Is Snowden the New Ellsberg?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

National Security Agency (NSA) (Chris Hardie/flickr)

Adam Cohen, legal columnist for Time Magazine and lecturer at Yale Law School, breaks down the legal options for NSA document leaker Edward Snowden, and discusses how closely he should be compared to Daniel Ellsberg.

Reading List: Snowden, Ellsberg, Whistleblowing, and More


Comments [13]

Donald Lindeman

Brian Lehrer: Your interview with Adam Cohen about the NSA and the actions of Edward Snowden is the one I've been waiting to hear. It was both thoughtful and clear, covering a range of legal and moral issues. One of the points that still needs to be brought out is: I think the NSA is saying something like: "trust us and our good intentions." And, it may well be that information collected by the NSA has stopped one or more terrorist attacks. Those of us who worry about broad government powers and their use and implementation want to see transparency on the part of our agencies (and secret courts) about what their powers are. We also think about how government could turn malign in surveillance, either as an evolving routine that gets out of hand, or, in the case of rogue actors. Surely the 4th Amendment is still the law of the land, and we shouldn't have to remind government of that. I do hope the ACLU can take these issues further in the courts. --DWLindeman

Jun. 12 2013 01:11 AM

Whilst pumping away on a stationary bike, I watched the first four episodes of "Continuum" (on Netflix).

Snowden obviously did the same. End of story.

Jun. 11 2013 01:18 PM

Brian should not repeat, without caveat, the assertion that the NSA's programs prevented the NYC subway bombing. That assertion has been mostly debunked.

Jun. 11 2013 12:37 PM
Robert from NYC

What ties all these people (Ellsberg, Manning, Snowden) together is that they drank the Kool-Aid about the myth of America. They really did believe that we are a unique society based on Laws which Constitutionally protect the Citizenry from Government monitoring and that the U.S. is a society based of FREEDOM.

When the DDR (GDR -- or better known here as East Germany) monitored its citizens against a very real and ongoing subversion from the West, it was called Totalitarian. The film 'The Lives of Others' dealt with this very topic.
People, pundits and social gate-keepers were falling over each other in pointing out the difference between the 'free' societies in the West as opposed to people being monitored in Communist countries.
The truth is that you are free in the West as long as you go along with all the accepted dogma that only Capitalism works and is the only answer to Society. All other dissidents are closely monitored.

Anyone who thinks that only 'Terrorists' are monitored by our Corporate State, is simply naive

Thus these guys (above), are simply the true believers in the ideal of what America proclaims itself to be; they really do believe in the ideal of a FREE Society, as opposed to what it has sunk to in the name of Security (the excuse that every Totalitarian Government proclaims).

Jun. 11 2013 11:17 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC


LOL, you must be psychic. How do you know it's "legal"? Nobody but the people in charge of the secret program know if it's being carried out legally or not. Want to find out? Too bad, it's too secret to reveal whether or not it's legal, that's the current Obama Administration position. Stop claiming to know what nobody except Obama and the DNI know. Also, I'd like frys with that.

Jun. 11 2013 11:07 AM

@Ben from Brooklyn

And I would rank them precisely opposite.

Ellsberg revealed lying by the government about the reasons and methods used to fight a war.

Manning turned over a bunch of documents to an online publisher. Since he was in the active duty military, his arrest and trial were a certainty. Though a large part of the mass of documents released indicate that much of what the US gov't considers 'secret' is just embarrassing.

Snowden has drawn attention to LEGAL methods that WE have authorized for the government to invade our privacy. It is useful to get a glimpse exactly how our government is spying on us but his actions were still illegal. We may wish that we had not given the government such power, but in our reaction to 9/11, we did. Snowden's god and knows better than the rest of us. What cheese! Who elected him?

Any attempt to blame Bush or Obama for this is overreach. Acting like it is a politcian's fault is giving our own selves a pass on being good and informed citizens.

Jun. 11 2013 10:54 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

ITT Boomer Beigeists scared of robotic terrorists that steal old people's medicine tell the kids it's different this time and that Manning is no Saint Daniel Ellsberg. You guys stopped the war all by yourselves right? Giap was just sitting on his tuckus the whole damn time, amiright?

Jun. 11 2013 10:48 AM
David from From the Office

The real thing is that this world has changed. We have people in this world who will maim, kill and destroy others in the name of a god. We have people in this world who will do the same thing because of a political leaning. We have people who would hurt others because they do not like the way someone else looks. Because of all these things and more we have had to forfeit our freedoms in this country and the world.

The question is, do we want freedom or do we want safety.

And by the way, when did Snowden become the decider?

Jun. 11 2013 10:45 AM


Good analysis and a view point that I generally share.

Jun. 11 2013 10:39 AM
tom from lic

How about the CHina connection? It's so convenient that this story is taking up all the air time, just after Obama reportedly was confronting China's leader. Then he ends up in a Chinese territory.

Jun. 11 2013 10:39 AM
Bayes from Not Kansas

Idiocy. You're asking people who weren't even born during Ellseberg case and what we had to go through. WE HAD AN ENEMIES LIST. THIS WILL HAPPEN AGAIN.
Anyone who thinks that the new twist in NSA removal of safeguards doesn't touch Constitution's4 th Amendment you guys need to go to school. Ellsberg is correct. Feinstein is a fool she's led by the nose.Bad people will always do bad things.
I learned many times that regulations prevent good people from doing bad things.

Jun. 11 2013 10:38 AM
Ben from Brooklyn

I am so happy that the Brian Lehrer show is asking this question. I have felt since the "Bradley Manning" episode that the media has been especially lazy on this question.

For me, there is a continuum. Mr. Snowden is probably the "most noble" of the three, if that is the right adjective for the scale. What he did was to see a problem in the way the defense establishment was handling itself. And he didn't reveal specific intelligence as much as HOW the government was working.

Ellsberg revealed some actual secrets, but was certainly a "whistleblower" in so far as he was protesting certain actions.

Manning, to me, is simply an idiot. He is barely noble in any way. His leaks included myriad cables, state dept. docs, all kids of things. He really was just compromising security far beyond any specific misdeeds that even he himself perceived.

Manning, to me, is in no way a whistleblower. I have no problem if he dies in jail.

Jun. 11 2013 10:34 AM
john from office

Mr. Ellsberg has not met a traitor he did not like. He reaction is Knee jerk. Mr. Manning and Mr. Snowden are traitors that need to be dealt with as such. They deserve nothing short of a death sentence, they have put the nation at risk.

Are we to be at the mercy of self appointed saviors, such as Manning or Snowden. Mr. Greenwald is also a traitor who basks in the media attention.

Jun. 11 2013 10:07 AM

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