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June 30, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

You can’t compare Snowden, Ellsberg

In his column Wednesday, "Edward Snowden: a profile in courage," Tom Keane draws a favorable comparison between Edward Snowden and Dan Ellsberg, who in 1971 made public a top secret study of the events leading up to, and justifying the continuation of, the war in Vietnam.

I was a colleague of Ellsberg’s at the Rand Corp. at that time and believe that Keane’s analogy is dead wrong on several counts.

First, the information provided in the Pentagon Papers did not endanger the lives of American citizens or anyone else; if anything, Ellsberg’s aim was to get American troops out of Vietnam sooner rather than later, which would have reduced casualties on both sides.

Second, while it is true that a person might in desperation ignore the oath taken by everyone who receives a Top Secret clearance not to reveal information entrusted to him, Ellsberg tried to get the Defense Department to make the basic facts in the papers public.

When that didn’t work, he went to a number of senior senators, including the head of the Foreign Relations Committee. Only then did he go to The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Finally, before releasing the papers, Ellsberg didn’t hightail it out of the country, hoping to avoid the consequences of breaking his oath and the law.

Regardless of whether one believes Ellsberg was right in doing what he did, he had the courage to stay in the country and face whatever costs came his way. Snowden is no Ellsberg.

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  1. I agree with "Future" that Snowden is a dupe. Whether he is a Chinese "dupe" is still up for debate. I agree with the letter writer that Ellsberg's motives were right. I would submit that the Pentagon Papers were important in shedding light on a stupid war that, like Iraq, was based on lies (Gulf of Tonkin incident, etc.). There was another motivator for bringing the Viet Nam war to a close: THE DRAFT. Very few folks were immune from it, and most Viet Nam vets were drafted. Now we have the "all volunteer" military, and the general public has little if any interest in what went on in Iraq and is still going on in Afghanistan.

  2. The letter writer is correct Ellsberg did leak the pentagon papers but did not escape the country and flee to China or any other country for that matter.He stayed her in his own country and faced the music for his actions.

    Snowden on the other hand told and provided China with documents that the NSA has been hacking them since 2009.After dropping the bombshell, he then fled to China. Why he left his own country is anyone's guess,perhaps he was a spy for China all along and fled to avoid prosecution.He did take an oath to protect the constitution from all foreign and domestic enemies. He knows what he did was not in the best interests of his own country.No hero here traitor might be a better word.

  3. The real problem is that the U.S. government classifies way too much information that shouldn't be. Then, hires consultants and contractors, who receive government clearances, with access to way too much sensitive classified information. This breeds rogue spies like Snowden and Ellsberg who use the sensitive government information for their self aggrandizement.

    Carmine D

  4. I may be missing something in the Snowden saga.
    Some of the posters claim that Mr. Snowden has provided China with sensitive and damaging classified documents.
    My impression has been that Mr. Snowden's revelations really only relate to the fact that the American government has been secretly gathering information on everyone (including China), and that a huge number of government and contractor employees have access to that information. I doubt very much that Snowden has somehow absconded with any vital secret documents and is now selling them to China.
    Some posters seem to consider Snowden to be some sort of double agent. His contribution to society is merely his disclosure of the government spying on its own innocent citizens. I'm quite sure that none of the specific information Snowden may possess is of any use to China.
    Mr. Snowden is a whistleblower, not a traitor.
    It would be helpful if the American government clarified the above and honestly admitted whether Snowden has somehow managed to convey anything truly damaging to the world or to China.

    Donald W. Desaulniers

  5. To me, Snowden is not a whistleblower. If he had disclosed that the NSA was actually abusing the Constitutional rights of Americans that would be one thing. But all he disclosed is they are gathering the data and if there is later evidence of criminal or terrorist activity they can go to court and get permission to further explore that data.

    The NSA has no interest in where you order your pizza or how many times you call your mistress. To think otherwise is to exaggerate your own importance.

  6. ByBelleVilleCanada,

    "Mr.Snowden is a whistleblower not a traitor."


    First of all whistleblowers do not flee their own country.Second, its not up to you to decide if he is a traitor or not,you are not a citizen of this country and have no say.

  7. Mr Blumenfeld is correct, Snowden is no Ellsburg.

    As a telecommunications technician I wonder if some of Snowden's claims are accurate. I'm beggining to wonder if he had access to material he claims he did.

    Did Snowden "whistle blow" to get his 15 minutes of fame?

