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Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers Leaker, Dies at Age 92 of Pancreatic Cancer

Daniel Ellsberg, the iconic whistleblower who exposed the truth behind the Vietnam War through the release of the Pentagon Papers, passed away at the age of 92. His family confirmed that he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at his home in Kensington, California, on Friday morning. Throughout his life, Ellsberg remained a staunch advocate for truth and transparency, leaving an indelible mark on American history and the fight against government secrecy.

Daniel ellsberg: pentagon papers whistleblower dies aged 92 - bbc news
Image Source- BBC

Daniel Ellsberg Died

Born on April 7, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, Ellsberg grew up in Detroit and later attended Harvard University, where he graduated with a degree in economics in 1952. His path toward becoming a whistleblower and anti-war activist was shaped by his experiences working in the U.S. government and military.

During the 1960s, Ellsberg served as a consultant and analyst on Vietnam-related matters, earning the trust of officials in various administrations. However, witnessing the deceit and disillusionment surrounding the Vietnam War profoundly affected him. Believing in the power of truth, he made the courageous decision to expose the classified information that would become known as the Pentagon Papers.

The Pentagon Papers and Their Impact

Commissioned in 1967 by then-Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, the Pentagon Papers were a comprehensive study of the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. Ellsberg, among others, was involved in analyzing and contributing to the study, specifically focusing on the period from 1961 onward.

First published by The New York Times in June 1971, the release of the Pentagon Papers revealed that successive U.S. administrations had consistently misled the American public about the nature and progress of the war. The classified documents detailed secret expansions of the war into neighboring countries, doubts about the viability of the South Vietnamese government, and evidence of a profound gap between public statements and private actions.

Ellsberg’s bold act of whistleblowing sparked a nationwide debate about government transparency and accountability. The papers shattered the post-World War II consensus and eroded public trust in political leadership, ultimately contributing to growing opposition to the Vietnam War.

Legal Battles and Impact on American Politics

According to CBS News, As the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg faced significant legal repercussions. Charged with espionage and theft, he underwent trials in both Boston and Los Angeles. However, his case took unexpected turns due to the illegal activities of the Nixon administration, which sought to silence him and discredit his actions.

The trial in Boston resulted in a mistrial due to the government’s wiretapping of conversations between a defense witness and their attorney. In Los Angeles, charges against Ellsberg were dismissed when it was revealed that members of the infamous White House “plumbers” had burglarized Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. The illicit actions of the “plumbers” would later be connected to the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

Ellsberg’s courageous actions and the subsequent legal battles helped solidify the importance of freedom of the press and the public’s right to access information. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of The New York Times and other media outlets in the Pentagon Papers case established a significant precedent for First Amendment rights and the limitations on prior restraint by the government.

Legacy and Impact

Daniel Ellsberg will be remembered as an emblematic figure in the fight against government secrecy and as a champion of truth and accountability. His actions during the Vietnam War era revealed the power of whistleblowing and the impact it can have on shaping public discourse.

Beyond his role as a whistleblower

Ellsberg remained actively engaged in political and social issues throughout his life. He continued to advocate for nuclear disarmament, government transparency, and the protection of civil liberties. His commitment to truth and justice served as an inspiration to countless individuals seeking to challenge entrenched power structures.


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