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Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

The story of Daniel Ellsberg and his release of the so-called Pentagon Papers is one of the biggest stories of the tumultuous 1960s. Ellsberg was not an underground Wikileak hacker who surreptitiously acquired secret information and arranged for its release. He was a part of the process to begin with.

Here are highlights of his and those famous papers’ stories.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Academic Marine

Daniel Ellsberg graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude in 1952 and received a fellowship to study economics at Cambridge. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1954 and served as a platoon leader. After serving, he resumed his graduate studies at Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Government and Vietnam

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

RAND Corporation [begun in 1948 and adapting its name  from a contraction of the term research and development], a California think-tank, hired him in 1959. He specialized in crisis decision-making and the command and control of nuclear weapons.

While at RAND, Ellsberg consulted with the Pentagon Under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during the Kennedy administration. Ellsberg visited South Vietnam with a research team to examine problems with non-nuclear, limited warfare.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Gulf of Tonkin “attack”

Ellsberg was working for the Defense Department as assistant to John McNaughton (assistant secretary of defense and a close adviser to McNamara) when on August 4, 1964 the  “second” Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred. It turned out that North Vietnamese “boats” were radar ghosts.” The validity of Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin claim is later questioned. The claim will become one of presidential lies that led to U.S. escalation in Vietnam.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Students for a Democratic Society

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

On April 17, 1965 the SDS led an anti-Vietnam war march in Washington. 15,000 attend including Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and Judy Collins. Daniel Ellsberg and Patricia Marx go on their first date…this rally. For the next two years Ellsberg served in Vietnam as a civilian on special assignment for the U.S. Department of State, studying counter-insurgency. [U Michigan article]

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers
History of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68

In June 1967  Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara assembled a team of analysts, many of whom had worked for RAND. Ellsberg was among them. Leslie Gelb and Morton Halperin headed the group.

In late 1968 they finish a report called the “History of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68.”  By then, McNamara had resigned as secretary of defense. The study was never officially distributed or acted upon.

On March 1, 1968 Clark Clifford replaced McNamara as secretary of defense.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Henry Kissinger

In December 1968 Ellsberg first met with Henry Kissinger, national security adviser to president-elect Richard Nixon. Ellsberg advised Kissinger on options in the U.S. military action in Vietnam. Kissinger and Ellsberg  continued to have a relationship during the first two years of Nixon’s presidency.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Randy Kehler

Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner, refused to pay federal taxes as a protest against war and military spending.

In September 1969 Ellsberg met draft resister and antiwar activist Randy Kehler, whose willingness to go to prison based on his opposition to the war had a great impact on Ellsberg. Shortly thereafter, Ellsberg finished reading a copy of the entire McNamara study, which revealed a pattern of war escalation even in the face of evidence that the war was unwinnable. The study also revealed lies told to the public about U.S. military actions. The report inspired Ellsberg to take action against what he now sees as “a wrongful war.” [NPR story]

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Anthony Russo

October 1, 1969:  Ellseberg, with his Rand Corporation colleague Anthony Russo, began copying the secret Pentagon Papers in Los Angeles.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Marriage

On  August 8, 1970 Daniel Ellsberg and Patricia Marx married.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Neil Sheehan

In March 1971 Ellsberg met with reporter Neil Sheehan of The New York Times and showed him the top-secret McNamara study. Sheehan, reporter Hedrick Smith and a handful of other New York Times reporters and editors began working on a massive story based on the Pentagon Papers, while lawyers at The New York Times debated whether they could or should, publish top-secret government documents.  They decided yes on both.


Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

June 13, 1971: the New York Times began to publish the Pentagon Papers. Later, in a 1996 article, the Times said that the Pentagon Papers “demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance“. Two days later, on June 15, the government, invoking “prior restraint,” obtained a temporary injunction to stop Times from publishing any more material from the Pentagon Papers.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Into hiding

On June 17, 1971 Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg went underground after reporter Sidney Ellsberg identified Daniel Ellsberg as the probable source for the Pentagon Papers. 

