Ellsberg, Daniel

Ellsberg, Daniel,

1931–, American political activist, b. Chicago, grad. Columbia Univ. (B.S., 1952, Ph.D., 1959). After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, he worked for the Rand Corporation (1959–64; 1967–70), conducting studies on defense policies. Originally a strong supporter of the Vietnam WarVietnam War,
conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divided (1954) Vietnam at 17° N lat.
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, he became a committed opponent of U.S. policy. In 1971 he gave the New York Times access to a secret history of the Vietnam War, commissioned by the Dept. of Defense, which revealed that the government had repeatedly misled the American people about the escalation of the war. The government attempted to prevent the publication of the report, which became commonly known as the Pentagon PapersPentagon Papers,
government study of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara in June, 1967, the 47-volume, top secret study covered the period from World War II to May, 1968.
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; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the New York Times Co. v. United States (1971) that the publication of the papers was permissible. The government attempted to prosecute Ellsberg for the release of the report. The charges were dismissed in 1973 when it was revealed that White House officials had burglarized the offices of Ellsberg's psychiatrist in an effort to discredit him (see Watergate affairWatergate affair,
in U.S. history, series of scandals involving the administration of President Richard M. Nixon; more specifically, the burglarizing of the Democratic party national headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C.
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). He discusses the matter in his Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2002).

Bibliography

See biography by T. Wells (2001).