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WaPo | The closest parallel for Snowden and Manning may be Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 was the New York Times’ and The Washington Post’s source for the Pentagon Papers, a secret assessment of the Vietnam War that eroded the credibility of U.S. government’s more-optimistic public claims about the conflict. Ellsberg in recent days has praised Snowden and described the material Snowden disclosed as more significant than the documents he leaked four decades ago.
There are differences, however. Ellsberg was a senior military analyst working at the Pentagon who had a direct role in drafting the Pentagon Papers. The document was largely a record of U.S. decision-making rather than a blueprint of ongoing operations. Drafts were undoubtedly stored in safes, not on networks where they might be read by low-level employees at distant military or intelligence outposts.
A former senior NSA official recalled procedures in the 1970s that were archaic but secure. “When hot documents would go around they’d be in a double-sealed envelope, and some person would wait while you read it, re-
envelope it and leave,” the former official said. “By contrast, now you bring it up on your computer screen.”
Some U.S. officials question whether there is a generational gap in views on privacy and government transparency. Manning and Snowden, who are in their 20s, grew up with technology and the Internet as fixtures in their lives.
“We are recruiting Americans from a culture that has a deeper desire for absolute transparency than any previous cohort of people entering the service,” said Michael V. Hayden, former CIA and NSA director. “They are coming from a culture in which, for many, transparency is an absolute good, and it appears that in these two cases it influenced these people.”
Snowden appears to have left fewer online footprints than many of his generation, with no evidence of Facebook or Twitter accounts. In his comments to The Post, he indicated that was in part because of what he had learned.
The Internet “is a TV that watches you,” he said, a technology “governments are abusing . . . to extend their powers beyond what is necessary and appropriate.”