Daniel Ellsberg

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Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg in 2006
Born April 7, 1931 (1931-04-07) (aged 77)
Education Harvard University
Employer RAND Corporation
Known for The Pentagon Papers
Spouse(s) Patricia Marx
Children Robert Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg (born April 7, 1931) is a former American military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation who precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of government decision-making about the Vietnam War, to The New York Times and other newspapers.


[edit] Biography

Ellsberg grew up in Detroit and attended Cranbrook Kingswood School, then attended Harvard University, graduating with a Ph.D. in Economics in 1962 in which he described a paradox in decision theory now known as the Ellsberg paradox. He served as an officer in the Marine Corps for two years, and then became an analyst at the RAND Corporation.

A committed Cold Warrior, he served in the Pentagon in 1964 under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (and, in fact, was on duty on the evening of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, reporting the incident to McNamara). He then served for two years in Vietnam working for General Edward Lansdale as a civilian in the State Department, and became convinced that the Vietnam War was unwinnable. He further believed that nearly everyone in the Defense and State Departments felt, as he did, that the United States had no realistic chance of achieving victory in Vietnam, but that political considerations prevented them from saying so publicly. McNamara and others continued to state in press interviews that victory was "just around the corner." As the war continued to escalate, Ellsberg became deeply disillusioned.

[edit] The Pentagon Papers

After returning from Vietnam, Ellsberg went back to work at the RAND Corporation. As a Vietnam expert, he was invited, in 1967, to contribute to a top-secret study of classified documents regarding the conduct of the Vietnam War that had been commissioned by Defense Secretary McNamara. These documents, completed in 1968, later became known collectively as the Pentagon Papers. Because he held an extremely high-level security clearance, Ellsberg was one of very few individuals who had access to the complete set of documents. They revealed that the government had knowledge, early on, that the war would not likely be won, and that continuing the war would lead to many times more casualties than was ever admitted publicly. Further, the papers showed that high-ranking officials had a deep cynicism toward the public, as well as disregard for the loss of life and injury suffered by soldiers and civilians.

By 1969 Ellsberg had become disillusioned with the war, and quietly began attending anti-war events, while still remaining in his position at RAND. He experienced an epiphany attending a War Resisters League conference at Haverford College in August 1969, listening to a speech given by a draft resister named Randy Kehler, who calmly said he was "very excited" that he would soon be able to join his friends in prison[1]. Ellsberg described his reaction:

And he said this very calmly. I hadn't known that he was about to be sentenced for draft resistance. It hit me as a total surprise and shock, because I heard his words in the midst of actually feeling proud of my country listening to him. And then I heard he was going to prison. It wasn't what he said exactly that changed my worldview. It was the example he was setting with his life. How his words in general showed that he was a stellar American, and that he was going to jail as a very deliberate choice — because he thought it was the right thing to do. There was no question in my mind that my government was involved in an unjust war that was going to continue and get larger. Thousands of young men were dying each year. I left the auditorium and found a deserted men's room. I sat on the floor and cried for over an hour, just sobbing. The only time in my life I've reacted to something like that.[2]

Ellsberg, deciding he was willing to go to prison if need be, wondered what he could do to help end the war. He realized he had possession of the 7,000 pages of documents that came to be known as the Pentagon papers in his safe. In late 1969, with the assistance of his former RAND Corporation colleague, Anthony Russo, he secretly made several sets of photocopies of the papers (which was, in itself, a difficult undertaking). Throughout 1970, Ellsberg covertly attempted to persuade a few sympathetic U.S. Senators — among them J. William Fulbright, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and George McGovern, a leading opponent of the war — to release the papers on the Senate floor, because a Senator could not be prosecuted for anything he said on-the-record before the Senate. Ellsberg told U.S. Senators that they should be prepared to go to jail in order to end the Vietnam War.[3]

