about DANIEL ELLSBERG
Daniel Ellsberg was born in Chicago in 1931. After graduating from Harvard in 1952 with a B.A. summa cum laude in Economics, he studied for a year at King’s College, Cambridge University, on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Between 1954 and 1957, Ellsberg spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving as rifle platoon leader, operations officer, and rifle company commander.
In 1959, Ellsberg became a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation and a consultant to the Defense Department and the White House, specializing in problems of the command and control of nuclear weapons, nuclear war plans, and crisis decision-making. Ellsberg joined the Defense Department in 1964 as Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs) John McNaughton, working on the escalation of the war in Vietnam. In 1965 Ellsberg transferred to the State Department to serve two years at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, evaluating pacification in the field.
After returning to the RAND Corporation in 1967, Ellsberg worked on the top-secret McNamara study, U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68, which later came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1969, he photocopied the 7,000-page study and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 1971 he gave it to the New York Times, the Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. Ellsberg’s subsequent trial on twelve felony counts, posing a possible sentence of 115 years, was dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, leading to the convictions of several White House aides and figuring in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.
Since the end of the Vietnam War, Ellsberg has been a lecturer, scholar, writer and activist on the dangers of the nuclear era, wrongful U.S. interventions and the urgent need for patriotic whistleblowing. He was awarded the 2006 Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm, Sweden “…for putting peace and truth first, at considerable personal risk, and dedicating his life to inspiring others to follow his example.”
Ellsberg is the author of four books: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (2017); Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2002); Risk, Ambiguity and Decision (2001); and Papers on the War (1971). He is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst; a Distinguished Researcher at UMass Amherst’s W.E.B. Du Bois Library; and a Senior Fellow of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.