Tags: ellsberg | snowden | nsa | leak

Daniel Ellsberg on NSA Leak: Can It Be a Crime to Expose Crime?

By Dan Weil   |   Monday, 10 Jun 2013 12:20 PM

Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, fully approves of Edward Snowden's leak about a top-secret National Security Agency surveillance program.

"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," Ellsberg said Sunday night on CNN.

Story continues below video.


As for the surveillance program, Ellsberg said, "I have no doubt that this violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and probably other parts of the Bill of Rights and should have been exposed."

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"Can it really be a crime to expose crime?" Ellsberg asked.

In 1971, Ellsberg, a former United States military analyst employed by the Rand Corporation, gave the Pentagon Papers to both The New York Times and The Washington Post. The papers included classified documents about the Vietnam War.

Ellberg's actions led the government to make him the first person prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act, but the courts ended up discarding the case after it was revealed that his phones had been illegally wiretapped.

Ellsberg acknowledged that there is a "clear law" outlawing leaks, including Snowden's disclosure of a top-secret NSA surveillance program. But he said he would have done the same thing that Snowden did as an employee of NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

"If I had known that the NSA, to which I had access, was spying on every American multiple times, different phone lines, bank data, credit cards, GPS, everything else, I would have done just what he's done. I would have broken that law of civil disobedience," Ellsberg said.

Ellsberg said Snowden's action were essential to protect democracy.

“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 the  process of becoming -- I'm afraid we have become. That's what he's revealed," Ellsberg said.

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