Daniel Ellsberg

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 War, 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 Papers; 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 affair). He discusses the matter in his Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2002).

See biography by T. Wells (2001).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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