Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Daniel Ellsberg Publicly Supports Edward Snowden

 Daniel Ellsberg Time Cover, back in the day

Did we all see the Op-Ed piece in Sunday's Washington Post by Daniel Ellsberg?  Well, if you haven't read it, you should, and just in case you are one of the few people on the planet who has not heard of Ellsberg (because Snowden is constantly being compared to him), let someone who is old enough to remember Nixon and Watergate and the Viet Nam War tell you that he was some kind of hero.   I'm impressed that Ellsberg spoke out in favor of Snowden.  Here's a quote:
Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.
After the New York Times had been enjoined from publishing the Pentagon Papers — on June 15, 1971, the first prior restraint on a newspaper in U.S. history — and I had given another copy to The Post (which would also be enjoined), I went underground with my wife, Patricia, for 13 days. My purpose (quite like Snowden’s in flying to Hong Kong) was to elude surveillance while I was arranging — with the crucial help of a number of others, still unknown to the FBI — to distribute the Pentagon Papers sequentially to 17 other newspapers, in the face of two more injunctions. The last three days of that period was in defiance of an arrest order: I was, like Snowden now, a “fugitive from justice.”

 Like Snowden, Ellsberg leaked damaging information about how the government lied to the American people.  In 1971  Ellsberg, a former military analyst at the Pentagon,  gave classified information in the form of  " The Pentagon Papers" to  influential news media  and was promptly arrested under the espionage act for doing so.  He too was called a patriot by some and a traitor by others.  The protest against the Viet Nam War was gaining ground at this time and exposing the way the government had lied to the people in order to get Americans to fight this war was fueling public fury.  The government was highly embarrassed by Ellsberg's revelations. He was  charged and put on trial, facing  the possibility of up to 115 years in prison.  In 1973,  during the depths of the  Nixon Administration's Watergate debacle, the trial was suspended and all charges eventually dropped. Oh, and just by chance, guess who had influence and got started in government during the ill fated Nixon Administration?  If you guessed Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney you would be right on the money ( to coin a phrase). Just thought I'd mention it.

There is no question that Edward Snowden has technically broken the law by revealing classified information to the public, but like Daniel Ellsberg, he has done so for patriotic reasons.  The government is trying to paint him as an egotistical high school drop out who somehow got hold of government secrets and who deserves to be punished. I see a tech saavy dedicated young man ready to sacrifice his life to get a much needed conversation about personal privacy vs. government control started. His actions are already having an international effect. Whatever you think of Edward Snowden, he is not the first whistleblower to be relentlessly pursued for embarrassing powerful people. Daniel Ellsberg is only one who went before him.  Three highly placed technical officials at NSA Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe have been trying to public attention to  the NSA and the extent of government surveillance on private citizens since 9/11.

Snowden is following in the footsteps of some very brave  and patriotic people.  He has opened a door to the secret doings of an agency that few of us even knew was there. Like Ellsberg, Binney, and Wiebe before him, he is a man who knows that " sunshine is the best disinfectant"  The " secrets" he is divulging to the public ( not selling to a foreign government)  may end up sparking a very important discussion that can save our democracy in this electronic age.  Only time will tell.

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