Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg said Friday that Edward Snowden had “no chance” of receiving a fair trial on espionage charges in the U.S.
In an interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Ellsberg slammed Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim that Snowden should trust the U.S. legal system and return from asylum in Russia to stand trial.
“He would be facing a jail cell from the time he stepped off the plane here — a plane that John Kerry has offered him,” he said. “He would be stepping into handcuffs and he would probably never get out.”
Snowden is facing espionage and theft charges after leaking stolen National Security Agency documents detailing secret U.S. surveillance programs.
Kerry in a series of interviews this week repeatedly said Snowden had betrayed his country and said he should “prove his respect” for U.S. laws by returning home from Russia where he has asylum.
Kerry said Snowden should “not find refuge in authoritarian Russia or seek asylum in Cuba or somewhere else. That’s running away from the consequences.”
Ellsberg slammed Kerry for those remarks, saying he had lost respect for the country’s top diplomat.
“I think that for him to characterize Mr. Snowden, who I regard as an American hero and a very great patriot, as a coward, a traitor and someone who betrayed his country is a despicable statement,” he said “I think very poorly of Mr. Kerry for having said that.”
Ellsberg said Kerry was “once a hero of mine,” praising him for denouncing the Vietnam War in testimony before the Senate in 1971.
“Unfortunately, his statements on Snowden have diminished his stature even further, and it has fallen in recent years in a number of ways,” he added.
Since Snowden began leaking documents he stole from the National Security Agency nearly a year ago, Ellsberg has defended his decision to expose classified information.
Ellsberg himself leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 to The New York Times and other newspapers. The top-secret Defense Department study outlined the government’s decisions to ramp up the U.S. role in the Vietnam war, and was published as the public grew weary of the conflict.
Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act, but the charges were later dismissed in 1973.