Pentagon Papers Whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, Passes Away at 92

by Ethan Kim

Daniel Ellsberg, the renowned whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers, thereby unearthing hidden truths about the Vietnam War, and whose actions instigated President Richard Nixon’s vindictive measures leading to his own downfall, has passed away at the age of 92.

The news of Ellsberg’s death, who in February had publicly disclosed his terminal pancreatic cancer, came via a statement from his family on Friday morning, delivered by spokesperson, Julia Pacetti.

Before the early 1970s, when he publicly admitted being the source behind the groundbreaking media disclosures about the 47-volume, 7,000-page Defense Department study of the U.S.’s role in Indochina, Ellsberg was an integral part of the government-military echelon. As a Harvard alumnus and a self-proclaimed “cold warrior”, Ellsberg, who in the 1960s acted as a consultant to the government on Vietnam, placed himself in harm’s way on the battlefield, possessed the highest security clearances, and earned the trust of officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations.

His discretion was particularly appreciated, as he later remarked. Yet, like many other Americans, both inside and outside the government, he had grown increasingly disillusioned with the protracted war in Vietnam, and the government’s assertions that the conflict could be won, and that a victory by North Vietnam over the U.S.-backed South would lead to communism spreading throughout the region. However, unlike many war dissenters, Ellsberg found himself uniquely positioned to effect change.

In his 2002 memoir, “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers”, he wrote, “An entire generation of Vietnam-era insiders had become just as disillusioned as I with a war they saw as hopeless and interminable. By 1968, if not earlier, they all wanted, as I did, to see us out of this war.”

Ellsberg was recognized as a paragon of individual conscience, responding only to his moral compass, even at the cost of his personal liberty. Late author and Vietnam War correspondent David Halberstam, who was acquainted with Ellsberg during their time overseas, characterized him as an extraordinary convert. He was highly intelligent, extraordinarily inquisitive, and deeply empathetic, a natural evangelist who “saw political events in terms of moral absolutes” and demanded repercussions for misuse of power.

Likewise, Ellsberg represented the downfall of American idealism in foreign policy during the 1960s and 1970s and the disruption of the post-World War II consensus to oppose Communism globally.

The Pentagon Papers, commissioned in 1967 by then-Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara, a fervent public supporter of the war, aimed to provide a comprehensive history of U.S.-Vietnam relations and guide his successors away from his own eventual confessions of error. The study spanned over 20 years, from the failed French colonization attempts in the 1940s and 1950s to the intensifying involvement of the U.S., including the bombing raids and deployment of hundreds of thousands of ground troops during the Lyndon Johnson administration. Ellsberg was among those asked to contribute to the study, focusing specifically on 1961 when newly-elected President John F. Kennedy began sending advisors and support units.

First published by The New York Times in June 1971, followed by The Washington Post, The Big Big News, and numerous others, the classified documents revealed that the U.S. had contravened a 1954 agreement prohibiting foreign military presence in Vietnam, cast doubt on the viability of the South Vietnamese government, clandest in thread.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Daniel Ellsberg

Who was Daniel Ellsberg?

Daniel Ellsberg was a prominent whistleblower known for leaking the Pentagon Papers, which revealed the U.S. government’s deceit regarding the Vietnam War.

What were the Pentagon Papers?

The Pentagon Papers were a secret Department of Defense study of the U.S. political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967, which Ellsberg leaked to the press in 1971.

What was the significance of Ellsberg’s actions?

Ellsberg’s actions exposed governmental deceit about the Vietnam War, leading to President Nixon’s attempts to retaliate, which ultimately contributed to his resignation. The exposure also fueled public mistrust in the government, marking a significant shift in American politics.

What did Ellsberg do before he became a whistleblower?

Ellsberg was a well-placed member of the government-military elite, a Harvard graduate, and a “cold warrior”. He served as a private and government consultant on Vietnam throughout the 1960s, and was trusted by officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations.

How did Ellsberg’s actions impact the Nixon administration?

The leak prompted President Nixon to form a group, known as the “plumbers,” to prevent future leaks. Their activities, including illegal ones, ultimately contributed to the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon’s resignation.

What was Ellsberg’s later life like?

Ellsberg became an active free speech and anti-war activist, notably drawing parallels between U.S. involvement in Iraq and Vietnam. He also campaigned against nuclear arms proliferation and supported other whistleblowers.

When and how did Daniel Ellsberg die?

Ellsberg died in June 2023 at the age of 92, after announcing in February that he was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer.

More about Daniel Ellsberg

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TruthSeeker101 June 17, 2023 - 2:22 am

wow, the whistle-blower himself! Without him, who knows how long they’d kept us in the dark about Vietnam. RIP, Ellsberg.

AvidReader June 17, 2023 - 3:12 am

just finished his book “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers” its a real eye opener, sad to hear he passed.

LisaM1970 June 17, 2023 - 3:54 am

Isn’t he the one who leaked the pentagon papers? what a legend…God bless his soul.

HistoryBuff1986 June 17, 2023 - 8:27 am

Dang, one of the few guys who stood up against the system, and for truth. They don’t make ’em like that anymore! rip Ellsberg.

Anon536 June 17, 2023 - 11:56 am

Ellsberg… now that takes me back to the Vietnam era. Truly an interesting time in our history, he had guts I’ll tell ya that.

JimmyK82 June 17, 2023 - 1:20 pm

can’t believe Daniel’s gone, man. was a real hero to some of us, know what i mean? stuck it to the man, and all that. R.I.P.


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