What makes Edward Snowden’s case different from Daniel Ellsberg’s case.  They both worked for the U.S. Government in some capacity. Snowden for the NSA by way of Booz, Allen and Hamilton, Ellsberg as  Marine Corps Officer, Rand employee and Pentagon Assistant to Secretary McNamara. Both worked in intelligence, Snowden as a Data Systems Manager, Ellsberg as intelligence analyst at Rand and in the Pentagon.  They both released voluminous amounts of material: Ellsberg the “Pentagon Papers” which  revealed that the government knew that the Viet Nam war could not be won, yet we were drafting men  and sending them  to their deaths or injuries in a lost cause.(See the movie Born On The  Fourth of July about Ron Kovic who was made a  near quadriplegic at age 18 in Viet Nam.)

Snowden revealed the extent of NSA surveillance of innocent people in the United States and abroad for no purpose except to create a huge data base on every one for possible future use such as the PRISM program and much more including  the  copying and storing of personal Yahoo messaging videos for instance by the British.

Ellsberg has a PhD from Harvard, Edward Snowden had a GED and some college credits, both appeared to be methodical in their methods in regard to the type of materials leaked and the purpose of the leak. Ellsworth stood trial but the case was dismissed for government misconduct. The Watergate plumbers burglarized his psychiatrist’s office among other things. The Ellsberg leak was in the 1970’s almost forty years ago.

In the case of Chelsea ( b. Bradley)  Manning she like Snowden had an education limited to a few college courses. She had a troubled family life and after enlistment in the Army at age 19 had a troubled existence in the Army. At her trial witnesses in her behalf said her mother drank during pregnancy and her lawyer proposed that Manning showed evidence of fetal alcohol syndrome. Whatever her personal circumstances she was morally outraged at some of the documents and videos that she was exposed to as an intelligence technician in Iraq. In particular was a now famous Apache helicopter attack on a group of unarmed civilians on an Iraqi street corner. By some unknown conduit she released the video and about 750,000 combat reports and diplomatic cables to Wiki leaks. These were published in the Guardian, The N.Y. Times and other leading newspapers much like Snowden’s and Ellsberg’s leak.

Of the three none was motivated by money or under the control of a foreign power but moved by the callous deception of the public by the U.S. Government in their conduct of a war. Ellsberg the Viet Nam War, Snowden The War On Terrorism, Manning the War on Terrorism and the Iraq War. Manning was convicted and is in an Army Prison sentenced to 35 years but experts say he will not serve the whole sentence. Ellsberg has been an advocate for government transparency since the criminal case against him was dismissed; Snowden has been indicted but is out of reach of the U.S. Government as he is exiled in Moscow where he has the benefit of a lawyer connected to the Russian FSB (Like our CIA). He says he will return if he is guaranteed a jury trial. Attorney General Holder will not negotiate with him. Normally persons who divulge state secrets don’t get an open jury trial but a secret trial before a judge or  a panel.

Ellsberg tried to have Senators release the papers and when this failed he  went public on his own. Snowden was aware of the fate of prior whistle blowers who went through the official procedures. These people usually lost their jobs and were ostracized, some  were even prosecuted. Manning seems to have gone directly to Wiki leaks through an intermediary without seeking other legal means of disclosure. If she did it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. Her leak seems to be more a personal cry for help although triggered by what she saw in the videos and documents. Ellsberg and Snowden appear to have made a calculated decision to go public no matter what the consequences on moral and intellectual grounds.

At the present time Snowden has more  public support for his actions than the Government has for its position  and he would almost surely win a jury trial if it is granted. However A.G. Holder has followed a strict application of the law and refuses to guarantee him one. Thus he has  continued to be  exiled in Moscow.

The solution is to prosecute persons and policy makers in the Government who deliberately violate the public trust or the Constitutional and legal principles of our government. Then there will not be any secrets for whistleblowers to expose.

Also it is necessary to have a separate agency to handle whistleblowers outside and independent  of the agencies that the whistleblowers are reporting on. One that will protect the whistleblowers not punish them. Then the whistleblower laws will have credence.

As for Snowden give him his public jury trial. The secrets are out anyway and let a jury decide if he was right or wrong. This is much better than having him in Russia with an FSB lawyer for counsel.













