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The Pentagon Papers | Birth of a Radical | 2

The Pentagon Papers | Birth of a Radical | 2

Tue, 14 Dec 2021 08:01

Daniel Ellsberg begins meeting with anti-war activists. With his beliefs shifting, Ellsberg considers whether to take more decisive action.

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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondri app. Download the Wondri app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. It's March 1968 in New York City. A pair of elevator doors open as Daniel Ellsberg steps into a bustling office. People are racing between each other's desks, exchanging reports, arguing as they pound away at typewriters. Others rest their phones on their shoulders as they furiously scribble down notes. The newsroom of the New York Times appears to be a frenzied chaotic mess, but Ellsberg didn't come here expecting peace and quiet. As a government consultant Ellsberg answers to some of the highest ranking members of the United States military. Just by stepping foot in the newsroom of the New York Times, Ellsberg could get himself fired. He knows this visit is risky. But at this point Ellsberg is out of options. For years he's warned officials in the military about the failures in the Vietnam War. He's explained why the current strategy isn't working. That sending in more and more troops isn't a solution to the problem. Sheer manpower won't defeat the Viet Cong. The guerrilla forces waging war in South Vietnam with support from the communists in the north. And an increase in troops won't somehow strengthen America's allies in South Vietnam. It's not that Ellsberg is anti war or some kind of pacifist. He wants to see the US come away victorious in the Cold War. But so far, every time he's raised concerns about strategy in Vietnam, officials have brushed him aside. So now it's time to take matters into his own hands. Ellsberg is going to try and steer the country towards a new strategy for the war. One that could actually lead to victory. The work starts here in the newsroom of the New York Times. As Ellsberg looks around the newsroom, he feels a tap on his shoulder. Well, is that my good friend Daniel Ellsberg? Neil, it's good to see you. With a giant grin, Ellsberg embraces his friend Neil Sheahan, a reporter with the New York Times. Good to see you, Dan. And thanks for coming in. Manhattan is... well, it's a world away from Saigon. I know, what's it been? Two years? A different world indeed. I was engaged out on the front lines, and you were reporting from the field. Facing down danger with reckless abandon. We were. And Neil, I am happy to see that you've remained so unflinching in all of your writing. You're not afraid to tell the truth. And that's why I contacted you. Well, thank you, Dan. But before we get too far into this, why don't we go somewhere a little more private? Ellsberg nods and follows Sheahan back into a dim, cluttered office. So, Dan, I assume you brought the documents you mentioned. Ellsberg nods and drops his briefcase onto the desk. But as he reaches to open it, he pauses. Neil, just, just give me a minute. I told myself I was ready, but now I'm here. This is a big step. Yeah. Yeah, I understand. You're putting your livelihood on the line. If the wrong person finds out I gave you this, I could lose my security clearance. I could bring me up on charges. God, I don't know that... Maybe I'm not ready to go through with this. Well, Dan, I'm not going to try and strong arm you into opening that briefcase. But remember, everyday soldiers are taking an even bigger risk. Every time they march off into the jungle, they're risking their lives. So the risk you're taking. I know. Is so that you could help save lives. I know. Okay. Well, here we go. Take a look. Ellsberg opens the briefcase and slides it across the desk. She hand then begins flipping through a series of documents, which include confidential cables and reports. Well, these are interesting. Am I reading them right? I think you are. I think it proves that they're lying to the US public. General Westmoreland said the enemy strength is declining if you know, but it's not. Be a Kong aren't getting weaker. And I think everyone at the top knows it. Dan, this is excellent. How much more can you get me? Ellsberg looks away. He knows he has to be careful. Well, Westmoreland isn't the first official to lie about the war. I'll say that much. So there is more. Can you share them with me? No. No. I've already done too much. Okay. But if you change your mind, no, I know. You'll be the first I call on the old. Thanks for meeting with me. Ellsberg makes his way out of the newsroom. And it's not until he's back outside that the weight of the moment fully sinks in. Ellsberg just handed sensitive government information to a reporter. If anyone finds out he could lose his job or worse, still Ellsberg knows he did the right thing. He tried to change the war by going through official channels and that led nowhere. And while Ellsberg hates the idea of lying and leaking classified material, it was the only option left. A way to put pressure on America's leaders and steer a new course in the Vietnam War. 