The Nation: Ellsberg: The Battle Over the Right to Know

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Ellsberg had worked on the Pentagon study in 1967 and was one of four defense analysts at the elite Rand Corp. research institute granted access to the full report kept there. Although Rand officials insist that their security is tighter than the Pentagon's, no daily check of employee briefcases was made. Ellsberg apparently began taking papers out of Rand beginning late in 1969.

Ellsberg rented a Xerox copier part time for about four months from a friend, Lynda R. Sinay, 27, who ran a Los Angeles advertising agency that was slipping into bankruptcy. Granted immunity from prosecution, she told the grand jury that Ellsberg made about 3,000 copies from her machine, working in her offices at night when no employees were there. He paid her $150. Ellsberg even enlisted the help of his two children, Robert, now 14, and Mary, 12, in the arduous copying task. When Ellsberg joined M.I.T. as a senior research associate in 1970, he transported the copied documents to Cambridge with him. It is known that New York Times Reporter Neil Sheehan traveled to Boston in March, 1971, shortly before the Times began working on its series.

One fundamental question bothers many Americans. Just who is this man Ellsberg, a distinctly minor figure who dares to challenge four Presidents, assails the decisions of some of the keenest minds ever to have been attracted to national security service, and scatters classified documents like chain letters across the country? If he were merely an emotional and impulsive man obsessed by guilt about his personal involvement in a war that turned sour, Daniel Ellsberg's conduct could be dismissed as outrageous. Yet Ellsberg does not stand alone. He was one of—and represents—an exceptional class of bright scholars who charged out of the nation's best universities in the '60s to apply mathematics and precise analysis to the waging of war. These defense intellectuals doubted neither the aims of U.S. policy nor their own capacity to find the means. While they would hardly use the term, they were patriots.

To be sure, there was a heady feeling of power for young men in dealing with the fate of the nation and jousting with generals. There was a certain selfishness in seeking a career as an "inner-and-outer," spending a few years in the thick of the Washington bureaucracy to establish can-do credentials for an enhanced reflective life back out on campus. There was also the thrill of the game, outwitting colleagues as well as Communists. Moscow and Hanoi were opponents to be taken or checkmated on the international chess board. The deployment of power was fun. War, really, was academic.

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