Daniel Ellsberg died on Friday. His family released a statement via Twitter. He was best known for leaking American secrets during the Vietnam War. These documents are known as the Pentagon Papers.
Ellsberg, while working as an analyst at the RAND Corporation in 1970, leaked to The New York Times 7,000 pages from Defense Department documents. The New York Times published these documents in 1971. Documents revealed that the U.S. Government had misled Americans about the extent of the Vietnam War. His death came months after he publicly announced his pancreatic carcinoma diagnosis.
His family described him as “a truth seeker and patriotic truth-teller. He was also a beloved husband and father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Daniel was a dear friend and inspiration to many.” We will all miss him dearly.
Ellsberg initially wanted to provide the documents to U.S. Congressmen and officials. However, when they refused, he leaked the information to the media.
Ellsberg leaked documents to The Washington Post after Nixon banned The New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers. The U.S. Supreme Court sided against the newspapers when it heard The New York Times Co. v. United States in June 1971.
Ellsberg stated that he felt he could not continue to hide this information from American citizens. “I did this at my own peril and I’m prepared to face all the consequences,” Ellsberg told the U.S. attorney’s office before the decision of the court was reached.
Ellsberg had to stand trial in Los Angeles for his role in the leak. He was charged with espionage and theft as well as conspiracy. Ellsberg could have faced 115 years of prison if convicted. A federal judge ruled the case a mistrial in 1973 after the U.S. Government attempted to break into Ellsberg psychiatrist’s apartment.