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Carved it. And finally, some vegetarian gluten free olives from my well earned cocktail. When your family shopping list has more footnotes than groceries, the world is your cart. Visit or download the app and get free delivery on your first order. Offer valid for limited time minimum order $10. Delivery subject to availability. Additional terms apply. From Wondry, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American's can. In the late 1960s, Daniel Ellsberg took a job working for a senior official in the military. Ellsberg was a policy analyst and a former marine. And despite his literal views on domestic politics, he was deeply committed to an American victory in the Cold War. For Ellsberg, it was crucial that America win against the Soviet Union, including in proxy wars like that in Vietnam. But over time, Ellsberg's beliefs began to shift. He spent time in Vietnam and saw firsthand how the war was being mishandled. Back in the United States, Ellsberg was tasked to study the history of the US involvement in Vietnam. And through his research, Ellsberg found that America's leaders had lied to the public about the war's outlook, and its human cost. Ellsberg grew increasingly disillusioned and found himself drawn to the growing antiwar movement. It was a time in America of extreme political upheaval, with antiwar activists squaring off against those who supported the war sometimes violently in the streets. And with his beliefs changing, Ellsberg realized that he couldn't sit on the sidelines, only showing symbolic support for antiwar demonstrators. He would need to take action himself. This is Episode 2. Birth of a Radical. It's August 25, 1969, and a warm night at Haberford College just outside Philadelphia. Daniel Ellsberg is walking through a narrow hallway inside of one of the dormitories on campus. He's wearing a navy blue suit and tie, and he knows he looks like an outsider here in the student dorms. But it doesn't fully hit Ellsberg until he reaches the end of the hall and peers in through an open doorway. Inside Ellsberg spots some young women dressed in tank tops and bell bottoms, and men wearing loose fitting shirts, with some even having hair past their shoulders. These are hippies, peace activists. And when Ellsberg catches his own reflection in a nearby window, he nearly turns around and flees. He knows that with just one look, the students here will judge him as a square, a defender of the war machine in Washington. But Ellsberg can't turn back. He came here with a purpose and he's going to see it through. So Ellsberg composes himself and steps into the dorm room. Immediately, he's hit with a wall of foul smoke. It's not tobacco. It must be pot. People are swaying and dancing as a rolling stone's record blairs from the high fire. Ellsberg shakes his head, laughing at the improbable situation he's brought upon himself. He may be a government consultant, but he came to Haberford for an anti war conference. And normally, he wouldn't choose to spend the night in the company of drug smoking hippies like these. But the conflict in Vietnam is getting worse. And even with his leaks to the New York Times, the leaders in Washington continue to lie to the public. Feeling more dissolution than ever, Ellsberg has decided to take a leap of faith. He traveled to Philadelphia for an anti war conference to see whether he might have more and common with these peace activists than might be apparent. It's a community he hasn't interacted with much in his government circles. But Ellsberg has found their criticisms to be fair and justified. And Ellsberg wants to learn more. While surveying the party, Ellsberg notices a slender man in glasses standing across the room. Bob Eaton is a quaker and an anti war activist. When he spoke at the conference, Ellsberg noticed the room seemed to light up. He's exactly the kind of person Ellsberg would like to talk to. So when the crowd breaks apart a bit, Ellsberg approaches Eaton with an outstretched hand. Hello, Mr. Eaton. My name's Dan Ellsberg. I wanted to introduce myself. Oh yeah, I saw you earlier. I mean, you stand out. So not in a bad way. There's just not a lot of people your age here. But I admire that. Good