One has to wonder the impact of the video of the Apache Attack Helicopter attack and the death of the   and the death of the men in a Bagdad street had on 22 year old Bradley Manning when he first saw the  gunship attack on unknown men dressed in mufti on a street via copies of the gunships video cameras which were in a classified file he had accessed.

The attack allegedly occurred when the crew of the helicopter was called in by ground troops because there was insurgent unrest in the area and troops had been fired on.  The crew thought the men were armed. It turned out it was Reuter’s newsmen with cameras with large lenses. Apparently another two of the eight or nine in the group allegedly were armed with an AK-47 and maybe an RPG launcher but they were not firing or holding the weapons in any confrontational manner.

The men were fired on and wounded or killed. A passerby in a van who stopped in a humanitarian attempt to help the wounded and dying was also attacked. There were two children ages 6 and 9 in this vehicle who were also injured. The attack helicopter circled around after the initial attack killing anyone who was wounded but appeared to be alive.  Usually the Geneva Conventions does not condone the killing of unarmed wounded men.

Bradley who was 5’2, 105 lbs and homosexual with gender identity problems was accepted into the Army’s 101st Mountain Division in 208 in 2008 and after training  deployed to Iraq as an intelligence specialist.

There he had access to the Apache Attack Helicopter videos, combat reports and diplomatic cables.  Approximately  700,000 items in all were copied by him. He managed to download this material on to a thumb drive and later to smuggle the material on a camera digital card out of his camp. At some point in late 2010 he gave the materials unredacted to Julian Assange of Wiki Leaks. Exactly where, when or how this transfer was made is unknown and the rest is history.

Now he has been tried and awaits sentencing. He previously pled guilty to 10 of the lesser charges against him in exchange of a sentence of 16 years. He was acquitted of the charge of aiding the enemy which could have carried a life sentence without parole. However the Judge who presided over the trial, Col. Denise Lind, found Manning guilty of 17 of the 22 charges in their entirety which included five counts of espionage and theft. His sentencing hearing is in progress

Edward Snowden, born June 21, 1983, was enraged enough to act when as  a computer infrastructure analyst expert for the NSA, CIA and later as an independent contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton a giant government contractor he determined that the NSA was not only collecting telephone call  meta data (time, numbers locations etc.) inside and outside  the United States but also capturing and storing the substance of the calls as well as all computer online activity including e-mails , web browsing and other activities.

Both men felt compelled to download and leak the data. Manning, to Wiki Leaks who shared it with the Guardian, N.Y. Times and the Washington Post in the United States and the equivalent foreign newspapers in Germany and Spain.

Snowden leaked to the Guardian which is slowly releasing the information he gave them on government spying activities.

Both men believed the government was engaged in illegal activities and concealing them from the public.

They saw themselves as whistleblowers although they did not avail themselves of The Whistleblower Statute and its procedures, perhaps because others had done so ineffectually and to their detriment.

Both men come from middleclass families whose fathers were careerists in the military. Manning’s father was an enlisted man in intelligence in the Navy and Snowden’s father was a career Coast Guard officer.

Both were computer literate neither was well educated formally.

Neither man acted for mercenary reasons but with great sacrifice to themselves. Manning probably will be subject to a long prison term. Snowden is in self exile in Russia right now.  A place without a clear definition or protection  of privacy rights.

Interestingly enough while the Justice Department and the Army has doggedly pursued these men on criminal violations no criminal charges has been brought against the actors on the government side.

For Example on March 12, 2013 before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence James Clapper, Director Of National Intelligence, said this about surveillance while under oath testifying to the Senate:

(Senator) Wyden asked Director Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Response: “No, sir.”

Wyden asked “It does not.” and Clapper said “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”

Another is the Apache helicopter incident when the wounded, unarmed man is machine-gunned to death while trying to crawl to safety, probably a war crime.

There seems to be a double standard in operation here. Leakers are punished severely probably as a warning to others while on the government side wrong doing even to the extent of killing a wounded unarmed man or a massive invasion of the public’s Fourth Amendment rights is overlooked or excused away as fog of war occurrences or necessary for protection against terrorism.


Today, August 8, 2013, on  the Washington Post’s Wonkblog  in a post by Ezra Klein, Edward Snowden was called a “patriot” in small case because of the measures President Obama said he was taking in regard to safeguarding American’s privacy which were a direct response to Snowden’s disclosures.