"Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg wrote an op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post explaining why he believes that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden made the right decision in fleeing the country, rather than staying here and facing charges for leaking classified NSA documents about massive government surveillance programs that he believes to be illegal and/or unconstitutional.
"The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago," writes Ellsberg, alluding to his own decision to stay in the country to face charges of espionage (which were eventually tossed out) in 1971 after he leaked thousands of pages of classified Defense Department documents to the New York Times and other media outlets about the purposely deceptive origins of the Vietnam War and lies told by American Presidents to support those deceptions.
"When I surrendered to arrest in Boston," he writes, "having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day."
"For the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn't have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind," he explains.
In the op-ed, the iconic 70's whistleblower goes on to echo several of the points he had previously made during my interview with him in mid-June, just days after Snowden outed himself as the leaker from an undisclosed location in Hong Kong: "There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon's era --- and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment --- but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to 'incapacitate me totally')."
"I hope Snowden's revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here," write Ellsberg, adding that there is "close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado."
After Snowden outed himself, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo had expressed a thoughtful skepticism of Snowden and his motivations in this affair, though Ellsberg dismissed Marshall's musings as "stupid and mistaken" when I asked him about the comments directly during my interview.
Today, Marshall says, he's "kinda curious" about what Ellsberg meant in his op-ed remark that "The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago"...