On Thursday morning, Daniel Ellsberg, government whistle-blower emeritus of Pentagon Papers fame, sat on a stage in midtown Manhattan and talked via Skype to Julian Paul Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who was calling in from Australia.
It was the first morning of the annual Personal Democracy Forum conference. A roomful of journalists, political operatives and tech-heads sat in the auditorium watching.
At one point during the conversation, Mr. Ellsberg noted that he had read the recent profile of Mr. Assange in The New Yorker.
“Assange is an international trafficker, of sorts,” wrote The New Yorker‘s Raffi Khatchadourian. “He and his colleagues collect documents and imagery that governments and other institutions regard as confidential and publish them on a Web site called WikiLeaks.org. Since it went online, three and a half years ago, the site has published an extensive catalogue of secret material, ranging from the Standard Operating Procedures at Camp Delta, in Guantánamo Bay, and the “Climategate” e-mails from the University of East Anglia, in England, to the contents of Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo account.”
Mr. Ellsberg said that years ago, when he first heard about the project, he initially thought that WikiLeaks was either (a) being launched by incredibly naïve people or (b) was a trap being set by the C.I.A.
As it turns out, WikiLeaks was neither.
And on Thursday morning, Mr. Ellsberg expressed his admiration of the site and said that it was still amazing to him that apparently the N.S.A. “can’t crack this organization.”
Mr. Assange, in turn, called Mr. Ellsberg one of his personal heroes.