Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst best known for leaking American military secrets, known as the Pentagon Papers, during the Vietnam War, died Friday, his family announced in a statement on Twitter.
While working as an analyst for the RAND Corporation, Ellsberg leaked 7,000 pages of Defense Department documents to The New York Times, which published them in 1971. The documents revealed that the U.S. government had misled the American public about the scope of the Vietnam War. His death comes months after publicly announcing his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
“Daniel was a seeker of truth and a patriotic truth-teller, an antiwar activist, a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, a dear friend to many, and an inspiration to countless more,” his family said. “He will be dearly missed by all of us.”
I wrote this letter recently to my friends in the antiwar and anti-nuclear movements. I see it’s being circulated, so I’ve decided to share it here. For all of you working on these issues, thank you, and please keep going! pic.twitter.com/8BIerLHD2U
— Daniel Ellsberg (@DanielEllsberg) March 2, 2023
Initially Ellsberg wanted to give the documents to U.S. Congress members and officials, but upon their refusal, he then leaked them to the media.
When the Pentagon Papers were published in The New York Times, then-President Richard Nixon barred the paper from publishing the documents, prompting Ellsberg to leak documents to The Washington Post. However, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the newspapers in June 1971 in The New York Times Co. v. United States.
“I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public… I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision,” Ellsberg said when he surrendered to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston before the court decision was made.
Ellsberg was charged with espionage, theft, and conspiracy for their role in the leak and had to go on trial in Los Angeles. If convicted, Ellsberg would have had to face 115 years in prison. The case was ruled a mistrial 1973 by a federal judge after the U.S. government attempted to break into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s apartment.
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