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Daniel Ellsberg - Poster of the Week

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Wouldn’t You Go to Jail if it Would Help End the War?

Corita Kent

1971, Silkscreen

Los Angeles, CA


Daniel Ellsberg died on June 16, 2023 from inoperable pancreatic cancer. His story is one of incredible bravery and transformation.

Ellsberg was a former United States military analyst who precipitated a national controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers—a top-secret study of U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Viet Nam War—to The New York Times and other newspapers.

In late 1969, while employed by the RAND Corporation (often referred to as CIA-West) and assisted by his former RAND Corporation colleague Anthony Russo, Ellsberg secretly photocopied several sets of documents classified as Top-Secret and later known as the Pentagon Papers. The documents revealed that the U.S. government knew, early on, that they would lose the war in Viet Nam, and that continuing it would lead to many times more casualties than were admitted publicly.

In 1971, Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and other newspapers. The release of this information helped condemn Richard Nixon’s presidency and end the war.

Ellsberg and Russo’s first trial (1972) ended in a mistrial, and all charges were dismissed during the second trial (1973) due to gross misconduct by the U.S. government—which included breaking into the offices of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist!

Following the dismissal of all charges, President Richard Nixon said, "[T]he sonofabitching thief is made a national hero and is going to get off on a mistrial, and the New York Times gets a Pulitzer Prize for stealing documents...What in the name of God have we come to?" (Oval Office discussion, May 11, 1973)

Ellsberg dedicated the rest of his life to anti-war, anti-nuclear, and pro-whistleblower causes, including supporting Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at one point even called him “the most dangerous man in America.” We need more like him.

Daniel Ellsberg




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