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Former Pentagon employee Daniel Ellsberg poses for photographs in central London, November 1, 2004. [Ellsberg, who risked career suicide and a century in prison to blow the whistle on U.S. President Nixon's Vietnam war plans, is visiting Britain to e
Daniel Ellsberg
Secretary of State John Kerry thinks Edward Snowden should "man up," come home, and face the legal ramifications of his whistleblowing. And never mind the sexist framing.
"A patriot would not run away," Mr Kerry said on Wednesday. "If Mr Snowden wants to come back to the United States... we'll have him on a flight today."
Of course they will. How generous of them.

Noting that Kerry appeared on NBC, MSNBC, and CBS to invoke the patriotism of his Vietnam era whistleblowing, Daniel Ellsberg thought it might be a good idea to share his own thoughts:

Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment.)

More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. Legal scholars have strongly argued that the US supreme court – which has never yet addressed the constitutionality of applying the Espionage Act to leaks to the American public – should find the use of it overbroad and unconstitutional in the absence of a public interest defense. The Espionage Act, as applied to whistleblowers, violates the First Amendment, is what they're saying.

More over the fold.

Ellsberg notes that in his own trial, he was prevented from explaining why he had copied the Pentagon Papers. He had looked forward to giving a full explanation, but the prosecution objected and the judge sustained. As a defendant, Ellsberg was not allowed to explain himself.

And so it has been with every subsequent whistleblower under indictment, and so it would be if Edward Snowden was on trial in an American courtroom now.

Indeed, in recent years, the silencing effect of the Espionage Act has only become worse. The other NSA whistleblower prosecuted, Thomas Drake, was barred from uttering the words "whistleblowing" and "overclassification" in his trial. (Thankfully, the Justice Department's case fell apart one day before it was to begin). In the recent case of the State Department contractor Stephen Kim, the presiding judge ruled the prosecution "need not show that the information he allegedly leaked could damage US national security or benefit a foreign power, even potentially."

And Ellsberg cites last summer's trial of Chelsea Manning, who wasn't allowed to explain her intent until after she had been convicted. Ellsberg has conversed with Snowden through chat-logs, and seems impressed with Snowden's thoughtful rationale. He is not so impressed with Kerry:
John Kerry's challenge to Snowden to return and face trial is either disingenuous or simply ignorant that current prosecutions under the Espionage Act allow no distinction whatever between a patriotic whistleblower and a spy. Either way, nothing excuses Kerry's slanderous and despicable characterizations of a young man who, in my opinion, has done more than anyone in or out of government in this century to demonstrate his patriotism, moral courage and loyalty to the oath of office the three of us swore: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The NSA spying story is about the NSA spying, and the personal story of Edward Snowden has largely served as a distraction. But the attempts to catch Snowden, and the attempts in the meantime to demonize him, have themselves become an important story of their own. It's about whistleblower protections, the chilling effect, how secret official corruption is to be made public, and yet another layer of official malfeasance. Those who would demonize Snowden often invoke Ellsberg. Perhaps they should listen to what the man himself actually has to say.

10:05 AM PT: With thanks to allenjo, Ellsberg has made an even stronger statement to Huffington Post:

As for Kerry saying that -- I'd say a man that I once admired, that was a long time ago -- the statement that he made on [MSNBC] that Edward Snowden is a coward, a traitor, and he betrayed his country is one of the most despicable statements I have heard from a politician or anyone else who I can remember. It is very much to his discredit and I think very much the less of him.

Originally posted to Laurence Lewis on Fri May 30, 2014 at 08:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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