Ellsberg, Daniel 1931-

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ELLSBERG, Daniel 1931-

PERSONAL: Born April 7, 1931, in Detroit, MI; son of Harry Ellsberg (a structural engineer); married Carol Cummings, 1952 (divorced); married Patricia Marx, August 8, 1970; children: (first marriage) Robert, Mary. Education: Harvard University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1952, M.A., 1953, Ph.D., 1962. Hobbies and other interests: Swimming, skiing.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Penguin Putnam, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014. E-mail— [email protected] (son).

CAREER: Defense policy analyst, writer, activist. RAND Corp., Santa Monica, CA, analyst, 1959-64; U.S. Defense Department, Washington, DC, staff member of Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, John McNaughton, 1964-65; U.S. State Department, adviser in South Vietnam, 1965-67, assistant to U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, Saigon, 1967; RAND Corp., analyst, 1967-69; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for International Studies, Cambridge, senior research associate, 1969—. Served on the strategy task force of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, 1980s; Manhattan Project II, Physicians for Social Responsibility, director, 1990s. Military service: U.S. Marine Corps, 1954-57.

AWARDS, HONORS: Woodrow Wilson fellow, 1952; PEN award for creative nonfiction, American Book award, and Bay Area Book Reviewers Association prize (shared), all 2003, all for Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers; Tom Paine Award and Gandhi Peace Award.


Papers on the War, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1972.

Risk, Ambiguity, and Decision (originally presented as doctoral thesis, Harvard University, 1962), Garland (New York, NY), 2001.

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, Viking (New York, NY), 2002.

Author of numerous pamphlets published by the RAND Corp.

SIDELIGHTS: Daniel Ellsberg became a political activist in the 1970s when he released the infamous Pentagon Papers to the press in a move that set off a volatile controversy over the government's suppression of facts regarding the war in Vietnam. In doing so, Ellsberg provided the press and the American people with the truth, which countered the fabrications that had been constructed to maintain support of the failing conflict.

Ellsberg was born in Detroit, Michigan, during the Great Depression. Ellsberg's talent showed early in his academic career. He attended Harvard on scholarship and served as president of the Advocate, the undergraduate magazine, and on the editorial board of the Crimson. He studied economics at Cambridge on a fellowship, then returned to Harvard for his master's degree. He learned firsthand about the value of a strong military when he served two years with the Marines.

His experiences helped shape his opinions on foreign policy as a consultant at the RAND Corporation, a think tank that worked for the Defense Department. He published many papers and was a consultant to President John F. Kennedy. In 1964 and 1965, he worked for the Pentagon as an advisor to the assistant secretary of defense, and he actively lobbied for military involvement in Southeast Asia.

In 1965, Ellsworth requested that he be granted leave to go to Vietnam, and during the next year and a half, he patrolled the jungles with army battalions in the Mekong Delta and became close to the journalists covering the conflict. It was during this period that he began to have second thoughts as to the wisdom of America's involvement, as he witnessed untold destruction to Vietnam and its people, American aggression, and the corrupt power of the South Vietnamese government.

When he returned to the States, at the request of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Ellsberg was involved with the compilation of a top-secret forty-seven volume report on American policy in Vietnam, which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. Its contents disturbed Ellsworth, who felt the American people had a right to know the details. He photocopied it with the help of RAND colleague Anthony J. Russo and approached Democratic Senators J. William Fulbright, George McGovern, and Mike Gravel, all of whom declined to use it, as did other opponents of the war. Finally, he offered it to New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan, and the paper published the first installment on June 13, 1971.

There was the to-be-expected furor over the revelation that Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon had all exceeded their powers in conducting the war, and had misled the American people. U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell invoked the Espionage Act, and the Times was forbidden by court injunction from continuing the series. Ellsberg then leaked the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, and in so doing, he sacrificed his career.

The United States government sued the Times and the Post, but the Supreme Court voted six to three in favor of the press on June 30, 1971, and the Times resumed publishing the report. Ellsworth, who had gone into hiding, surrendered to federal marshals in Boston on June 28, denying that he had broken any law. He was charged with a breach of the Espionage Act and twelve other charges. Russo was also charged. Because of procedural problems, a mistrial was declared by Judge Matthew Byrne, Jr. on December 8, 1972.

When Ellsworth went on trial in May 1973, with a new jury, government witnesses were called, including Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., McGeorge Bundy, and John Kenneth Galbraith, who testified that the top-secret classification was routinely used, no matter what the content. Before the case went to the jury, Judge Byrne revealed a number of relevant facts. On April 27, he released a Justice Department memorandum that said that Watergate conspirators G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt had broken into the office of Ellsworth's former psychiatrist, Lewis J. Fielding, in an attempt to uncover damning evidence against Ellsworth. Soon after, it was learned that Nixon's domestic affairs advisor, John Ehrlichman, had ordered the break-in. Byrne also made it known that Erlichman had offered him the directorship of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). On May 9, it was revealed that the FBI had wiretapped the telephones of Ellsberg's friend and head of the study that resulted in the Pentagon Papers, Morton Halperin. When Byrne ordered the prosecution to turn over transcripts of conversations, the government claimed that all the records had been lost.

