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The Daniel Ellsberg interview

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Was that something that was being considered in Vietnam? When you said there was something else you reveal in the book.

My plans for putting out information on nuclear wars didn't come about at that time for reasons that come out in the book. I planned at that time to be a truthteller, a whistleblower about nuclear war, and that didn't happen. I thought that would put me in prison forever. But that didn't happen for reasons of a natural catastrophe, actually. A hurricane kept me from doing that. We are in hurricane season now, but Hurricane Doria, or Tropical Storm Doria, kept me from doing what I planned to do then.

You were inspired by people willing to go to jail, and you were planning to spend your life in jail. In recent years, you've defended Edward Snowden. Does it diminish at all how people view it if they don't stay and answer for their alleged crime releasing documents? Does it diminish the importance or legitimacy of what he did in terms of releasing documents?

Absolutely. I don't have any doubt of it. Now, where there risks in what he did? Might it have hurt us? They claim it did, but they claimed that about me, and it wasn't true. I haven't seen any evidence that Snowden actually did cause us any real damage to our interests. Nor Chelsea Manning, who was also accused of that. If they come up with evidence, I have an open mind on that, but I do know they lie all the time about the probable effects. I identify totally with Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. These are three very different people, actually different backgrounds and a lot of differences between us, including age. In terms of motives, there's more important similarities and identities there. I identify with those two people, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, more than with anyone else on earth.

Each of us saw great wrongdoing going on illegal, but dangerous to democracy and the people. We each thought someone should tell the public about this and warn them. And we each thought 'nobody else is going to do it, so I've got to do it.' That last part turns out to be a very unusual decision under uncertainty: 'No one else will do it, it has to be done, it's got to be done, so I'll do it.' It was the example of people going to prison on that basis without expecting they would have any great effect on the war but that it might help that's what encouraged me to give the Pentagon Papers. I don't think I would have without that example.

Snowden has said that my example played a role in his own decision, which I'm very glad to hear. I'm not aware that's true with Chelsea Manning, she was too young.

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