of you to come. And please, no, Mr. Eaton, I'm Bob. Okay, Bob. Well, I'm flattered. But I'm no hero. I'm a frustrated government consultant. You on the other hand, you... I heard you earlier. I listened to your story. You are the one acting on principle, facing jail because you won't submit to the draft. Well, you know what Henry Thoreau said. Cast your whole vote. And that's what I'm doing. The system's corrupt. I'm doing my part to help change it. Yeah, the system is broken. But you have a willingness to just give up your freedom. Well, my lawyer says I can expect a three year sentence. It's a small price for doing what's right. Three years. How... How can you be standing here so calm about that? Well, Dan, I look at it like this. I'm an anti war organizer. And I don't have to stop when I'm locked up. I'll just organize in prison. You're a better man than me. I couldn't sacrifice like that. You got it. Ellsberg is about to reply when a young college student approaches Eaton announcing that they have lots of volunteers for tomorrow. They'll get together and then the group will accompany Eaton to the courthouse. While he's being sentenced, they'll be staging an anti war protest outside. The young man then turns to Ellsberg and asks if he'd like to join. Ellsberg freezes, sitting passively in a conference is one thing. But being part of an anti war demonstration out in the open, that's an entirely different proposition. And Ellsberg fumbles for a response. But Eaton waits patiently and gazes straight at him. Eaton, the same man who has the courage to risk prison time for his beliefs. Ellsberg has a change of heart. Showing up at a protest doesn't take that much. It is the least he can do. To show a little support for someone who's risking his freedom. So Ellsberg nods and says, sure, they can count on him. Tomorrow he'll be there protesting at the courthouse. The next day, Daniel Ellsberg stands near the entrance to a federal building in downtown Philadelphia. Up and down the block, anti war protestors march in solidarity with Bob Eaton, the activist who's about to be sentenced for draft evasion. They chant slogans and hand out leaflets, all to raise awareness about the injustices of the Vietnam War. Ellsberg is supposed to be marching alongside them. Last night, he agreed to show up and protest Eaton sentencing with them. But now, as he pages through a stack of anti war leaflets, Ellsberg can't believe what got into him. Maybe it was all the second hand pot smoke, all the heady radical politics. Maybe he just got caught up in the moment and made him forget who he really is, a paid consultant who works for government officials. Standing here along with anti war protesters, it's donning on Ellsberg that by protesting the government, he's putting his livelihood and reputation in jeopardy. So Ellsberg shows the leaflets in his pocket. He's going to try and appear anonymous for as long as possible and then head home. As Ellsberg continues to linger off to the side, one of the protesters approaches him. She has a friendly face and when she reaches Ellsberg, she points to the leaflets sticking out of his pockets. With a smile, she makes the suggestion. Ellsberg should join her, walk up and down the block and hand out some of those leaflets. Ellsberg looks down trying to avoid eye contact. It's a tough situation. He does respect the protesters and their cause. But Ellsberg wishes he could somehow show his support without publicly criticizing America and risking his own employment. So he hesitates when the protestor nudges him on the shoulder. She urges him to join her again. They have worked to do. Ellsberg looks up and he knows he can't avoid it any longer. He has to make a decision. He either join the protest or go home. It's a moment of terrible conflict. So with hand shaking, Ellsberg removes the leaflets from his pocket. He nods at the protestor and together, the two begin walking through the street, handing out the materials. At first, Ellsberg feels a mixture of dread, terror and exhilaration. He's never done anything like this. But the more leaflets he hands out, the more that Ellsberg starts to relax. All around him are fellow protesters. Women in modest dresses, men in collared shirts. Not everyone is a wild eyed college hippie. There are Americans from all walks of life. Good and moral people who are concerned about the war and willing to voice their opposition. And so, as the day goes on, Ellsberg begins to walk with a little more courage and a little more purpose. And even though he was afraid of first, it hits him. Ellsberg feels comfortable with the protesters. Much more so than in the company of government officials. It feels more like a community. And while this