The NSA surveillance of millions of emails and phone calls. The dogged pursuit of whistleblower Edward Snowden across the globe, regardless of the diplomatic fallout. And the sentencing of Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for giving a cache of government files to the website WikiLeaks. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg sees these events as signs that the United States is becoming a police state.
"We have not only the capability of a police state, but certain beginnings of it right now," Ellsberg told HuffPost Live Wednesday. "And I absolutely agree with Edward Snowden. It's worth a person's life, prospect of assassination, or life in prison or life in exile -- it's worth that to try to restore our liberties and make this a democratic country."
Ellsberg was a military analyst with the RAND Corporation in 1969 when he secretly copied thousands of classified documents about U.S. decision-making during the Vietnam War. In 1971, he leaked the files (known as the Pentagon Papers) to The New York Times and 18 other newspapers.
Ellsberg was later tried on 12 felony counts under the Espionage Act of 1917, and faced a possible sentence of 115 years in prison. His case was dismissed in 1973 on the grounds of gross governmental misconduct.
As a candidate in 2008, Barack Obama praised instances of whistle-blowing as "acts of courage and patriotism." Since becoming president, however, his administration has charged more people under the Espionage Act than all other presidents combined.