The Most Dangerous Man in America | Trailor
On The Red Carpet |The Most Dangerous Man in America | Daniel & Patricia Ellsberg | Academy Awards
The Most Dangerous Man in America | Interview with Daniel & Patricia Ellsberg | PBS
Patricia Ellsberg as Social Activist
During our first year of marriage, in 1971, my husband, Daniel Ellsberg, was indicted on 12 felony counts for espionage, theft, and conspiracy, which carried a possible sentence of 115 years in prison. His release of the Pentagon Papers (a 7,000-page set of top-secret documents that revealed how the U.S. Congress and the American public had been lied to about the Vietnam War) to the New York Times and 18 other newspapers resulted in a trial that lasted more than two years—and fortified our own deep commitment to the power of truth telling.
This period was one of the most intense, frightening, and meaningful times of my life. I was terrified that my husband would be physically harmed or sent to prison for the rest of his life. At the same time, he and I were gratified that we could use our access to the press to help stop what we felt was an unnecessary, immoral, and disastrous war. What is little known is that Daniel was inspired to release the truths in the Pentagon Papers in part by the example of Mahatma Gandhi and his concept of satyagraha. The literal translation of satyagraha is “holding to the truth,” and Gandhi spoke of it as “truth force” or “soul force” or “love force.”
The truth Gandhi referred to was the universal truth that we are all one. Through this recognition we can find a deep commitment to non-harming and nonviolence, and a willingness to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of others. Gandhi inspired people to be willing to endure suffering as they participated in acts of nonviolent resistance, and to withdraw cooperation from people and institutions that deny the truth of our oneness by oppressing or harming others.
After spending two years in Vietnam while working in the State Department, Daniel was asked to write one of the volumes of the Pentagon Papers and then was given access to the whole 47-volume study. It documented how four presidents in a row, from Truman to Johnson, deceived the public and Congress about our country’s involvement in Vietnam, their aims, their strategies, and the costs and prospects for success or stalemate. After Daniel read the whole study, he felt that Americans needed to know the truth. Despite being aware that he risked spending the rest of his life in prison, he decided to reveal the top-secret study to the public.
The impact of this revelation was profound. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and two other newspapers were enjoined from publishing the documents—the first injunction of the press in American history. Immediately after the Nixon administration enjoined the New York Times, Daniel and I went underground for 16 days.
With the support of a small group of friends, some of whom were Gandhian nonviolent activists, we managed to distribute portions of the documents to 18 other newspapers and elude an FBI manhunt. In our pursuit of the truth, we had a support group and felt connected to oneness. Luckily, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the newspapers’ right to publish.
Charges against Daniel and his codefendant, Tony Russo, were eventually dismissed due to gross governmental misconduct. White House crimes against Daniel, including the burglary of his former psychoanalyst’s office, illegal wiretapping, an abortive effort to physically “incapacitate him totally,” and subsequent attempts by the White House to cover up these actions contributed to the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon, his resignation, and the ending of the Vietnam War.
I vividly remember the moment we came out of hiding to attend Daniel’s arraignment. The press and a crowd of people surrounded us. Standing in front of a sea of shouting reporters, Daniel showed his commitment to the truth by taking full responsibility for the release of the Pentagon Papers. While we were standing together in the middle of utter chaos, I was holding Daniel’s hand. I had the feeling that an electrical current was pulsing through the two of us and we were grounded in the truth.
We stood in a field of power much greater than we were, a truth force that guided and protected us. I felt a profound sense of peace, of oneness with all beings, and of strength to face whatever consequences would come our way. I believe all of us can tap into the power of the truth force when we stand up for the truth and act with integrity and compassion.
In the years since the trial, in addition to continuing my work as a social-change activist, I have practiced Buddhist meditation in the Theravadan tradition and am leading and teaching reflection as a spiritual practice and as a means to knowing our personal truth and the universal truth of our oneness.
"The Post" A Movie About the Pentagon Papers Release| Directed by Steven Spielberg| Released in 2017
The feverishly debated decision behind The Washington Post‘s 1971 publication of top-secret information in the Pentagon Papers comes to life in the new movie The Post, in which Meryl Streep plays legendary publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks takes on the role of the gruff but brilliant executive editor Ben Bradlee.
Daniel Ellsberg, played in the movie by Matthew Rhys, worked as a military analyst for the RAND corporation, where he repeatedly snuck out classified military documents to photocopy over three months in 1969. He would copy the documents and return the originals the next day, and in 1971 he sent 7,000 pages exposing the government’s lies about the Vietnam War to the New York Times.