act of civil disobedience won't end the war, it's a good start. Something that Ellsberg isn't going to walk away from. It's August 28, 1969, two days later. Daniel Ellsberg takes a seat in an auditorium on the Haberford College campus. It's the final day of the war resisters conference. And the large room is buzzing with excited conversation. Ellsberg can admit that a big part of him feels swept up by the conference. That there's something happening inside him. Shifting, changing into something new. When Ellsberg first arrived at the conference, he still felt a deep allegiance to the government. The Vietnam War still seemed righteous in a basic sense. Even if Ellsberg believed that leaders in Washington needed to chart a new strategy. But for the last 48 hours, Ellsberg has stood side by side with protesters learning from them, marching in the street with them. It's been some of the most electrifying moments of his entire life. It feels like some seed was planted inside him and has begun to grow quickly and out of his control. Ellsberg doesn't know how exactly he might continue to change in the coming months. But one thing certain, he needs to keep learning. Inside the auditorium, Ellsberg turns his attention to the front. Soon a young, handsome man walks on stage and it's immediately clear why the auditorium is so packed. The man on stage is Randy Keeler, a well known organizer and a famously gifted speaker. The room goes quiet. And Ellsberg leans forward as Keeler introduces himself. He doesn't know why, but Ellsberg has the sense that he's about to witness something profound, something that could change his future. Looking out at the audience, Keeler begins by talking about the life he used to live, a middle class life, a safe, conventional life. And then one day everything changed. Keeler found the peace movement. He discovered a new way of life, a way to live with integrity and purpose. It was a community, Keeler says, of people that were committed to something larger than themselves. Something probably more noble and more ideal than anything he'd experienced in 22 years of public education. The peace movement, Keeler, says, offered him a view of a new kind of world. One that's not dominated by fear and violence, but instead by love and interconnectedness, humanity, united like a family. Keeler tells the audience that the movement offered him inspiration and a source of hope for the future. For a moment, Keeler pauses his rhapsody. And in the audience, Daniel Ellsberg feels a knot, whelling up in his throat. He's moved, moved by the vision of hope that Keeler is describing. And as he looks around at the men and women seated beside him, he can tell that he's not alone. Then Keeler begins again with a somber recitation. He lists the friends who have been locked up, activists who have refused to fight on the war, who are willing to pay a price for their beliefs. And then, as he looks out over the audience, Keeler begins to cry. And soon enough the audience joins him. There's sniffles echoing through the auditorium. Keeler wipes away at tear. And then he smiles, explaining he's not crying because he's sad. He's moved by his friend's sacrifice. It's overwhelming to witness their courage and nobility. Then Keeler pauses again. And as he looks out over the audience, he announces that soon, he's going to make the same sacrifice. He's about to be sentenced for draftivation. Ellsberg is surprised when suddenly, without any prompting, the audience stands and applauds. It begins as a scatter, but soon the auditorium erupts in a sweeping collective celebration of Keeler's self sacrifice and bravery. For Daniel Ellsberg, the moment is overwhelming. He grows dizzy and lightheaded, and feeling overrun with emotion. He races to the men's room, and then collapses onto the tiled floor, and begins sobbing. The tears come pouring down his face. He's gasping for air. And all the while, something keeps repeating in Ellsberg's head, we are eating our young. Ellsberg can't let go of the boundless tragedies of Vietnam. The young men sent to slaughter, and back home, those who refuse to die for the war, get sent to jail. Their lives are raised behind the walls of a prison. And again, the phrase repeats in Ellsberg's mind, we are eating our young. Ellsberg weeps until finally, wrong out. Ellsberg stands and wipes his eyes. He stares at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He has the same face that he had 10 minutes ago. He has the same body, the same clothes, but something has changed. The man in the mirror is new and different. The man in the mirror realizes that he can no longer be complicit in the atrocities of Vietnam. It doesn't matter that the war was waged in the name of something good, the fight against communism, because it's grown to be a horrifying, mismanaged thing, an endless cycle of suffering and violence. Ellsberg has until this moment taken only the most conservative steps, attempting to sway America's leaders in Washington, but he's done with these half measures, and he's done hiding his deepest misgivings. Ellsberg needs to take decisive action, and to help put an end to the war, even if it means risking his own life. Lots of people don't know it, but autumn is an ideal time to plant. shorter days and cooler nights create ideal conditions for the plants to get established. 