Edward Snowden's Whistleblowing Predecessors: 'Even Your Natural Allies Don't Want to Touch You'

As the US Congress prepared to pass the first reform of government surveillance programmes in a decade, two former enemies of the state were in reflective mood.
Daniel Ellsberg and Thomas Drake are two whistleblowers who pre-date Edward Snowden. Ellsberg became famous worldwide for leaking the Pentagon papers, the top secret 7,000-page document detailing US strategy in south-east Asia from 1945 to 1967 and revealed the hidden scale of the Vietnam war, to the New York Times in 1971. Drake is a former NSA staffer who was charged under the Espionage Act in 2010 for handing documents that showed waste and inefficiencies at the heart of the agency’s surveillance programmes to a journalist at the Baltimore Sun. “It’s in the right direction, but very minimal,” says Ellsberg, speaking in London 24 hours after the Senate forced a suspension of the NSA’s surveillance powers. For Drake, who was also speaking in London on Monday, the vote is dramatic.
“This is the first time since 9/11 that any publicly known legislation has changed,” he says. “Mitch McConnell was unable as majority leader to push through what he wanted.”