  8. ByNativeNevadian,

    "Our Constitution apparently doesn't mean a thing to y'all."

    Snowden took a sworn oath to protect the Constitution of the U.S. from all enemies both foreign and domestic. Perhaps you might ask Snowden if our Constitution means anything to him.

    When Snowden passed through Chinese security seeking asylum, his forehead lit up with the word traitor across it.

  9. Snowden is a pimply faced kid that wants his 20 minutes of fame. He's got it! He's going to suffer for the rest of his life because of his stupidity.

    I would love to see the criminal histories of these anonymous anti-government posters. The constant references to Nazi Germany are precious.

    My entire family lived under Hitler. People that make comparisons don't have a clue as to what life was like under that fool.

  10. Snowden doesn't want to live in a country where there's massive intelligence gathering. He wants to flee to China? The Chinese are probably the biggest snoopers in the history of mankind. It just doesn't get any better than this!
    Life would be boring without idiots like him. It's too bad they're putting the entire country at risk.

  11. Mr. Branco...I worked on local intelligence in the LA area, never national intelligence. I did work on President Clinton's security detail when he came to Santa Monica and stayed the Miramar Hotel. I would make a substantial wager that Snowden's claim that he could tap into any telephone conversation in the United States including the president's communications are complete horse manure. If someone tried to tap into presidential communications so many bells and whistles would go off it would be absolutely deafening.
    He's just another braggadocio with delusions of grandeur.

  12. "Snowden is no Ellsberg."

    Blumenfeld -- and Ellsberg is not Snowden. Nor did he out the federal government on its practices expressly forbidden by the Bill of Rights. Acknowledging the mass paranoia of the Nixon reign, this country is on a tobaggon on the slippery slope down to a full-blown Big Brother regime.

    "To me, Snowden is not a whistleblower. If he had disclosed that the NSA was actually abusing the Constitutional rights of Americans that would be one thing. But all he disclosed is they are gathering the data. . ."

    pisces -- apparently you see a difference between "gathering data" and "searching." I don't in this context. The latter is what the Fourth Amendment forbids when it's "unreasonable" -- a legally-loaded threshold condition.

    "Snowden took a sworn oath to protect the Constitution of the U.S. from all enemies both foreign and domestic."

    samspeaks -- your source for that would be what exactly? Regardless, he did not take any oath as required by the Constitution, while those in charge of this mass spying -- the president, Congress, AG, et al. -- did. You know, the people in the news frantically blaming everyone else.

    "My entire family lived under Hitler. People that make comparisons don't have a clue as to what life was like under that fool."

    zippert -- which side were they on?

    "Is this 1984, or what?" -- the Honorable Alex Kozinski, now chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in the Unabomber case (2001)

  13. Tick's comment above strikes me as key. He referenced a 6/10/13 Guardian newspaper comment from Daniel Ellsberg's saying that "...there has not been in Americn history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's...."

    I'm not surprised that Snowden has taken asylum. The zeitgeist of Ellsberg's 1971 America was different from today's paranoid stand-your-ground mentality. A yearning for peace, as well as anti-war sentiment, had been building up to 1971.

    Besides facing a currently life-threatening milieu, Snowden does not appear to have the personal support system that Ellsberg had. Individual voices have supported Snowden's whistleblowing action. However, Americans know more about the friends and relatives of the younger Boston Marathon bomber than Snowden. The supreme irony of all is that the immediate survival of this "free" American may actually depend on a communist country that is not obliged to the U.S.

  14. KillerB,

    "Samspeaks,Snowden took a sworn oath to protect the Constitution of The U.S. from all enemies foreign and domestic"

    "KillerB, Samspeaks-- Your source for that would be what exactly?"

    My source would be,Edward Snowden took a oath May I ask what would be your source that he hadn't taken a oath.He also worked for the CIA, sworn oath given there as well.

  15. To all: Snowden: treason by virtue of divulging classified intelligence to the media...flees to Hong Kong, a gateway to the mainland of China...whereabouts unknown at this time, while meanwhile divulging even more classified info to a "journalist" who has decided that he will be forthcoming with further info when it suits HIM...result? If extradited or otherwise returned to the United States, he will be tried, convicted of treason, and sentenced to a VERY LONG term in prison, if not LIFE, which he deserves. Hero? No. "Whistle blower"? No. Traitor to the United States? Yes. The journalist who continues to coddle this A-hat, and use tidbits to further his own career? If the info he alleges to have is so important to the security of the US, and he produces it in dribbles and drops, for his own gain: HE should be prosecuted and jailed for aiding and abetting a traitor.