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

The Washington Post 

June 18, 1971: The Washington Post published excerpts of the Pentagon Papers but was immediately enjoined from publishing additional excerpts. Eventually, 17 other papers will publish portions of the report.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Surrender

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

June 28, 1971: Ellsberg surrendered to face criminal charges under the Espionage Act.  [NY Ttimes article]

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Senator Mike Gravel

June 29, 1971: Alaska Senator Mike Gravel convened a hearing of the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds in the middle of the night (and only he attended). He read the Pentagon Papers aloud for three hours, officially entering them into the Senate record.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers
New York Times Co. v. United States

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

On June 30, 1971: the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Pentagon Papers may be published, rejecting government injunctions as unconstitutional prior restraint. [NY Times article]

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Nixon retaliates

In July 1971 President Nixon appointed Egil “Bud” Krogh, Jr. and Kissinger aide David Young, Jr. to head a special investigations unit (nicknamed “the plumbers”) to obtain evidence to discredit Ellsberg, whom Henry Kissinger has deemed “the most dangerous man in America” who “has to be stopped.”

Krogh and Young hired G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, who hatched a plan to burglarize the offices of Ellsberg’s one-time psychiatrist in Los Angeles which they did on September 9.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Indictments,  Watergate, and trial

On December 29, 1971: Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo were indicted on charges of theft of government documents and espionage for copying the Pentagon Papers and leaking them to the news media.

Meanwhile, on October 10, 1972 the Washington Post reported that FBI agents had established that the Watergate break-in stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of the Nixon reelection effort.

On November 7, 1972 Richard Nixon was reelected in one of the largest landslides in American political history, taking more than 60 percent of the vote.

January 3, 1973 The United States v. Anthony Joseph Russo and Daniel Ellsberg trial began in Los Angeles.

On January 8, 1973 the trial opened of seven men accused of bugging Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Nixon aide  John Ehrlichman

Between April 5 – 7, 1973 top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman secretly met twice with Judge Matthew Byrne, who was presiding over the Russo/Ellsberg trial, and offered him a job as the new director of the F.B.I.

April 15 – 18, 1973: Ellsberg testified in his own defense.

April 30, 1973: after being confronted by Ellsberg’s defense lawyers, Judge Byrne admitted to meeting with Ehrlichman earlier in the month.

On the same day, Nixon’s top White House staffers, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resigned over the Watergate scandal. White House counsel John Dean was fired.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

FBI secret tapes

On May 10, 1973 it was revealed in court that in 1969 the F.B.I. secretly wire-tapped and taped phone conversations between Ellsberg and then Kissinger aide Morton Halperin, who had earlier supervised the study that became the Pentagon Papers. The government claimed that all records of the wiretapping had been lost.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Mistrial

The next day, May 11, 1973, Judge Byrne granted a mistrial due to what he deemed to be serious government misconduct. All charges against Ellsberg and Russo dropped.  June 13, 1973:  the Washington Post reported that Watergate prosecutors had found a memo addressed to John Ehrlichman describing in detail the plans to burglarize the office of Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. [NY Times article]

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

June 21, 1920 — June 8, 1956

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

Apparently a person’s date of death is easier to determine than the date a war began.

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr  fought in World War II in the Navy. After the war he joined the Air Force and was eventually promoted to Technical Sargent. He served in Vietnam as part of the serving as part of the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), the advisors to the South Vietnamese army.

Fitzgibbon died on June 8, 1956 after S/Sgt Edward Clarke had shot him. On June 20, 1956, an Associated Press article in the New York Times reported the deaths:

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

 When the Vietnam Memorial was in its planning stages, one of the obvious decisions was “Who was the first American killed in Vietnam?” It would seem obvious that Fitzgibbon would at least have been one of the first if not the first.

Chronologically, he was as no other American military person had been killed in Vietnam since the US Government had begun sending MAAG personnel on September 3, 1950.

