Author Topic: Ellsberg Says No Defense Case For Snowden Until "Public Accountability Defense"  (Read 7013 times)

The Costa Report

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    • The Costa Report

by American sociobiologist, Rebecca D. Costa

Daniel Ellsberg, former U.S. military analyst known for leaking the Pentagon Papers, joined The Costa Report this past week to explain why the plight of government whistleblowers – such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden – has largely remained the same since 1971, when Ellsberg was charged with 12 felony counts and faced 115 years imprisonment for disclosing classified Defense Department and White House documents to the The New York Times and Washington Post.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Edward Snowden's return to the U.S., urging Snowden to defend and debate the charges against him. During his interview, Ellsberg refuted Clinton's claim that a legal defense was possible, pointing to the fact that the Espionage Act of 1917 prevents defendants from presenting their reasons – or motive – for breaking the law. At the present time, breaking the law for the greater benefit of the public is not recognized as a legal defense in the United States. As a result, over four decades ago Ellsberg was prevented by the judge in his case from offering an explanation for why it became necessary to release classified documents to the press – a similar quandary to what Snowden and others charged under the Espionage Act now face. Referring to Chelsea Manning's 35-year prison sentence, Ellsberg remarked, "[Today] I have no doubt that I would be facing the same fate as Chelsea Manning."
According to Ellsberg, amending the Espionage Act to include a "public accountability defense" – a term coined by Harvard professor Yochai Benkler in his 2014 study, A Public Accountability Defense for National Security Leakers and Whistleblowers – would not only allow Snowden to return to the United States, but also would offer much needed protection to future whistleblowers. Ellsberg stated that the amendment is "the only route to a fair trial, or to public understanding of what you've done," further asserting that this sort of legislation is needed now more than ever. Despite supporting both Obama Presidential campaigns, Ellsberg noted that the President has helmed "the most secretive administration ever." Since taking office in 2008, the Obama administration has prosecuted 7 people under the Espionage Act, while all other presidential administrations combined have used the act to prosecute whistleblowers no more than 4 times (Ellsberg being one of them). Ellsberg, a life-long advocate of government transparency, concluded his remarks on The Costa Report by saying, "There can be enormous good … that an individual can achieve by revealing the truth – although [under current laws] that will almost surely have very harmful personal consequences."

To hear the full interview with Daniel Ellsberg, visit


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