TIME’s 1971 Cover Stories on Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

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Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old defense contractor, came forward over the weekend as the whistleblower who gave secret documents about the U.S. government’s surveillance of internet and phone records to the media last week. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he told the Guardian.

Now Snowden, who took refuge in Hong Kong last month, is being compared to Daniel Ellsberg, the former Pentagon analyst turned hero who in 1971 gave the New York Times the Pentagon Papers, 47 volumes of secret documents that exposed how the government had mismanaged the Vietnam War and lied about it. Ellsberg was the first person to be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act, but a judge dropped the charges when it was revealed that the Nixon White House had engaged in illegal wiretapping against Ellsberg.

TIME first summed up the significance of…

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