Do you think the government is actively working against Wikileaks?
Ellsberg: I’m sure they are, in the sense of trying to discover the sources of truth-telling from within. This administration has shown more eagerness to prosecute leaks than any other administration in our history. As a matter of fact, Barack Obama has now, with the prosecution of Bradley Manning, indicted as many people for whistleblowing or leaks as all previous presidents put together. Did you realise that?
Economist: I did not.
Ellsberg: Well it’s a small number. It’s three. It’s that small because we don’t have an official secrets act the way that the British and most countries do. And therefore we’ve only had three such prosecutions in the past. I was the first, with Tony Russo, under Richard Nixon. And two other presidents each brought one case. Obama has now prosecuted three people. Two of whom are being prosecuted for acts carried out under George Bush and for which Bush chose not to prosecute — Thomas Drake, who is under indictment, and Shamai Leibowitz, who pleaded guilty (a mistake in my mind). So Obama’s famous position of not looking backward seems to apply only to crimes like torture or illegal warrantless surveillance. He’s given absolute amnesty to the officials of the Bush administration. But in the case of Thomas Drake, who told a reporter about a billion-and-half-dollar waste at the NSA, and in the case of Shamai Leibowitz, who says he exposed acts to a blogger that he regarded as illegal, Obama was willing to look backward and prosecute. With Manning he has shown more eagerness to do that. I think we can assume that those who don’t use Wikileaks’s technology to get the information out can be assured of prosecution. I have to assume that if I had now put out the Pentagon Papers as I did, using that now outmoded technology of Xerox, Obama would prosecute me to the full extent of the law. [Emphasis mine.]