Daniel Ellsberg appeared along with Frank Grevil, a Danish whistleblower formerly employed at Danish Military Intelligence, at a debate about whistleblowers hosted by Danish national newspaper Politiken on October 25th 2004. One might say that Ellsberg is equal to Frank Grevil, on a larger scale however. Daniel Ellsberg is nothing short of a legend. (To read more about the Frank Grevil case click here)
A former company commander in the U.S Marine Corps and subsequently a high ranking official at the Pentagon during the 1960s Ellsberg litterally expirienced the Vietnam War hands on. During his time at the Pentagon he spent two years as a special envoy in Vietnam, and this opened the eyes of the former strong believer in the U.S fight against communism to the fact that America was fighting a war, which the country would never be able to win.
When he returned to the States in 1967 he was now focused on first President Johnson’s and later President Nixon’s encouraging messages to the American people. Ellsberg considered such encouragements misleading and completely unrealistic. Through conversations with high ranking colleagues and countless secret reports, Ellsberg began to see a very different picture of the US engagement in Vietnam. A picture which showed him that the American people, and for that matter the rest of the world, was being deceived.
By October 1969 Ellsberg, well aware that he would most likely spend the rest of his life in jail for it, decided to draw the true picture of the basis for the Vietnam War. Furthermore he wanted to present this picture to the public. He started collecting and copying extensive documentation, which he regarded as nescessary in order to prove his points and allegations.
In 1971 he finished his work, and he leaked no less than 7000 pages of highly classified pages from the Pentagon. What was later to be known as The Pentagon Papers first hit the news desks at two of Americas most renowned newspapers, The Washington Post and the New York Times. From there the story went world wide. Ellsberg also leaked the classified papers to several members of the U.S Congress.
It is widely recognized that Ellsberg’s leaking of The Pentagon Papers was the first and most important step on the road to both the U.S withdrawl from Vietnam and to President Nixon’s fall from power.
Daniel Ellsberg was subsequently charged with several felonies and faced a possible jail sentence of 116 years. He was however aquitted, the argument being that in this case the public interest outweighed the crime. The aquittal was a surprise to Ellsberg. In other words he blew the whistle despite a clear expectation that this would end his days of freedom.
Now well into his seventies Ellsberg continues to travel the world as a lecturer, a debater, and a peace activist.
You can learn more about Daniel Ellsberg from his own website at www.ellsberg.net
Here, you can also order his book: Secrets – memoir of Vietnam and The Pentagon Papers.