Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst who leaked the top-secret document known as the Pentagon Papers to the nation's news media to help stop the Vietnam War, died on June 16, 2023. We here at New Day Films, mourn the death of this extraordinary man, who put conscience before career and inspired millions with his act of "civil courage."
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, an Academy Award-nominated documentary co-directed and produced by myself and Judith Ehrlich and distributed by New Day Films, tells the gripping story of how an American war planner turned into an anti-war activist. His singular whistle-blowing act shocked a divided nation, initiated a landmark First Amendment Supreme Court decision, and through a serpentine sequence of events, led to Watergate, President Nixon's downfall, and an end to the Vietnam War.
For Ellsberg, his 1971 act launched him into a lifetime of outspoken activism on issues from government secrecy and nuclear weapons proliferation to human rights, freedom of speech, and whistle-blowing itself. He was arrested for engaging in peaceful protests more than 80 times. Ellsberg was fond of quoting Thoreau, who said, "Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence" and lived his own life by that tenet into his 90s.
The story told in The Most Dangerous Man in America (as Ellsberg was so-described by Nixon's Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger) has never been so relevant and instructional as it is today. "Do I go along to get along? Or do I take a risk to act?" is a question we all face, perhaps many times throughout our lives. We hope Ellsberg's personal and political journey will continue to provoke, inspire, and impact new and future generations.