I’m very impressed by what I’ve heard in the last couple of hours including Snowden’s own video here. I think he’s done an enormous service, incalculable service … It can’t be overestimated to this democracy. It gives us a chance, I think, from drawing back from the total surveillance state that we could say we’re in process of becoming, I’m afraid we have become. That’s what he’s revealed.”
“If I had known that the NSA, the National Security Agency, as I say, to which I had access, if I had known that they were spying on every American multiple times, different phone lines, bank data, credit cards, GPS, everything else, if I had known that, I would have done just what he’s done. I would have broken that law of civil disobedience.”
Ellsberg became the first person to be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act when he leaked the Pentagon Papers to major newspapers in the early 70s, and he said he’s waited decades for someone to show the courage and conviction demonstrated by Edward Snowden in leaking the NSA’s actions.
Musing as to whether it can ever be a crime to reveal a crime and speculating that the NSA program violated the Fourth Amendment, Ellsberg said that Snowden was “really was prepared to risk his life for his country as a civilian … [and] show the kind of courage that we expect of people on the battlefield.”
Do you agree with Ellsberg that Snowden’s actions were brave and heroic?