Daniel Ellsberg, the famed whistleblower responsible for leaking the classified “Pentagon Papers” that exposed the truth about the Vietnam War, passed away at the age of 92, according to an announcement made by his family.
Ellsberg, who worked as a military analyst, released thousands of documents to the US media in 1971, revealing a series of lies told by successive US administrations to the public regarding the unwinnable nature of the conflict, the family says.
The dramatic story of the leak was later depicted in the 2017 film “The Post,” which delved into the intense behind-the-scenes events leading to the publication of the papers.
In March, Ellsberg revealed that he had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and had approximately six months left to live. His family shared that he passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones, and expressed that despite his illness, his final months were fulfilling.
The family highlighted some of Ellsberg’s simple pleasures during his last months, such as indulging in forbidden treats like hot chocolate, croissants, cake, poppyseed bagels, and lox.
They also mentioned his enjoyment of revisiting his favorite films, with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” holding a special place in his heart, according to his wife Patricia, sons Robert and Michael, and daughter Mary.
Initially, the New York Times published excerpts of the Pentagon Papers, but President Richard Nixon’s administration secured a court order to prevent further publication on national security grounds. The Washington Post then took up the cause. Ellsberg faced charges under the Espionage Act, but the case resulted in a mistrial in 1973 due to unlawful evidence gathering by the government.
In his announcement of his cancer diagnosis, Ellsberg reflected on the impact of his historic actions, stating that although he initially expected a lifetime behind bars, he willingly accepted that fate if it meant hastening the end of the Vietnam War.
He believed that his actions, combined with Nixon’s illegal responses, ultimately played a role in shortening the war. Throughout his life, Ellsberg continued to speak out against war, particularly US interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, describing the situation in the Middle East as catastrophic.
Apart from his anti-war activism, Ellsberg was also known for his advocacy against nuclear weapons. In 2017, he published a comprehensive book titled “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” which shed light on the inner workings of the nuclear threat. Even after his diagnosis, he remained active, warning about the ongoing danger of nuclear war, particularly in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Described as a seeker of truth and a patriotic truth-teller, Ellsberg left behind a profound impact on those who knew him. He was remembered as an anti-war activist, a devoted family man, and a source of inspiration to many. His family expressed their deep sorrow at his loss and emphasized that he would be greatly missed by all who knew him.