When these efforts came to naught, Ellsberg finally leaked the documents to New York Times correspondent Neil Sheehan. On Sunday, June 13, 1971, the Times published the first of nine excerpts and commentaries on the 7,000 page collection. For 15 days, the Times was prevented from publishing its articles by court order requested by the Nixon administration. Meanwhile, Ellsberg leaked the documents to The Washington Post and 17 other newspapers [4][5]. On June 30, the Supreme Court ordered publication of the Times to resume freely (New York Times Co. v. United States). Although the Times did not reveal Ellsberg as their source, he knew that the FBI would soon determine that he was the source of the leak. Ellsberg went underground for sixteen days, living secretly among like-minded people until deciding to turn himself in on June 28. He was not caught by the FBI, even though it was under enormous pressure from the Nixon Administration to find him.

On June 29, 1971, U.S. Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska entered 4,100 pages of the Papers into the record of his Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds, which he had received from Ellsberg via Ben Bagdikian. These portions of the Papers were subsequently published by Beacon Press.[6]

Randy Kehler never thought his going to prison would end the war. If I hadn't met Randy Kehler it wouldn't have occurred to me to copy those papers. His actions spoke to me as no mere words would have done. He put the right question in my mind at the right time.[7]

[edit] Fallout

Nixon's Oval Office tape from June 14 shows H. R. Haldeman describing the situation to Nixon:

To the ordinary guy, all this is a bunch of gobbledygook. But out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing: You can't trust the government; you can't believe what they say; and you can't rely on their judgment. And the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the President wants to do even though it's wrong, and the President can be wrong.

The release of these papers was politically embarrassing to the Johnson and Kennedy administrations but also to the incumbent Nixon administration. John Mitchell, Nixon's Attorney General, almost immediately issued a telegram to the Times ordering that it halt publication. The Times refused, and the government brought suit against it.

Although the Times eventually won the trial before the Supreme Court, an appellate court ordered that the Times temporarily halt further publication. This was not the first successful attempt by the federal government to restrain the publication of a newspaper, as Lincoln illustrated during the Civil War. Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers to other newspapers in rapid succession, making it clear to the government that they would have to obtain injunctions against every newspaper in the country to stop the story. The right of the press to publish the papers was upheld in New York Times Co. v. United States.

As a response to the leaks, the Nixon administration began a campaign against further leaks and against Ellsberg personally. Aides Egil Krogh and David Young under John Ehrlichman's supervision created the "White House Plumbers," which would later lead to the Watergate burglaries.

[edit] Fielding break-in

In August 1971, Krogh and Young met with G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt in a basement office in the Old Executive Office Building. Hunt and Liddy recommended a "covert operation" to get a "mother lode" of information about Ellsberg's mental state to discredit him. Krogh and Young sent a memo to Ehrlichman seeking his approval for a "covert operation [to] be undertaken to examine all of the medical files still held by Ellsberg’s psychiatrist." Ehrlichman approved under the condition that it be "done under your assurance that it is not traceable." [8]

On September 3, 1971, the burglary of Lewis Fielding's office, titled "Hunt/Liddy Special Project No.1" in Ehrlichman's notes, was carried out by Hunt, Liddy and CIA agents Eugenio Martinez, Felipe de Diego and Bernard Barker. The "Plumbers" failed to find Ellsberg's file. Hunt and Liddy subsequently planned to break into Fielding's home, but Ehrlichman did not approve the second burglary.

The break-in was not known to Ellsberg or to the public until it came to light during Ellsberg and Russo's trial in April, 1973.

[edit] Trial and mistrial

On June 28, 1971, Ellsberg publicly surrendered to the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts in Boston. He was taken into custody believing he would spend the rest of his life in prison; he and Russo faced charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 and other charges including theft and conspiracy, carrying a total maximum sentence of 115 years. Their trial commenced January 3, 1973, presided over by Judge William Byrne.

On April 26, the break-in of Fielding's office was revealed to the court in a memo to Judge Byrne, who then ordered it to be shared with the defense [9][10].

On May 9, further evidence of illegal wiretapping against Ellsberg was revealed in court. The FBI had recorded numerous conversations between Morton Halperin and Ellsberg without a court order, and furthermore the prosecution had failed to share this evidence with the defense [11][12].

