Washington, Jun 16 (EFE).- Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst who leaked the account of United States involvement in Vietnam – which became known as the Pentagon Papers – to the press in 1971, died Friday, his family said. He was 92.
“My dear father, Daniel Ellsberg, died this morning June 16 at 1:24 a.m., four months after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. His family surrounded him as he took his last breath. He had no pain and died peacefully at home,” son Robert Ellsberg said on Twitter.
Daniel Ellsberg, a US Marine Corps veteran with a doctorate in economics from Harvard University, worked for the RAND Corporation, a think-tank and research outfit, before joining the Defense Department in the early 1960s.
In his capacity as an adviser to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Ellsberg spent 18 months in Vietnam evaluating the US military’s civilian pacification program.
While he told McNamara on his return that the war was unwinnable, the secretary later tasked Ellsberg and 35 other analysts with creating a historical record of the conflict in Vietnam.
Ellsberg went back to RAND in 1968, but he retained his top-secret security clearance and had access to the completed 47-volume, 7,000-page Pentagon study, which showed that successive US administrations had systematically lied to the American public.
He and RAND colleague Anthony J. Russo Jr. photocopied the history and Ellsberg shared portions of the study with congressional critics of the war, including Sen. J. William Fulbright, in the hope that lawmakers would make the information public.
When the legislators demurred, Ellsberg turned to a reporter he met during his time in Vietnam, Neil Sheehan of The New York Times, who would go on to write an acclaimed book about the war, “A Bright Shining Lie.”
Having initially offered to let Sheehan photocopy the documents, Ellsberg subsequently restricted the reporter to reading the report and taking notes.
But Ellsberg left Sheehan alone with the documents and the journalist decided to make copies and bring them to the Times and on June 13, 1971, the newspaper published the first of nine stories containing revelations from the Pentagon Papers.
The administration of then-President Richard Nixon threatened the Times with prosecution and eventually secured a court injunction blocking publication.
By that point, Ellsberg had given documents to other outlets, including The Washington Post. The government sued both newspapers and the cases reached the Supreme Court, which moved on June 30 to lift the injunction.
Ellsberg and Russo were both charged with espionage, among other offenses.
The initial proceeding ended in a mistrial over procedural issues, but a second trial began in 1973, only for the federal judge hearing the case to throw out the charges based on government misconduct that included illegal wiretaps and a break-in at the office of Ellsberg’s former psychiatrist.
Two years ago, Ellsberg disseminated another classified document revealing that the Pentagon made contingency plans for a nuclear strike on China in 1958 amid Chinese shelling of two islands controlled by the US-backed regime in Taiwan.
Ellsberg is survived by his second wife, Patricia Marx, 68-year-old Robert Ellsberg; daughter Mary Ellsberg, 64; and son Michael Ellsberg, 46.