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Daniel Ellsberg

„What could I do to help shorten this war, now that I’m prepared to go to prison for it?“

Daniel „Dan“ Ellsberg (*7th April 1931 in Chicago) is a Harvard Economic which become an U.S. military analyst and Researcher. Later he become the first popular Whistleblower after he leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. He spend two years in Vietnam as a U.S. State Department observer and made the decision to risk his career and freedom to expose the deliberate misrepresentation of happenings and deceptions that shaped three decades of American foreign policy.

The Pentagon Papers are a 7,000-page top-secret study of U.S. Decision-making 1945-1968 in Vietnam, which showed the U.S. government's campaign of lies before and during the Vietnam War. In 1969, he photocopied the hole 7,000-pages and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 1971 Ellsberg released the documents to the New York Times, the Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. Full Pentagon Papers officially declassified on the 40th anniversary of their publication

When the New York Times start to print the story on 13th June 1971, the newly elected US government under Nixon tried to prevent further publication. Nixon said to his advisor Kissinger, “Let's get the son-of-a-bitch in jail!”

The papers revealed that verifyable plans and preperations for war had already been made, although US President Johnson claimed that he did not want to intervene in Vietnam. Furthermore, the Vietnam War was to continue, despite heavy losses on the American side.

He was the first whistleblower, which was accused of espionage. he was facing 115 years in prison. When it emerged that employees of President Nixon had broken into his psychiatrist's office, the case was dropped, allegedly because of “Procedural irregularities”. Later Ellsberg dedicated the rest of his life to peace activism and academia, is a lecturer, Scholar and writer.

In 1959, Ellsberg became a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation and a consultant to the Defense Department and the White House, specializing in problems of the command and control of nuclear weapons, nuclear war plans, and crisis decision-making. Ellsberg joined the Defense Department in 1964 as Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs) John McNaughton, working on the escalation of the war in Vietnam. In 1965 Ellsberg transferred to the State Department to serve two years at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, evaluating pacification in the field. After returning to the RAND Corporation in 1967, Ellsberg worked on the top-secret McNamara study, U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68, which later came to be known as the Pentagon Papers.

He was a vocal proponent of WikiLeaks. Julian Assange cited Ellsberg as an inspiration for its creation. In 2010 he was involved in Assange's publication.

“He invited me to a press conference in London to present the Iraq war protocols. It was his third publication. And I definitely supported it because it served the public interest. The first release was the video “Collateral Murder”. The second release was the Afghan war protocols. In the days following the press conference, I had several meetings with Julian. Although later the unedited versions of the war protocols were also released to the public, there is no evidence that they harmed anyone.”

“Nine times the Espionage Act was applied, in no case involving spies. This law should never be used against whistleblowers or leakers. Especially since it precludes the possibility of invoking the public interest or good in their defence. Of course it would be possible to write a law to that effect. Even though I don't think we need a law to deal with whistleblowers.”

National Archive

Original scanned pages of Pentagon Papers


1. Talk with Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange in the Frontline Club

2. Movie “The Post”


- Papers on the War, 1971
- Risk, Ambiguity, and Decision, 2001
- Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, 2002
- The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, 2017


- Winner, PEN Center USA Award for Creative Nonfiction, 2003
- Winner, American Book Award, 2003
- Co-Winner, Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Prize for Non-Fiction, 2003
- Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, 2003
- Right Livelihood Award, an honour that bills itself as the alternative Nobel Prize, 2006
- Olof Palme Prize, 2018

Further informations about Ellsberg.

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  • Last modified: 2020/05/20 12:30
  • by editor42