Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked Pentagon Papers, dies at 92

by Sophia Chen

Renowned whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, known for his pivotal role in leaking the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, has passed away at the age of 92. His courageous act of disclosing classified information shed light on the government’s deceit and skepticism surrounding the war, leading to significant consequences for President Richard Nixon, including his eventual resignation.

In February, Ellsberg revealed that he was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. On Friday, his family announced his death through a letter shared by spokeswoman Julia Pacetti, expressing gratitude for the love and support received during his final months.

Prior to his whistleblowing, Ellsberg occupied a prominent position within the government and military elite, earning the trust of officials across different administrations due to his expertise and discretion. However, his disillusionment with the Vietnam War, shared by many of his contemporaries, prompted him to take a stand.

The Pentagon Papers, a comprehensive study commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara, were intended to provide a historical account of the U.S.’s involvement in Vietnam. Ellsberg, who had access to the papers, decided to leak them to the media. The documents revealed that the U.S. had defied agreements, expanded the war covertly, and misled the public about its prospects for victory.

The revelation of Ellsberg as the source of the leak triggered a national controversy. He faced federal charges for espionage and theft, with potential sentences totaling over a century. However, due to Nixon’s intense hostility and the unlawful actions of those around him, Ellsberg managed to avoid imprisonment.

The publication of the Pentagon Papers was a turning point for the First Amendment, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the newspapers, rejecting prior restraint. Nixon’s administration, determined to retaliate against Ellsberg, formed a covert group known as the “plumbers,” which eventually led to the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s resignation.

Ellsberg’s story, depicted in the documentary “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” showcased his unwavering commitment to his principles. Throughout his later years, he continued to advocate for free speech, opposed the Iraq War, and campaigned against nuclear arms proliferation. He defended other whistleblowers such as Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden.

Daniel Ellsberg is survived by his second wife, journalist Patricia Marx, and three children. His legacy as a courageous whistleblower and advocate for transparency will continue to inspire future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about whistleblower

Who was Daniel Ellsberg?

Daniel Ellsberg was a prominent whistleblower who gained notoriety for leaking the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. He was a former government and military elite who became disillusioned with the war and decided to disclose classified information.

What were the Pentagon Papers?

The Pentagon Papers were a collection of classified documents commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara. They provided an extensive history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, revealing government doubts, deceit, and expansion of the war.

How did Daniel Ellsberg leak the Pentagon Papers?

Daniel Ellsberg, having access to the Pentagon Papers, leaked them to several major newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. The papers were published in 1971, exposing the government’s actions and triggering a national controversy.

What impact did the leak of the Pentagon Papers have?

The leak of the Pentagon Papers had a significant impact on public perception of the Vietnam War. It revealed the government’s misleading statements and covert actions, leading to increased public opposition and contributing to President Nixon’s resignation.

What was the Supreme Court ruling regarding the Pentagon Papers?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the newspapers that published the Pentagon Papers, affirming their right to freedom of the press and rejecting prior restraint. The ruling was a landmark decision in support of the First Amendment.

How did Daniel Ellsberg’s actions affect the Watergate scandal?

Daniel Ellsberg’s actions indirectly contributed to the Watergate scandal. President Nixon’s administration, seeking retaliation against Ellsberg, formed the “plumbers,” a covert group involved in illegal activities. The Watergate break-in, orchestrated by the plumbers, eventually led to Nixon’s resignation.

What were Daniel Ellsberg’s later activities?

In his later years, Daniel Ellsberg continued to be an advocate for transparency and social justice. He opposed the Iraq War, campaigned against nuclear arms proliferation, and defended other whistleblowers such as Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden.

More about whistleblower

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ActivistMindset June 17, 2023 - 5:37 am

Daniel Ellsberg’s commitment to justice and truth is truly commendable. He risked everything, including his own freedom, to bring to light the government’s deceit during the Vietnam War. His actions continue to inspire activists and whistleblowers today, reminding us of the importance of challenging authority and fighting for transparency.

BookLover87 June 17, 2023 - 7:42 am

Wow, I didn’t know much about Daniel Ellsberg before. His story is truly fascinating and inspiring. It’s incredible how one person’s actions can have such a profound impact on history. The leak of the Pentagon Papers was a turning point and a victory for freedom of the press.

Reader01 June 17, 2023 - 1:05 pm

daniel ellsberg was a grate man who risked evrything to show the truth. he was so brave leaking the pentagon papers during vietnam war. it helpt to expos the lies and deceit of the goverment. nixon got what he deservd!

CurrentEventsFan June 17, 2023 - 11:20 pm

It’s important to remember the significance of whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg. Their bravery in exposing government secrets sheds light on the truth and helps hold those in power accountable. Ellsberg’s legacy serves as a reminder of the power of individuals to make a difference and stand up for what they believe in.

HistoryBuff42 June 18, 2023 - 2:01 am

The Vietnam War was a tumultuous time, and Ellsberg’s whistleblowing revealed the dark underbelly of the government’s actions. It’s interesting to see how his decision to leak the documents influenced the Watergate scandal and ultimately led to Nixon’s downfall. A true hero in the fight for transparency!


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