Learn more. Subscribe today!

Daniel Ellsberg

Whistleblower, Former Official of the State and Defense Departments

Daniel Ellsberg worked as a United States military analyst and is most widely recognized for his role of releasing "The Pentagon Papers", a Top Secret study of decisions made and carried out during the Vietnam War. Ellsberg began work on the Pentagon papers in 1967, with Top Secret clearance from his earlier work at the RAND Corporation and as an official of the Defense and State Departments. The classified analysis and  documents in the 7000-page study revealed that the Johnson Administration deceived the Congress and the general public by grossly overestimating its ability to win the Vietnam War, misrepresenting its reasons for escalating it, and underestimating the vast casualties that would result from it. In 1969 Ellsberg copied the entire study and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  In 1971, he gave most of it to the New York Times, and when its publication was enjoined (for the first time in U.S. history) he furnished it to eighteen other papers while being hunted by the FBI. The Supreme Court ruled against the injunctions, but Ellsberg faced twelve felony charges for a possible sentence of 115 years before his case was dismissed on grounds of criminal governmental misconduct against him by the White House.  Ellsberg remains politically active and stands by the notion that the President, and more largely the government, lies to the public on a daily basis and that unauthorized disclosures are vital to democracy.. Today he is a board member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and appears regularly in the media public political forums.