The Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founded by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, has put NSA leaker Edward Snowden on its board of directors, CNN reports.
Ellsberg, appearing Tuesday on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper,"
said Snowden has been "a very valuable citizen."
Tapper noted that Snowden is not a journalist, to which Ellsberg responded, "I'm not a journalist either. In fact, I'm a source. Actually, exactly the same sort that Edward Snowden has been."
Snowden represents the values of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Ellsberg said.
"You can't have investigative journalism of the foreign policy or the so-called defense area without, to put it very bluntly, leaks of classified information," he told Tapper. The secrecy and classification system has been so abused that the information the public needs to know to have influence on policies is routinely classified, he said.
Ellsberg and Snowden have similar histories. Ellsberg was a U.S. military analyst during the Vietnam War who leaked information to The New York Times in 1971 about the United States secretly enlarging the war. Conspiracy and espionage charges were dropped after illegal efforts by Richard Nixon's White House to discredit Ellsberg were discovered.
In 2013, Snowden stole possibly 1.7 million documents from computers at the National Security Agency, where he worked as a contract employee. He fled to Hong Kong and is now living in Russia. He has released documents
that show the NSA's ability to spy on Americans' phone records and computer communications.
Snowden has put his life on the line for the cause of press freedom, Ellsberg said.
"We admire him," he said. "I admire him personally very much. He's a hero of mine. And we're very proud, actually, to have him join us on the board."
Journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, who have helped Snowden get his documents released, also are on the board.
Snowden's actions have split the public and members of Congress. He has found both supporters and detractors on both sides of the political aisle. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said last week that Snowden put members of the military
Ellsberg admitted that people will have differences of opinion about whether proper judgment has been exercised in all the leaks Snowden has made, noting that he himself might have problems with individual instances of leaked information.
That said, he noted that no claims have yet been made of specific instances where any of Snowden's leaks harmed intelligence procedures or compromised any individuals in the field.
Snowden said in a statement from the foundation that he was honored to serve alongside "extraordinary Americans like Daniel Ellsberg."
The New York Times
reported that since Snowden is living in Russia under temporary asylum, he will participate in board meetings by remote link.
The group's director, Trevor Trimm, told The Times they consulted with lawyers before offering Snowden the position to ensure the group's nonprofit tax status would not be affected. The lawyers decided that the group should be safe because Snowden's position is unpaid and other groups with members under indictment have not had their tax status threatened.
The group was founded in late 2012 to accept donations to help Wikileaks after that group began having trouble accepting donations from PayPal and some credit card companies.
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