The first date used for the “beginning” of the war was January 1, 1961 because President Johnson had stated that Spec/4 James T. Davis, who died in a Viet Cong ambush on 22 December 1961, was “The first American to fall in defense of our freedom in Vietnam.”

For years, the Fitzgibbon family argued that Richard should be included. Finally the Department of Defense decided to use the start date November 1, 1955, thus qualifying Fitzgibbon.

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

Fitzgibbon’s son, Lance Cpl. Richard B Fitzgibbon III, joined the Marines because he wanted to connect to the place where his father had died.

Fitzgibbon III was killed in combat on Sept. 7, 1965, in Quang Tin, Vietnam, at the age of 21. The Fitzgibbon father-son deaths in Vietnam were one of three pairs: Leo Hester Sr. and his son Leo Hester Jr and Fred C. Jenkins and his son Bert M. Jenkins were the other two.

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

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Ohio Governor James Rhodes

Ohio Governor James Rhodes

May 3, 1970

The fuse is lit

May 4, 1970. Life ended suddenly and horribly for Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Knox life on the Kent State (OH) campus.

Like any historic event, the story was not a spontaneous one. The story had a lead up.

Ohio Governor James A Rhodes, first elected in 1963, had what was known then as a “law and order” view of unrest.

Ohio Governor James Rhodes

 From Mendo Coast article

Less than year before the tragic shootings at Kent State, the SAC [Special Agent in Charge] of the Cincinnati Bureau [FBI] sent [FBI Director] Hoover a memo detailing Rhodes’ attitude towards civil unrest: “He personally feels that the Director is the outstanding American and that he is the only person who has consistently opposed those persons who would subvert our government. He feels that the Director’s stated position of dealing firmly with these groups is the only sensible method.”

          “He [Rhodes] commented on the riots and unrest which have occurred repeatedly and said that some of this might well have been avoided if the Director’s warnings and advice had been followed. In Ohio, he has not hesitated to use the National Guard to deal with these situations and has instructed the Guard to act quickly and firmly. He feels that this is the only way to maintain law and order, and that the maintenance of law and order is the only way our government can survive,” the memo records. [my emphasis]

Ohio Governor James Rhodes

Cambodian Invastion

Keep in mind the days preceding May 4.

As promised by the newly-elect President Nixon, the Vietnam War seemed to be winding down. Then in late April of 1970, the US invaded Cambodia and widened the Vietnam War. Nixon announced the invasion on April 30, l970.

The next day student protests erupted on many college campuses. Kent State University was one of those place. Students planned a second rally for noon Monday 4 May.

Saturday 2 May. Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom asked Governor Rhodes to send in the Ohio National Guard. Stationed close by, the Guard arrived that evening to the burning of the University’s ROTC building.

Ohio Governor James Rhodes

Sunday 3 May

Sunday 3 May. About 1000 Ohio National Guardsmen occupied the campus, While tense, the mood was not threatening. Student quietly conversed with Guard members. It was on this day at a press conference that Ohio Governor James A Rhodes called the anti-war protesters “the worst type of people we harbor in America, worse than the brown shirts and the communist element

That evening confrontations between protesters and guardsmen occurred and once again rocks, tear gas, and arrests characterized a tense campus.

Ohio Governor James Rhodes

May 4, 1970

May 4 was simply another day in most ways. People awoke. Ate breakfast. Began their day.

“ABC” by the Jackson 5 was Billboard’s #1 single.  Ironically, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Trouble Water” was the #1 album.

The tragedy of May 4 would leave us perplexed, shocked, and with many questions.

Did the National Guard need to shoot? Were their lives in danger? Why were between 61 and 67 shots were fired in a 13 second period? Should the Guard have been on campus to begin with?

The 418 page Scranton Committee Report on the event determined that “The indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.

No legal proceedings ever found the Guard culpable and the January 1979 monetary settlement paid out of court by the State of Ohio was termed an apology, not an admission of guilt.

Regardless of any possibilities, for Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Knox life ended suddenly and horribly on May 4, 1970.

Ohio Governor James Rhodes

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