Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst who disclosed the Pentagon Papers, revealing US deceit in the Vietnam War, died at 92. He had announced his inoperable pancreatic cancer diagnosis earlier. His revelation of the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of American lies about the Vietnam War, caused a national controversy.

 

The Pentagon Papers’ disclosure led to illegal actions by the White House to discredit Ellsberg and stop government information leaks. These actions formed the Watergate scandal, which resulted in President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The scandal also led to a First Amendment confrontation between the Nixon administration and The New York Times, which published the papers.

 

Ellsberg was charged with espionage and other crimes but was acquitted due to government misconduct, including illegal wiretapping and a break-in at his former psychiatrist’s office. “The demystification and de-sanctification of the president has begun, Ellsberg said after his release. His story mirrored the American experience in Vietnam, a war that began as a struggle against communism and ended in defeat, killing thousands of Americans and millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians.

 

Ellsberg, a brilliant young man from Michigan, joined the Marines in 1954 and later earned a doctorate at Harvard. He began studying game theory as applied to crisis situations and nuclear warfare. By 1964, he was advising Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and evaluating civilian pacification programs in Vietnam. His transformation began when he witnessed the toll of civilian deaths, tortured prisoners, and burned villages.

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