love whistleblowers. Bradley Manning. Daniel Ellsberg. WikiLeaks.
Whistleblowers remind all of us that no matter where you work, no
matter how you draw a paycheck, you must follow your conscience and
do what's right.
what happens when someone blows a whistle, and no one will listen?
what happened to whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg when he first sought
to leak the Pentagon Papers, a cache of secret Defense Department
documents about the Vietnam War. It was only when Marcus Raskin,
co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies, lent Ellsberg a hand
that the Papers made it into the public eye.
remembers well meeting Ellsberg for the first time, on a Saturday
afternoon in the early 1960s. The two were summoned to a small-group
meeting of top minds on nuclear policy. Raskin worked for the
National Security Administration. Ellsberg worked for the RAND
Corporation, a defense contractor. They both took very different
paths. Raskin founded the Institute, a progressive think tank, in
1963. Ellsberg worked in Vietnam and came to regard the war as a
1969, with the help of another friend who worked at RAND, Ellsberg
had secretly photocopied a 7,000-page classified Defense Department
study with shocking details about possible US war crimes. Officially
titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study
Prepared by the Department of Defense, this was the tome that came to
be known as the Pentagon Papers. Feeling that the truth about Vietnam
could help end the war, Ellsberg tried to convince a member of
Congress to release the Papers. But none of the lawmakers he
approached was willing to make the Papers public.
eventually told Raskin about the study and shared several thousand
pages with him. Raskin used the Papers in a book on war crimes he was
working on. Ellsberg told Raskin that he had been trying to get the
Papers to go public by going through a member of Congress. Raskin
asked him why he didn't want to release them through the news media.
Initially, Ellsberg resisted the idea.
was the first to urge Ellsberg to hand the Papers over to New York
Times reporter Neil Sheehan, the journalist who finally broke the
story. And it was Raskin who first picked up the phone to give
Sheehan a call. Raskin and Sheehan arranged for a young reporter
working with Sheehan to come pick up the Papers. Raskin urged
Ellsberg to make his own connection with the New York Times, which he
told Sheehan about the section of the Papers that addressed the Gulf
of Tonkin incident, the event widely accredited as having started the
Vietnam War. The top-secret history didn't support the official story
of the event. For some reason, Ellsberg was reluctant to hand over
this part of the study. He told Sheehan that he would not.
received the account of the Gulf of Tonkin incident anyway. Though he
has never disclosed his source, the account was released to him by
hope, you see," explained Raskin, "was that the Papers
would be treated as proof of war crimes."
New York Times began publishing excerpts of the Pentagon Papers on
June 13, 1971. These dispatches, along with other subsequent ones in
The Washington Post, helped turn the tide of public opinion against
the war and put an end to the conflict in Vietnam.
like Ellsberg are heroes. And the people who help make them heard are
also heroes. When a person is ready to blow his or her whistle and
expose government wrongdoing, they can count on people like Marcus
Raskin and organizations like the Institute for Policy Studies to
help them gain a wider audience. They can rely on networks like
WikiLeaks, now under US government scrutiny, to help amplify their
one, come all. Whistleblowers can find ready assistance among fellow
persons of conscience.
MacAuley is the Institute for Policy Studies media relations manager.
The National Archives and the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon
Presidential Libraries have finally released the official Pentagon
Papers, four decades after The New York Times began publishing
excerpts from them.