A mistrial was declared on May 11, and all charges were dropped against Ellsworth and Russo. Indictments against Ehrlichman, Liddy, and others were handed down in September 1973, for the Fielding office burglary, and in July, 1974, they were all found guilty. The same "plumbers" used against Ellsworth also broke into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington in 1972, and the illegal government activities in Ellsberg's case added fuel to that fire, all of which eventually led to an investigation into a cover-up and attempted bribery by Nixon, and Nixon's resignation.

Ellsworth stayed active in the antiwar movement, speaking at rallies and on campuses across the country. He later spoke on behalf of disarmament and against nuclear weapons, and in 1976, he was arrested with others who demonstrated in front of the Pentagon.

New York Times Book Review contributor Max Frankel wrote of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, that "there are no new government secrets in Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets. But you can hardly blame him for finally ruminating after the age of seventy-one on the familiar yet still startling events thirty years ago when his history and the nation's fatefully collided."

Houston Chronicle reviewer Bruce Ramsey noted that at the time, Ellsberg was considered to be a traitor by many. "He was not," noted Ramsey, "nor in this book is he an apologist for the communists or their system. He is a liberal. Liberals should like this book a lot—particularly now, when they seem unsure of their own bearings. Conservatives, who resented Ellsberg thirty years ago, might tackle Secrets with a new appreciation. His targets are just as often Democrats as Republicans, and one can easily accept his entire story as a tale of the mendacity of Big Government."

The book was reviewed in Christian Century by Tran Van Dinh, who called Ellsberg's "the moving story of an enlightened citizen who dared to 'speak truth to power' and had faith in the protection afforded him by the Bill of Rights. It is an important book for any concerned citizen, especially now when, in the aftermath of September 11, we face a situation very different from and far more serious than our involvement in Vietnam."

Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell interviewed Ellsberg in January 2003, as the United States involvement in Iraq was escalating, and asked him to explain what he saw as the differences between the beginnings of Vietnam and Iraq. Ellsberg replied that "One difference with Vietnam in 1964 is: we now know we are headed to a big war with a lot of troops. But still, the public feels it will be short and cheap, like the Gulf War, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. They expect that model. Why? Has the press failed to pursue other scenarios? The administration has mainly conveyed what its top civilian leaders seem to believe—or want us to believe—that this war can be as quick and cheap as those examples. There seems to be no military leader who has that same confidence."

Ellsworth warned editors against accepting as pure truth statements made by government officials. He noted that in the foreign press, "you'll see a lot of serious discussion of a 'war for oil,' and even the pros and cons of that, and I don't see that in the American press." Ellsworth also questioned whether we have ever gotten factual numbers of American deaths in Vietnam, or even in the Gulf War. "I believe we do not have enough unauthorized disclosures. What we call leaks, nine times out of ten, are authorized, within the practice of 'information management' in the government. When Rumsfeld complains about leaks, he means only the ones he did not authorize."

Ellsworth concluded the interview by saying that "this government, like in Vietnam, is lying us into a war. Like Vietnam, it's a reckless, unnecessary war, where the risks greatly outweigh any possible benefits. I'd make this argument to insiders: Don't do what I did. Don't keep your mouth shut when you know people are being lied to. Tell the truth before the bombs are falling, while there's still a chance to do something about it."

William O'Rourke, who reviewed Secrets in the National Catholic Reporter, commented that the book "is almost too pertinent today, given the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy in all things. It is difficult to imagine Donald Rumsfeld ordering a comprehensive study of America's involvement in the Middle East generally and various countries specifically. One can only fear that the blunders made and lies told will be kept forever from public view, because no one in the Bush orbit will grow too sick at what is being done to defect and tell all."



Arms, Thomas S., editor, Encyclopedia of the Cold War, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1994, p. 187.

Cold War 1945-1991: Leaders and Other Important Figures in the United States and Western Europe (three volumes), [Detroit, MI], 1992, 160-162.

Ellsberg, Daniel, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, Viking (New York, NY), 2002.

Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Pentagon Papers: As Published by the New York Times, Bantam (New York, NY), 1971.

Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States Decisionmaking on Vietnam (five volumes), Beacon (Boston, MA), 1971-72.

Tucker, Spencer C., editor, Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War, ABC-CLIO (Santa Barbara, CA), 1998.


America, December 9, 2002, Thomas Murphy, review of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, p. 24.

Booklist, September 1, 2002, Mary Carroll, review of Secrets, p. 2.

Christian Century, February 22, 2003, Tran Van Dinh, review of Secrets, p. 57.

Commentary, November, 2002, Jacob Heilbrunn, review of Secrets, p. 75.

Economist, October 5, 2002, review of Secrets.

Editor & Publisher, January 27, 2003, Greg Mitchell, "Q-and-A: Daniel Ellsberg" (interview), p. 18.

Houston Chronicle, November 3, 2002, Bruce Ramsey, review of Secrets, p. 21.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of Secrets, p. 1092.

Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Karl Helicher, review of Secrets, p. 69.

Nation, December 23, 2002, David Rudenstine, review of Secrets, p. 33.

National Catholic Reporter, November 22, 2002, William O'Rourke, review of Secrets, p. 14.

Naval War College Review, summer, 2003, Ken Hagan, review of Secrets, p. 168.

New York Times Book Review, November 17, 2002, Max Frankel, review of Secrets, p 12.

Publishers Weekly, September 16, 2002, review of Secrets, p. 60.

Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2002, Philip Terzian, review of Secrets, p. D8.


Daniel Ellsberg Home Page,http://www.ellsberg.net (April 29, 2004).*