During the trial, Byrne also revealed that he personally met twice with John Ehrlichman, who offered him directorship of the FBI. Byrne said he refused to consider the offer while the Ellsberg case was pending, though he was criticized for even agreeing to meet with Ehrlichman during the case [13].

Due to the gross governmental misconduct and illegal evidence gathering, and the defense by Leonard Boudin and Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, Judge Byrne dismissed all charges against Ellsberg and Russo on May 11, 1973 after the government claimed it had "lost" records of wiretapping against Ellsberg. Byrne ruled: "The totality of the circumstances of this case which I have only briefly sketched offend a sense of justice. The bizarre events have incurably infected the prosecution of this case."[14]

As a result of the revelation of the Fielding break-in during the trial, Ehrlichman, H. R. Haldeman, Richard Kleindienst and John Dean were forced out of office on April 30, and all would later be convicted of crimes related to the Watergate scandal. Egil Krogh later pled guilty to conspiracy, and White House counsel Charles Colson pled no contest for obstruction of justice in the burglary. In 1977, Halperin won a symbolic $5 civil judgment against Nixon for being illegally surveilled.

Ellsberg later claimed that after his trial ended Watergate prosecutor William H. Merrill informed him of an aborted plot by Liddy and the "plumbers" to have 12 Cuban-Americans who had previously worked for the CIA to "totally incapacitate" Ellsberg as he appeared at a public rally, though it is unclear whether that meant to assassinate Ellsberg or merely to hospitalize him [15][16].

[edit] Later life

In the following quote, Ellsberg reflects a bit about his time in government.

Well, I had been consulting for the government, and this is now ’64, for about six years at that point, since ’58, in particular since ’59: Eisenhower, Kennedy, and now Johnson. And I had seen a lot of classified material by this time—I mean, tens of thousands of pages—and had been in a position to compare it with what was being said to the public. The public is lied to every day by the President, by his spokespeople, by his officers. If you can’t handle the thought that the President lies to the public for all kinds of reasons, you couldn’t stay in the government at that level, or you’re made aware of it, a week. … The fact is Presidents rarely say the whole truth—essentially, never say the whole truth—of what they expect and what they’re doing and what they believe and why they’re doing it and rarely refrain from lying, actually, about these matters.[17]

Since the end of the Vietnam War, Ellsberg has continued his political activism, giving lecture tours and speaking out about current events. During the runup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq he warned of a possible "Tonkin Gulf scenario" that could be used to justify going to war, and called on government "insiders" to go public with information to counter the Bush administration's pro-war propaganda campaign, praising Scott Ritter for his efforts in that regard.[18] He later provoked criticism from the Bush administration for supporting British GCHQ translator Katharine Gun and calling on others to leak any papers that reveal government deception about the invasion.[19] Ellsberg also testified at the 2004 conscientious objector hearing of Camilo Mejia at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.[19]

Ellsberg was arrested, in November 2005, for violating a county ordinance for trespassing while protesting against George W. Bush's conduct of the Iraq War. [20]

In September 2006, Ellsberg wrote in Harper's Magazine that he hoped someone would leak information about a supposed U.S. invasion of Iran before the invasion happened, to stop the war. [21]

Ellsberg is the recipient of the Inaugural Ron Ridenhour Courage Award, a prize established by The Nation Institute and The Fertel Foundation.[citation needed] On September 28, 2006 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award.[citation needed]

In November 2007, Daniel Ellsberg was interviewed by Brad Friedman on his Bradblog in regards to former FBI translator turned whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. "I'd say what she has is far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers", Ellsberg told Friedman. [22]

In a speech on March 30, 2008 in San Francisco's Unitarian Universalist church, Ellsberg observed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn't really have the authority to declare impeachment "off the table." The oath of office members of congress take require them to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic". He also argued that under the U.S. Constitution, treaties, including the United Nations Charter, become the supreme law of the land that neither the states, the president, nor the congress have the power to break. For example, if congress votes to authorize an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation, that authorization wouldn't make the attack legal. A president citing the authorization as just cause could be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court for war crimes, and it is the duty of congress to impeach the offending president regardless of any agreements that may have been made.[citation needed]

[edit] Books

[edit] Movie

  • The Pentagon Papers (2003) is a historical film directed by Rod Holcomb about the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg involvement in their publication. Movie documented Ellsberg's life starting with his work for RAND Corp and ending with the day on which the judge declared his espionage trial a mistrial.

