Daniel Ellsberg was an analyst for the Rand Corporation when, in 1971, he leaked top-secret Defense Department documents about the Vietnam War to The New York Times and other media outlets. The publication of what became known as the Pentagon Papers demonstrated, according to the Times, that the government had “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress” about U.S. actions in Vietnam and escalations of the war into Laos and Cambodia. Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers is a central focus of the Steven Spielberg film The Post, starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, scheduled for wide release in early January.
In his new book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Ellsberg returns to his whistleblower role as he reveals secret U.S. government plans for wide-scale nuclear war and decries Trump administration threats to rebuild U.S. nuclear-weapons stockpiles. Ellsberg and longtime Catholic peace activist James W. Douglass, author of numerous books, including Gandhi and the Unspeakable: His Final Experiment with Truth, talked this fall about nuclear weapons and the fate of the earth.