WASHINGTON -- Mike Gravel, the former Alaskan senator who publicly released Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers by placing them into the congressional record in 1971, told HuffPost he supports Edward Snowden's release of National Security Agency secrets, but he worries that little reform will come of the disclosure.
Ellsberg has suggested Congress dig into the matter of NSA surveillance of Americans, but Gravel, while noting his deep admiration for Ellsberg, said he didn't see the point.
"It's just a waste of time when you see the reaction of [Intelligence chair Dianne] Feinstein, of Harry Reid, the Republican leadership, the Democratic leadership." he said. "Anything that would come out of a select committee wouldn't be worth the powder to blow it to hell."
Gravel served in counter-intelligence in Europe while in the military, and said that the "cult of secrecy" has gotten out of the control of the public. "I can understand [Wikileaks leaker Bradley] Manning and Snowden and admire them both," he said. "They have started a dialogue and they're going to pay a price for it."
Gravel ran for president in 2008 on an antiwar platform, but he is probably most remembered for his viral campaign ad that consisted of him tossing a rock in a pond (the meaning of which is described here).
Gravel said that if successful, the prosecution of Manning and possibly Snowden would give the Justice Department the Espionage Act victory that eluded it in the government's case against Ellsberg in the '70s.
Today, Ellsberg is widely acknowledged to have done something heroic and patriotic when he released documents related to the Vietnam War, and critics of Manning and Snowden have argued that "Snowden is no Ellsberg." But in his time, Ellsberg too was deemed a traitor by critics, and the Justice Department pursued charges against him until a judge finally tossed them out.
"I don't know why mainstream media hasn't woken up," said Gravel. "If it's a crime for Wikileaks to do it, if it's a crime for Manning to do it, if it's a crime for Snowden to do it, what about The Washington Post [which] revealed some of the stuff from Snowden?"