Daniel Ellsberg

ellsberg_cropPentagon Papers Whistleblower

Ideal Use: politics, history, Iran-Contra, CIA programs, dangers of nuclear era and unlawful interventions

Daniel Ellsberg was born in Detroit in 1931. After graduating from Harvard in 1952 with a B.A. Summa cum Laude in Economics, he studied for a year at King’s College, Cambridge University, on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Between 1954 and 1957, Ellsberg spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving as rifle platoon leader, operations officer, and rifle company commander.

From 1957-59 he was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows, Harvard University . He earned his Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard in 1962 with his thesis, Risk, Ambiguity and Decision. In 1959, he became a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation, and consultant to the Department of Defense and the White House, specializing in problems of the command and control of nuclear weapons, nuclear war plans, and crisis decision-making.

He joined the Defense Department in 1964 as Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs) John McNaughton, working on Vietnam . He transferred to the State Department in 1965 to serve two years at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon , evaluating pacification on the front lines.

On return to the RAND Corporation in 1967, he worked on the Top Secret McNamara study of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam , 1945-68, which later came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1969, he photocopied the 7,000 page study and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; in 1971 he gave it to the New York Times, Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. His trial, on twelve felony counts posing a possible sentence of 115 years, was dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, which led to the convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.

Since the end of the Vietnam War he has been a lecturer, writer and activist on the dangers of the nuclear era and unlawful interventions as well as on the urgent need for patriotic whistle-blowing.


Reviews of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

Winner, PEN Center USA Award for Creative Nonfiction, 2003

Winner, American Book Award, 2003

Co-Winner, Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Prize for Non-Fiction, 2003

Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, 2003

To see the full reviews, click on the publication names:

“. . . should be required reading in the aftermath of the Iraq War. . .” — New York Review of Books

“As our understanding of the Vietnam War deepens with time and the experience of subsequent conflicts, we are likely to see Daniel Ellsberg’s Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers as a foundational document, a primary source on what was surely the greatest and defining catastrophe in 20th-century American history.” — San Francisco Bay Guardian

“‘Secrets’ will be of value to readers interested in recent history for the light it sheds on America ‘s engagement in Vietnam . But it bears also on the present. It reminds us of the importance of dissent within democracies in time of war—a test that, with regard to Vietnam at least, America can claim to have passed, thanks in the end to its press, its courts and the courage of troublemakers like Mr Ellsberg.” — The Economist