Like Daniel Ellsberg, others who leaked US government secrets were seen as traitors and heroes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Daniel Ellsberg’s decision to release a secret Department of Defense study of the U.S. war in Vietnam — the Pentagon Papers — has made him a traitor in the eyes of the White House and its supporters and a hero. snapshot for opponents of war.

This has been the case for others who have released top secret information they believe to be evidence of official wrongdoing. While Ellsberg, who died on Friday, will be remembered in a largely positive light, the reputations of more recent figures are still disputed.

Here are some other examples of people who leaked government secrets:


Associate Director at the FBI, Felt was “Deep Throat,” the source who gave information about the Watergate break-in to the Washington Post in the 1970s.

Ellsberg’s publication of the Pentagon Papers indirectly led to Watergate. Furious at the study’s exposure, Nixon ordered an effort to dig up dirt on Ellsberg. Agents linked to the White House broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. Months later, five of them would be caught trying to break into the Democratic Party offices at Watergate.

A senior FBI official, Felt provided clues to Post editors Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they investigated the burglary and attempted to cover up. Journalists and congressional investigations eventually implicated Nixon, leading to his resignation.

“Deep Throat” became a shadowy star of the classic “All the President’s Men.” Felt came out in 2005, shortly before his death in 2008.


Snowden, 39, revealed how US intelligence agencies were secretly collecting huge amounts of phone calls, emails and other data from Americans, sparking a national debate about privacy and national security.

A contractor and systems engineer at the National Security Agency, Snowden showed how the NSA could seize data from US telecommunications companies and how it spied on Allied leaders in Washington, among other programs.

Shortly after the first stories were published with his cooperation in 2013, Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow with the intention of eventually traveling to Ecuador. The United States canceled his passport and he remained at a Moscow airport for weeks.

He would eventually settle in Moscow and speak remotely to audiences around the world about civil liberties and privacy. The Justice Department under former President Barack Obama charged him with espionage and theft in a case that remains active today.

A decade later, he remains in Russia and took Russian citizenship last year. His critics consider this decision as proof that he has undermined national security and that he should not be considered a hero.

On Friday on Twitter, Snowden said Ellsberg had hoped to spend his final hours reducing the risk of a nuclear exchange, calling him a “hero until the end.”


Manning, 35, gave over 700,000 documents to the WikiLeaks website while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010.

The documents included State Department cables and classified video of a helicopter attack by US forces shooting down a group of Iraqi men, including two Reuters journalists.

Manning was convicted in a military court of violating the Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years in prison. His sentence was commuted by Obama just before he left in January 2017.

She was then imprisoned for over a year for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.


Winner, 31, leaked a classified report about the Russian government’s efforts to break into voting software ahead of the 2016 US presidential election. She printed a copy of the report at an NSA office in Georgia and sent it to mailed to media.

Although authorities have never explicitly identified the outlet, the Justice Department announced his arrest in June 2017 on the same day The Intercept reported on a top-secret NSA document about the Russian hack.

She pleaded guilty in 2018 to a single count of transmitting national security information. Sentenced to a five-year sentence, she was finally released in early June 2021.

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