What Would Obama Have Done with the Leaks in the Pentagon Papers?
“I’m sure that President Obama would have sought a life sentence in my case.” That is what Daniel Ellsberg says would have happened had Obama been in power in the 1970s. His interview is available at Wonkblog. As readers might recall, Ellsberg gave a reporter a copy of United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense. We know them as the Pentagon Papers. The material was classified and Ellsberg became the first person prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act for releasing classified information to the public. His case was thrown out because of governmental misconduct.
As for government surveillance of journalists, Ellsberg had this to say:
First of all, there’s no question that President Obama is conducting an unprecedented campaign against unauthorized disclosure. The government had used the Espionage Act against leaks only three times before his administration. He’s used it six times. He’s doing his best to assure that sources in the government will have reason to fear heavy prison sentences for informing the American public in ways he doesn’t want.
In other words, he’s working very hard to make it a government where he controls all the information. There will be plenty of leaks of classified information, but it will be by his officials in pursuit of his policies. We will not be getting information that the government doesn’t want out, that [reveals government actions that are] embarrassing or criminal or reckless, as we saw in Vietnam and Iraq.
And so the national security state marches on.