Daniel Ellsberg: Preeminent Whistleblower

“Son-of-a-bitchin’ thief is made a national hero
and is gonna get off on a mistrial.
“The New York Times gets a Pulitzer Prize
for stealing documents.
“They’re trying to get at us with thieves.”

“What in the name of God have we come to?”

-President Nixon, speaking to White House Chief of Staff Haig (and previous White House Chief of Staff Haldeman) on May 11, 1973, the day that a mistrial is declared and all charges are dropped against Ellsberg and Russo


Yes, those words were stated by an actual U.S. President.

Mr. Nixon was angry because Mr. Ellsberg had leaked the Pentagon Papers, thus was a ‘thief’. Yet, history eventually revealed that, less than two years earlier, in 1971, Mr. Nixon had a group of ‘plumbers’ break into the medical offices of a doctor who had confidential records on Mr. Ellsberg. And, in 1972, Mr. Nixon had dispatched the Watergate break-in. Mr. Nixon resigned the Presidency in 1974, then departed on his helicopter.


(l to r) Daniel Ellsberg, Tony Russo, Patricia Ellsberg

Like most true whistleblowers, Mr. Ellsberg knowingly participated in a ‘situation’ until, eventually, he felt compelled to speak out. He was a Marine officer in the 1950’s, a company commander responsible for 211 men, then became a hawkish military analyst. He witnessed the deceptions starting with the Gulf of Tonkin. By the late 1960’s, he chose to expose the facts. Before his case was dismissed, he was facing a prospect of prison for the remainder of his life. No doubt, if our government had been clean about Vietnam, he would have been put away.

Whistleblowers are often the critical difference. How might our government and society be different today, if Mr. Ellsberg had instead ‘just done his job, and stayed quiet’? Consider some of the following Nixon statements that showed his real character, and consider where he might have taken our country, with more ‘yes-men’ and one less responsible whistleblower around. Consider what we would never have learned, if not for Mr. Ellsberg and the related Watergate crisis…

“Now listen here, printing top secret information, I don’t care how you feel about the war, whether they’re for it or against it, you can’t and should not do it. It’s an attack on the integrity of government. By god, I’m going to fight that son-of-a-bitching paper. They don’t know what’s gonna hit ‘em now.”

-President Nixon, speaking to Kissinger and others on June 15, 1971, two days after the NY Times printed the first part of the Pentagon Papers. On the same day, the Nixon Administration was able to get a court to order the NY Times to cease printing the Pentagon Papers.


“For once, we’ve got to use the maximum power of this country against this shit-ass little country…to win the war.”

-President Nixon to General Haig (Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs), Secretary of State Kissinger, and Treasury Secretary Connally in the Oval Office.


Nixon: “I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?”
Kissinger: “That will drown about 200,000 people.”
Nixon: “Well, no, no, no, no, no, I’d rather use a nuclear bomb. Have you got that ready?”
Kissinger: “That I think would just be too much, uh…”
Nixon: “A nuclear bomb, does that bother you? I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.”

-President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger, on April 25, 1972.


Nixon: “Henry, you don’t have any idea. The only place where you and I disagree…is with regard to the bombing. You’re so goddamned concerned about the civilians and I don’t give a damn. I don’t care.”
Kissinger: “I’m concerned about the civilians because I don’t want the world to be mobilized against you as a butcher.”

-Conversation between President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger, May 5, 1972.


So, what is the main take-away from this?

We all need to accept that, no matter how much we want to deny it, anyone is fallible and may make mistakes, even behave corruptly.

Even a President.

Given the need for total transparency, we have to support our true whistleblowers.


A few links:
(hover on the links for descriptions)

Pentagon Papers: WEB
NYTimes lead story: WEB

Gulf of Tonkin: WEB
Watergate: WEB

MostDangerousMan: WEB
MDM Press Kit: WEB
Ellsberg’s Bio: WEB

Daniel Ellsberg