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Pentagon Papers Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg Dies at 92

Web ExclusiveJune 16, 2023

Daniel Ellsberg, the nation’s most famous whistleblower, died today at the age of 92. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February. Ellsberg appeared on Democracy Now! many times over the past 27 years, most recently in April when he spoke about his decision to leak the Pentagon Papers as well as the dangers of nuclear war posed by the war in Ukraine and Taiwan.

All of our interviews with Daniel Ellsberg are archived here

In 1971, The New York Times began publishing excerpts of the Pentagon Papers — 7,000 pages of top-secret documents outlining the secret history of the Vietnam War. The Times exposé was based on documents secretly photocopied by Dan Ellsberg and Anthony Russo while they worked as Pentagon consultants at the RAND Corporation.

Ellsberg had been inspired to leak the documents by antiwar protesters. In fact, shortly before the Times first reported on the Pentagon Papers, Dan Ellsberg took part in an antiwar protest in Washington, D.C., 52 years ago today, on May Day 1971, as part of an affinity group with Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.

The Pentagon Papers leak would end up helping take down President Nixon, help end the War in Vietnam and lead to a major victory for press freedom. The Nixon administration would go on to take extraordinary measures to silence and punish Ellsberg, including breaking into his psychiatrist’s office. But the government’s misconduct led to charges against him being dismissed.

Over the past 50 years, Daniel Ellsberg has remained a leading critic of U.S. militarism and U.S. nuclear weapons policy, as well as a prominent advocate for other whistleblowers.

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