Pentagon Papers whistleblower: Leaks ‘can make a difference’
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Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg suggested that the leaking of certain information might be justified in the Trump administration. 

Following President Trump’s recent statements threatening harsh penalties for those who leak privileged government information — including the threat that leakers would “pay a big price” — Ellsberg encouraged further public disclosure of certain types of government secrets.

“I’m saying I want people to put out the truth as they see it, their version of the facts, as they see it, yes,” Ellsberg said to a crowd of around 200 during a public dialogue at Georgetown University. “There is a chance it can make a difference, and I think it will make a difference in various ways.”

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Specifically, Ellsberg said government information should be released when it is crucial to the public interest and that of Congress, when lives depend on the information and when it reveals that the U.S. Constitution is being violated. 

Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers largely between 1969 and 1971, when he, as a high-level intelligence official, turned them over to various members of Congress and others, and to newspapers including The New York Times. The papers were a 7,000-page Department of Defense study detailing the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1945 until 1967 and showing government misinformation and other abuses of the public trust.

Ellsberg said he views the leaks of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden to be on par with his own, and offered that while a leak may be ineffectual, it may still be worth the grave risk.

“And in effect, Manning and Snowden and I all thought the same words, which I heard them say: ‘No one else was going to do it, somebody had to do it, so I did it,’ ” Ellsberg said. “There may or may not be any effect, but as Snowden said, there are things worth dying for, and that’s true."

Trump has slammed the leaks coming out of his administration, which have revealed details of phone conversations with foreign leaders and ultimately led to the resignation of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, whose conversations with the Russian ambassador about sanctions were described in a Washington Post report.
 
Ellsberg said that he thinks the Trump administration is set to spread lies more than any other White House.
 
“Well, all presidents lie all the time — Democrats and Republicans,” Ellsberg said. “He’s going to lie more blatantly about domestic matters than probably any other administration in history."