One of the world’s greatest marathon peace messengers, Daniel Ellsberg, died in his California home June 16, at age 92. He had been arrested between 80-90 times for participating in anti-war protest.
When Ellsberg graduated from Harvard with a doctorate, he was gung-ho and joined the Marines. He soon found his way into the Defense and then State departments. After a tour in Vietnam as a military analyst, in 1965, he began to doubt why the war was “necessary”.
Between 1969 and 1971, Ellsberg was one of dozens of analysts studying and writing about the decisions behind US involvement in the Vietnam War. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara commissioned the report, and the Rand Corporation was charged with making it.
The career Establishment warrior was appalled to learn that government leaders knew the US could not win that war and yet sent its citizens to kill and die.
Ellsberg and a Rand colleague, Anthony Russo, had access to the 7,000-pages of classified documents and historical narrative. They photocopied them at night, one page at a time over a period of months.
Ellsberg contacted Neal Sheehan at the New York Times whom he had known in Vietnam. Sheehan led a team of writers and editors in distilling the document. On June 13, 1971, the first story ran atop the front page.
Sheehan wrote that the US warred not to save the Vietnamese from “communism” but to maintain “the power, influence and prestige of the United States … irrespective of conditions in Vietnam.”
In January 1973, Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 along with charges of theft and conspiracy, carrying a maximum sentence of 115 years. President Richard Nixon had sent CIA men, E. Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy, to find incriminating evidence on Ellsberg at his psychiatrist’s office. They were also a part of the “Plumbers” team, which broke into the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate complex. They served jail time.
Nixon had said, “Let’s get the son of a bitch into jail.” Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, called Ellsberg, “The most dangerous man in America.”
Because of governmental misconduct, including illegal evidence-gathering, Judge William Matthew Byrne Jr. dismissed all charges against Ellsberg in May 1973. He did so despite a government bribe offering him the directorship of the FBI.
Since then, Ellsberg dedicated his life to struggles for world peace, an end to nuclear weapons, and active support for newer whistleblowers, such as the Danish Major Frank Grevil. This officer for Defense Intelligence Service (FE) disclosed reports that his team had delivered to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rassmussen indicating that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction.
Despite revealing the truth, the government charged Grevil with violating “national security”, and he was sentenced to a relatively mild four months in prison. Rasmussen convinced parliament to declare war on Iraq, the first declaration of war since 1864. Grevil went to jail and Rasmussen was made NATO chief.
Daniel and I connected on that issue when he came to Denmark to assist Grevil. I was then living in Denmark. Daniel and I had become acquainted in Los Angeles where I was an anti-war activist when he joined in actions against US wars. He was such a warm person, modest, and so dedicated. I feel privileged to have known him, shared actions, and a webinar interview with him demanding freedom for Julian Assange, who is also charged with violating the Espionage Act.
In a 2017 National Public Radio interview, Ellsberg said:
“Without young men going to prison for nonviolent protests against the draft, men that I met on their way to prison, [there would have been] no Pentagon Papers. It wouldn’t have occurred to me simply to do something that would put myself in prison for the rest of my life, as I assumed that would do.” Daniel Ellsberg Explains Why He Leaked The Pentagon Papers : NPR
Ellsberg story is portrayed in the 2017 film The Post.
In recent times, he said that contemporary Supreme Court justices would not have found in his favor, nor allow those documents to be published.
In fact, judges, and mass media today refuse to effectively support Julian Assange, who published modern whistleblowers’ revelations of many more war criminal atrocities. Daniel consistently supported our most important contemporary peace messenger, as well as Chelsea Manning and many more who have come in from the cold.
In his latest book, The Doomsday Machine (2017), Ellsberg wrote of seeing top-secret documents from the 1960s that purported as many as 600 million people would die in the first strike by the United States. The US has always planned for first nuclear strike.
In his last interview (Politico), he urged other whistleblowers to remain vigilant despite his and their skepticism that their efforts would effect change. “When everything is at stake, can it be worth even a small chance of having a small effect?” asked Ellsberg. “And the answer is: Of course. Of course, it can be worth that. You can even say it’s obligatory.”