Daniel Ellsberg: “Obama Would Have Sought a Life Sentence in My Case”

Daniel Ellsberg testifies about the Pentagon Papers at a Senate subcommittee meeting on May 16, 1973. (photo: AP)

Daniel Ellsberg testifies about the Pentagon Papers at a Senate subcommittee meeting on May 16, 1973. (photo: AP)

By Timothy B. Lee, The Washington Post, 8 June 2013

n 1971, an American military analyst named Daniel Ellsberg gave a New York Times reporter a copy of “United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense,” a multi-volume work that became known as the Pentagon Papers. The massive, classified study painted a candid and unflattering portrait of the military’s conduct of the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court rejected the government’s request for an injunction against its publication later that year in a 6-3 ruling.

Ellsberg became the first person prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act for releasing classified information to the public. But the case was thrown out after the judge learned that the government had engaged in the illegal wiretapping of Ellsberg and other misconduct.

Today, Ellsberg is one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration’s prosecution of leakers. Under President Obama’s tenure, the government has prosecuted six individuals for releasing classified information to media organizations.

Ellsberg is particularly fierce in his support of Bradley Manning, a young soldier who released a large amount of classified information to WikiLeaks. Manning was arrested in 2010, and his military court-martial began this week. Ellsberg considers Manning a hero, and he argues that there is little difference between what Manning did in 2010 and what Ellsberg did four decades earlier. We spoke by phone on Friday. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity. Continue reading