  16. "May I ask what would be your source that he hadn't taken a oath.He also worked for the CIA, sworn oath given there as well."

    samspeaks -- you completely missed the point. My source is the federal Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 8 (president only). Oaths for other elected officials, like Congressmen and the AG, are not so apparent in the Constitution itself. Those specifics are probably statutory.

    The CIA, NSA, etc., being part of the Executive Branch, the buck stops with Obama. His oath isn't complicated -- "I do solemly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United

    My point being whether or not Snowden took an oath is such a miniscule consideration compared to our President, who has obviously violated his in many big ways. Apparently no one here cares about that.

    "The Fuhrer is always right." -- Joachim von Ribbentrop, the 1939 Konigsberg address

  17. KillerB,

    Actually I did not miss the point.I knew you had a hidden motive,and it came out.That's why i asked the question.

    "May I ask what would be your source in saying that he hadn't taken an oath." Thank You

  18. Letter writer Stewart Blumenfeld criticized Snowden for leaking the information directly to newspapers. However, Blumenfeld's Dan Ellsberg example shows that Ellsberg's going to the Defense Department and to senior senators, including the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, was futile. It was newspapers that finally broke Ellsberg's story.

    Government entities and leaders would be even less likely to assist Snowden than Ellsberg, because government branches have been entrusted for NSA oversight and Congressmen are strictly limited in their comments about classified information.

    In fact, writer Hector Villagra stated, "In 2012 Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder about 'the dangers of relying on secret interpretations' of the Patriot Act" ("Government far too comfortable with keeping secrets from the public," Las Vegas Sun, 6/14/13). On 6/12/13 the Sun published a New York Times editorial that Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., author of the Patriot Act, "has been repeatedly warned by critics that the law was so broad that it was subject to precisely this kind of abuse."

    An investigation of the NSA and the FISA court is in order. It was Edward Snowden who finally triggered it.

  19. "Actually I did not miss the point.I knew you had a hidden motive..."

    samspeaks -- I had no hidden motive. It's stupid to expect one to prove what one cannot have knowledge of. I decline to play your game here or elsewhere.

    "IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH" -- the three slogans of the Party, from Orwell's "1984"

  20. There are two very distinct issues involved here.

    1. Snowden has apparently confirmed what many of us have long suspected (assumed) was going on: that the NSA was routinely monitoring the electronic communications of US citizens.

    2. Snowden claims to have knowledge of, and appears ready to divulge, the targets of US intelligence operations (i.e. "hacking" targets and possible successes.)

    The first comes under the purview of whistle blowing. The second definitely does not, and might well be considered treason. (The fact that the US engages in hacking other countries computer networks and system can be assumed to take place, just as it can be assumed that we are under constant cyber-attacks. It is the specifics of the targets and what has been accomplished that is beyond the pale.

  21. "Snowden took a sworn oath to protect the Constitution of the U.S."

    As a consultant, he does not take an oath to uphold the Constitution. Government employees do take such an oath. Not consultants and contractors who work for the government. When Snowden received a security clearance he "agreed" not to disclose the secrets he learned as a result of the information he was privy to. The two, an oath to the Constitution and an agreement not to divulge classified information, are very different.

    Carmine D

  22. BTW, usually a security clearance is valid for 5 years at which time it must be renewed by another thorough background investigation.

    Carmine D

  23. Failure to keep secrets secret, as a government consultant with a security clearance, will result in losing your clearance. Failure to uphold your oath to the Constitution will result in losing your job [and maybe sharing room accommodations with Bernie Madoff]. You can argue that without a security clearance Snowden can't do his job, at least in intelligence. Bingo. But he could do others that don't require a security clearance.

    Carmine D

  24. According to "Edward Snowden took a oath" he took a oath.

  25. "Failure to uphold your oath to the Constitution will result in losing your job..."

    CarmineD -- hardly. As you can see from the tone here, the herd will do nothing, and anyone who cares to look can easily conclude government is incapable of either policing or reforming itself. Example -- perjury of oath has been part of the Nevada Constitution from the beginning. Yet my searches can't find single instance of that ever being enforced.

    " man is good enough to govern another man, without that other's consent. I say this is the leading principle -- the sheet anchor of American republicanism..." -- Abraham Lincoln, Speech at Peoria, Illinois, October 16, 1854