Here I can add a bit of personal insight, because, as Newsday’s young Washington correspondent, I’m the one who got those last Pentagon Papers chapters. Looking back, while the suspicion between the Nixon White House and journalists was intense, the way I got Newsday’s two chapters was quaintly clandestine. All cloak and no dagger.
I’d flown to Boston, conveyed Newsday’s interest in the Pentagon Papers to Ellsberg’s associates, and returned to Washington. Days later, a fellow who identified himself as “Sam Adams” telephoned Newsday with instructions to go to Boston on a specific flight. At Logan Airport, I was paged. At the information desk, a young man I’d never met called my first name, led me up an escalator, handed me an orange slip of paper with a description of a bright green plastic shopping bag that was on a chair downstairs. He vanished. I found the bag: Inside were photocopies of two unpublished chapters of the Pentagon Papers. Mission accomplished.
Several days later, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the government failed to prove a national security danger warranting prior restraint of publication. Eventually, the charges against Ellsberg were dismissed after disclosures that Richard Nixon’s White House sent burglars to break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, seeking information they could use against Ellsberg.
In his op-ed published Monday, Ellsberg wrote about why it was wrong to compare his case and Snowden’s. He wrote that after his own arrest, “I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. ... (And) for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures.”
But, he wrote, Snowden couldn’t do that today. “There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, (the Army private accused of leaking secret documents to WikiLeaks), incommunicado.”