Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, told NPR that “unauthorized disclosures are the lifeline of a republic” during an interview published Wednesday.
Ellsberg, 91, spoke to NPR about the person who leaked a draft Supreme Court opinion that appears set to overturn Roe v. Wade, saying the leaker, or anyone who shares information of public interest, “is doing this republic a very great service and helping it to remain a republic.”
Ellsberg was the first person in the United States to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act after he leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and then The Washington Post in 1971, NPR continued. The papers detailed decades of policy failures between the U.S. and Vietnam and how the public was misled during the Vietnam War, the outlet continued.
“They tried to put me in [prison] for 150 years,” he told the outlet, laughing, according to NPR. (RELATED: American Chemist Sentenced To 14 Years After Stealing Trade Secrets For The CCP)
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“It’s obvious why they want to keep it secret. No organization really wants to show how the sausage is made or legislation is made, and they prefer to be the only voice on policy to the public,” he said of the SCOTUS leak, “The Supreme Court wants to get all the authority it can from hiding the nature of dissension; the details of arguments that people have made one way or the other.”
He noted that “it’s a very good thing that it got out. It was important to be out.” He reportedly told NPR that if he had been in the same position as the leaker, he’d have done the same thing. He also argued that no laws were broken by the leaker, as the opinion is not a classified or secret document, according to NPR.
“Strictly speaking, the law under which I was prosecuted, the Espionage Act, has never been confirmed by the Supreme Court to be constitutional, as applied to unauthorized disclosure to the American public, telling the truth to the public,” Ellsberg noted, according to the outlet.
Ellsberg has previously defended Edward Snowden after he leaked National Security Agency surveillance. He then teamed up with Oliver Stone, John Cusack, and Maggie Gyllenhaal to create an anti-NSA public service announcement.