[edit] Further reading

  • Official name of the Pentagon Papers: "History of United States Decision-Making Process on Vietnam Policy, 1945-1967".
  • The New York Times version of Pentagon Papers: June 13, 14, 15 and July 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, 1971. Late in this year this edited version was published in the book "The Pentagon Papers as published by N.Y. Times", Bantam Books, Toronto - New York - London, 1971.
  • "United States-Vietnam Relations 1945-67, Department of Defense Study", 12 vols., Government Printing Office, Washington, 1971. This is the official and complete edition of the Pentagon Papers, published by the Government after the release by the press.
  • UNGAR, Sanford, "The Papers and the Papers. An account of the legal and political battle over the Pentagon Papers", E.P. Dutton & Co, New York, 1972.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Thomas, Marlo; et al (2002), The Right Words at the Right Time, New York: Atria books, pp. 100-103 
  2. ^ Thomas, et al (2002) p. 102
  3. ^ Sanford J. Ungar, The Papers & The Papers, An Account of the Legal and Political Battle Over the Pentagon Papers, 1972, E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., NY. p. 127
  4. ^ H. Bruce Franklin (July 9, 2001), "Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers", The Nation, http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~hbf/ELLSBERG.htm 
  5. ^ NNDB: Daniel Ellsberg, http://www.nndb.com/people/426/000023357/, retrieved on 2008-07-15 
  6. ^ "The Pentagon Papers, Senator Mike Gravel, Beacon Press". http://www.beacon.org/catalogs/pentagonpapers.html. Retrieved on December 5 2005. 
  7. ^ Thomas, et al (2002) p. 103
  8. ^ Krogh, Egil (June 30, 2007), "The Break-In That History Forgot", New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/30/opinion/30krogh.html 
  9. ^ "Practicing on Ellsberg", TIME, May 7, 1973, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,907160,00.html 
  10. ^ "Judge William Byrne; Ended Trial Over Pentagon Papers", Washington Post: C09, January 15, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/14/AR2006011401165.html 
  11. ^ Correll, John T. (February 2007), "The Pentagon Papers", Air Force Magazine 90 (2), http://www.afa.org/magazine/feb2007/0207pentagon.asp 
  12. ^ Washington Post (2006) Ibid.
  13. ^ Washington Post (2006) Ibid.
  14. ^ Washington Post (2006) Ibid.
  15. ^ "Nixon White House Counsel John Dean and Pentagon Papers Leaker Daniel Ellsberg on Watergate and the Abuse of Presidential Power from Nixon to Bush", Democracy Now!, April 27, 2006, http://www.democracynow.org/2006/4/27/exclusive_nixon_white_house_counsel_john 
  16. ^ "COLD WAR Chat: Daniel Ellsberg, Anti-war activist", COLD WAR, January 10, 1999, http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/guides/debate/chats/ellsberg/ 
  17. ^ “Presidential Decisions and Public Dissent”, Conversations with History, July 29, 1998
  18. ^ http://logosonline.home.igc.org/ellsberg.pdf
  19. ^ a b http://www.expertwitnessradio.org/archives/ellsberg.html
  20. ^ Antiwar Protesters Arrested Near Bush Ranch
  21. ^ The next war Harper's Magazine
  22. ^ [1]

[edit] External links

NAME Ellsberg, Daniel
SHORT DESCRIPTION military analyst and anti-war activist
DATE OF BIRTH April 7, 1931
PLACE OF BIRTH Detroit, Michigan, United States
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