Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg says he has cancer: NPR
WASHINGTON – Daniel Ellsberg, who copied and leaked documents known as the Pentagon Papers revealing secrets of US strategy during the Vietnam War, said he has cancer and only months to live.
Ellsberg announced on his Facebook page Thursday that doctors diagnosed the 91-year-old with inoperable pancreatic cancer on Feb. 17 after a CT scan and MRI.
Doctors gave him three to six months to live, he said.
Ellsberg said he has chosen not to undergo chemotherapy and plans to receive palliative care if needed.
The Pentagon Papers provide a detailed account of the decisions and strategies of the Vietnam War. They described how the U.S. presence steadily increased by political leaders and senior military personnel who were overconfident about the future of the U.S. and misled about progress against North Vietnam.
Ellsberg, a former Defense Department adviser, gave the Pentagon Papers to reporter Neil Sheehan, who broke the story in The New York Times in June 1971. Sheehan died in 2021.
Sheehan smuggled the documents out of the Massachusetts apartment where Ellsberg had hidden them, illegally copied thousands of pages, and took them to The Times.
President Richard Nixon’s administration obtained a court order claiming national security was threatened and the publication was shut down. The move sparked a heated First Amendment debate that quickly made its way to the Supreme Court. On June 30, 1971, the court ruled 6 to 3 allowing publication, and the Times and Washington Post resumed publishing the articles. The cover won a Times Pulitzer Prize for public service.
The Nixon administration attempted to discredit Ellsberg after the documents were released. Some of Nixon’s aides broke into the Beverly Hills office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, looking for discrediting information.
Ellsberg was charged with theft, conspiracy and espionage violations, but his case ended in a mistrial when government-ordered wiretapping and evidence of the theft emerged.
Ellsberg said in a Facebook post that he feels “blessed and grateful” for his life.
“When I copied the Pentagon Papers in 1969, I had every reason to believe that I would spend the rest of my life behind bars. If it meant hastening the end of the Vietnam War, I would happily accept that seemingly unlikely (and it was) fate,” he wrote.
“In the end, this action—in ways I had not anticipated because of Nixon’s illegal responses—had the effect of shortening the war,” he wrote.
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