The man who 42 years ago leaked to The New York Times the 7,000-page report that became known as the Pentagon Papers called Edward Snowden's disclosure that revealed details of the U.S. government's domestic surveillance programs "as important as any disclosure that's ever been made."
Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the "Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force," a study detailing how the administration had misled Congress and the American public about the Vietnam War, joined HuffPost Live as part of a 90-minute town hall to discuss domestic surveillance in light of the disclosure of the PRISM program and the NSA's broad collection of Americans' telephone records.
Speaking from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ellsberg, 82, told HuffPost Live hosts Ahmed Shihab-Eldin and Josh Zepps that he, Snowden and accused WikiLeaks leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning "chose to give priority to our oath to defend and support the Constitution, rather than our promise to keep secrets for our boss or for our agency, when those secrets were concealing evidence that the Constitution was being violated."
But Ellsberg, who faced 12 felony counts for leaking the Pentagon Papers -- charges which were ultimately dropped -- said that Snowden "made the right choice." Ellsberg called PRISM, the program that allegedly collects user data from large technology companies like Google, Yahoo! and Facebook, as well as the NSA's broad collection of American's telephone records, "clearly unconstitutional."
AOL, which owns The Huffington Post, was revealed in the NSA document published by the Guardian and The Washington Post as one of the tech companies that participates in PRISM. AOL denies the claim.
Ellsberg also took issue with critics who've said that Snowden cared more about the threat to civil liberties than the threat of terrorism.
"That's ridiculous," Ellsberg said in a later interview with The Huffington Post, pointing to recent editorials by David Brooks and Thomas L. Friedman, both of The New York Times. "Look what his job is," Ellsberg said of Snowden. "He joined the Army. He worked for the CIA. He worked for the NSA … That's like saying that I, Daniel Ellsberg, couldn't have trust for authority. I was in the Marine Corps, and like Snowden, I was highly promoted."
NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, author Jeremy Scahill, "The Week" editor Marc Ambinder and Amy Goodman, the host of "Democracy Now," were among the panelists who participated in HuffPost Live's PRISM town hall.
Click here to watch the full interview with Daniel Ellsberg.