Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

“There are times when they bite their tongues or keep their mouths shut because to reveal it would lose a relationship, or a job, or a career. Then you said, but there comes a time when the level of wrongness or inhumanity is so great that you have to cross over that line.” – Daniel Ellsberg

The first Edward Snowden was Daniel Ellsberg.

Daniel Ellsberg was a former RAND (California Think Tank) and Pentagon employee. After volunteering for the US Marine Corps and then becoming a platoon leader, he finished his graduate studies at Harvard and earned his Ph.D. [1]

Ellsberg’s involvement in the Pentagon and subsequently the Vietnam war was more than just nominal. In 1950, he visited South Vietnam with a group of researchers to look at alternative, non-nuclear assault options. In August of 1964, he began working for the Defense Department as an assistant to John McNaughton. [2]

His expertise in crisis decision-making and of nuclear weapons gave him access to secure, top-secret documents.

One of these classified documents was the Pentagon Papers, formerly known as the History of US decision making in Vietnam. This document spanned over 7000 pages and was contained in 47 volumes. [1]

After reading the Pentagon Papers, he decided to leak it to the American public in order to bring about an end to  US involvement in Vietnam.

Ellsberg realized that American involvement in Saigon was not justified, and that the deaths of thousands of Vietnamese¬† and Americans were a result of mass murders. He wanted to expose President Nixon’s lies and reveal to the American public that they were endlessly dumping money, resources and lives into an ‘unwinnable war.’ [1]

In a time when Wikileaks was not yet present, and social/digital media still yet to be born, his dissemination of classified information was fraught with difficulty. Ellsberg along with his anti-war friend, Anthony Russo, had to manually photocopy the 7,000 page document.

After leaking the document to the New York Times, he was forced into hiding where he later turned himself in to the FBI on espionage charges.

These charges were later dropped citing ‘a gross misconduct by the government’ [1] after a Supreme Court Judge, William Byrne, revealed that three Cuban-American Bay of Pigs veterans had broken into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in order to obtain files that would smear his name and denounce his credibility.

His truly genuine patriotic act was rewarded by the subsequent end of US involvement in Vietnam and the resignation of President Nixon.

Most recently, in 2014, Ellsberg has gone on to compliment the work of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. [3]

[1] http://law2.umkc.edu/Faculty/projects/ftrials/ellsberg/ellsbergaccount.html

[2] http://www.pbs.org/pov/mostdangerousman/timeline/

[3] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/07/daniel-ellsberg-snowden-honored-his-oath-better-than-anyone-in-the-nsa/375031/

[4] http://www.pbs.org/pov/mostdangerousman/the-penagon-papers-and-wikileaks/

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