Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst and political activist who leaked the Pentagon Papers, exposing the lies and deceptions of the United States regarding the Vietnam War, passed away at the age of 92 from pancreatic cancer on June 16, 2023, at his home in California.
Ellsberg was born in Chicago in 1931. After receiving an education in economics at Harvard University, he joined the United States Navy and served as a lieutenant from 1954 to 1957. He later began working at the RAND Corporation, a think tank, where he provided advisory services to the White House on nuclear strategy and the Vietnam War.
In the 1960s, Ellsberg started to oppose the Vietnam War and believed that informing the public was necessary to bring an end to the war. In 1971, he leaked a classified report prepared by the Department of Defense, known as the Pentagon Papers, to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other newspapers.
The Pentagon Papers revealed that the U.S. government had misled the public and made dishonest decisions regarding the war. The publication of the papers led to a national political scandal, and the Nixon administration filed lawsuits against the newspapers, accusing them of endangering national security. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of press freedom.
Ellsberg faced charges of espionage, theft, and conspiracy and was at risk of receiving a 115-year prison sentence. However, due to the government’s misconduct and illegal collection of evidence, Judge William Matthew Byrne Jr. dismissed all charges against Ellsberg in 1973.
By leaking the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg contributed to the end of the Vietnam War and initiated the process that led to Nixon’s resignation. He also formulated the Ellsberg paradox, an important example in decision theory, and conducted extensive research on nuclear weapons and nuclear policy. He supported WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden.
In 2006, Ellsberg received the Right Livelihood Award, and in 2018, he was honored with the Olof Palme Prize for his “deep humanism and extraordinary moral courage.”
In a statement given to NPR, his family said, “Daniel was a truth-seeker and a patriotic truth-teller, an anti-war activist, a beloved spouse, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, a dear friend to many, and an inspiration to countless others. He will be greatly missed by all of us.”