In 1971, a Pentagon military analyst, Daniel Ellsberg, followed his conscience and leaked
secret documents revealing U.S. government lies on the war in Vietnam. Tagged “the
most dangerous man in America” by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger,
Ellsberg faced 115 years in prison on espionage and conspiracy charges for releasing
the “Pentagon Papers.” Fighting back in the name of truth, he set in motion the chain of
events that helped end the Vietnam War.
Daniel Ellsberg continues his campaign for peace encouraging all of us to speak truth to
Detroit born and Harvard education, Daniel Ellsberg spent three years in the U.S. Marine
Corps. In 1959, Ellsberg became a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation, and
consultant to the Defense Department and the White House, on problems of the command
and control of nuclear weapons, nuclear war plans, and crisis decision-making. He
drafted the guidance from Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to the Joint Chiefs
of Staff on the operational plans for general nuclear war and was a member of two of
the three working groups reporting to the Executive Committee of the National Security
Council during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Ellsberg joined the Defense Department in 1964, working on the escalation of the war in
Vietnam. He transferred to the State Department in 1965 to serve two years at the U.S.
Embassy in Saigon, evaluating pacification in the field.
On return to the RAND Corporation in 1967, Ellsberg worked on the top secret
McNamara study of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68, which later came to be
known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1969, he photocopied the 7,000-page study and gave it
to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; in 1971 he gave it to the New York Times,
the Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. His trial, on twelve felony counts, was
dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, which led to the
convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings
against President Nixon.
Ellsberg is the author of three books: Papers on the War, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam
and the Pentagon Papers, and Risk, Ambiguity and Decision. In December 2006 he
was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,”
for “...putting peace and truth first, at considerable personal risk, and dedicating his life
to inspiring others to follow his example.” He is currently a Senior Fellow of the Nuclear
Age Peace Foundation.
His dramatic story inspired the film, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel
Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, which garnered a 2010 Academy Award nomination
for Best Documentary.