Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, says the United States is on the verge of becoming a police state as evidenced by the National Security Agency's data collection programs and the treatment of secret document leakers Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning.
"We have not only the capability of a police state, but certain beginnings of it right now," Ellsberg told The Huffington Post
Wednesday. "And I absolutely agree with Edward Snowden. It's worth a person's life, prospect of assassination, or life in prison or life in exile — it's worth that to try to restore our liberties and make this a democratic country."
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He cited the NSA's phone- and Internet data collection programs as evidence that the nation has reached the "capability" of becoming a police state.
"When people understand that their every conversation of every kind on phones, email, chat logs whatever, is being recorded and can be retrieved, that will certainly curtail people's freedom of speech over any digital means," Ellsberg continued in an interview carried on HuffPost Live.
"It gives the government blackmail capability over the population at large . . . With the digital stuff alone, we have a surveillance capability that outmatches any police state in the history of humanity."
Ellsberg can claim many similarities to Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked information on government phone and Internet data collection programs, and Manning, who provided government files to WikiLeaks.
In 1969, Ellsberg was working as a military analyst with the RAND Corp. when he copied thousands of Defense Department documents on Vietnam War decisions that would later become known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1971, he gave the files to The New York Times
and other newspapers. President Richard Nixon tried to stop the Times from publishing them, but the newspaper continued after a court cleared the way, citing First Amendment rights.
Like Snowden and Manning, Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act for leaking the papers. But the 12 felony counts against were dismissed in 1973 on grounds of gross governmental misconduct in the case.
According to Slate.com, whistleblowers like Ellsberg are being punished more than ever under the Obama administration. While running as a candidate in 2008, Barack Obama said whistleblowers perform "acts of courage and patriotism." But according to Slate
, his administration has gone on to charge eight people under the Espionage Act, more than double all previous presidents combined.
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