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WikiLeaks Case Draws Comparisons To Pentagon Papers

But while Ellsberg was 'whistleblower,' Manning seen as 'leaker'

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The case against Bradley Manning — the Army private at the center of the Wikileaks controversy — is being compared by some to that of former government analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who released the top-secret Pentagon Papers in 1971.

The release of the classified documents more than 40 years ago helped change opinion about the Vietnam War. It also put Ellsberg on trial for charges that carried a penalty of life in prison. But although the cases appear similar, there are clear differences, according to Victor Hanson, a former Judge Advocate Generals' officer and professor of law.

"In the Ellsberg case there was evidence that the Nixon administration was sending the plumbers out to tap phone lines and those kind of things in an effort to defame Ellsberg," says Hanson. "That's not the kind of situation we have with Manning's pre-trial confinement situation." 

The judge in Ellsberg's case declared a mistrial due to government misconduct and Ellsberg was set free. While Manning's supporters are hoping a judge will dismiss the 22 charges against him, some legal observers think the best Manning can hope for from his hearing is credit for time served. 

There's another difference, says Hanson, between Ellsberg — who was considered a "whistleblower," — and Manning, who's been characterized a "leaker."

"A whistleblower in my mind is someone who sees a problem, tries to rectify it, and none of that appears to be the case in Manning's situation," says Hanson. He s just a kid who got way more access to information than he should have been allowed to get then he just turned it over to WikiLeaks 

Hanson also points out Ellsberg was a private citizen in 1971, not an army private with a sworn obligation to uphold national security.

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