Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg calls the revelations by a government contractor on U.S. secret surveillance programs the most “significant disclosure” in the nation’s history.
In 1971, Ellsberg passed the secret Defense Department study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam to The New York Times and other newspapers. The 7,000 pages showed that the U.S. government repeatedly misled the public about the war. Their leak set off a clash between the Nixon administration and the press and led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling on the First Amendment.
Ellsberg, 81, told The Associated Press Monday that the leaks by Edward Snowden, 29, to The Washington Post and The Guardian newspapers are more important than the Pentagon Papers as well as information given to the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst.
Snowden, a former CIA employee who later worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency, told the newspapers about a government program that tracks American phone records and another one that tracks phone and Internet messages around the world.
“I was overjoyed that finally an official with high or a former official with high access, good knowledge of the abusive system that he was revealing was ready to tell the truth at whatever cost to his own future safety, or his career, ready to give up his career, risk even prison to inform the American people,” Ellsberg said.