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Download the AMP app and follow AMP presents F1 or ask Alexa to play F1 on AMP. It's September 30, 1969, an early fall day in Los Angeles. As Daniel Ellsberg approaches an apartment complex, he feels the warm Santa Ana winds blowing through his curly brown hair. The winds are infamous in LA. City residents have always noted how the Santa Anna's carry with them a vague feeling of dread. But for Daniel Ellsberg, it's unclear whether what he's feeling today is a product of the weather or the meeting he's about to have. In a few minutes, Ellsberg is going to lay out an incredibly risky proposal. If all goes according to plan, leaders in Washington will be forced to dramatically change course in Vietnam, maybe even put an end to the brutal war. It would be a victory for American soldiers, stations, and South Vietnam, as well as countless Vietnamese people who've suffered through decades of war. And yet, even in that best case scenario, Ellsberg himself may face a pain and difficult future, one that could land him in prison. Ellsberg walks up the steps of the apartment complex, and knocks on a door. A moment later, his former colleague, Tony Russo, answers and quickly ushers Ellsberg into his apartment. As the two walk through the living room, Ellsberg takes a long look at his former colleague, a balding man and a striped shirt, Russo used to work with Ellsberg at Rand, a think tank that conducts research for the US military. Like Ellsberg, Russo used to think of himself as a cold warrior, a defender of American values. But as Russo learned more about Vietnam, his opinions changed. He went on to write withering studies about the military, and while Russo believed he was in the right, his controversial opinions got him fired. Through the ordeal, Russo still maintained his core belief. The war in Vietnam was unjust, which is why Ellsberg sees Russo as an ally, and reached out for help. So now as the two take a seat, Ellsberg begins laying out his plan. He asks if Russo remembers the top secret study he mentioned a while back. The one at the Pentagon that Ellsberg worked on, the one detailing the history of America's involvement in Vietnam. Russo nods, and Ellsberg says he hasn't forgotten Russo's recommendation that Ellsberg should leak the documents. Looking down, Ellsberg admits that at the time the idea seems shocking. He couldn't imagine leaking top secret materials. But something changes mind. Just this morning, he read a horrifying story in the newspaper. In Vietnam, a group of green berets were charged with murdering a Vietnamese man who had worked with the US military. There's overwhelming evidence of the soldier's guilt. And according to the reporting, it's even possible they were acting under orders from their superiors. But now newspapers are reporting that the murder charges have been abruptly dropped. No one is being held accountable, and it's likely no one will. It's the sort of top to bottom corruption that's defined the Vietnam War for decades, and the reason that Ellsberg is now ready to take action. So Ellsberg says he's going to strike back against the government's deceit. He's going to fight with the most powerful weapon at his disposal, the Pentagon's top secret report about the war. Sometimes soon Ellsberg is going to leak the entire study to Congress in the press. Because when the public learns the truth about the war, the president and the military will have to change course. Russo furrows his brows as he listens to Ellsberg. And for a moment Ellsberg feels a pang of regret. If he goes through with this plan, if he leaks a top secret military study, he won't just be risking his own life. Anyone else even marginally involved could find themselves in prison for aiding and abetting the crime. Seems risky to even talk about the plan. But when Ellsberg finishes, his former colleague Russo looks up with a smile. And he says this is wonderful news. He wants to help, however he can. Ellsberg feels a wave of relief. He'll need all the help he can get. And Russo's assistance will be invaluable. Still, Ellsberg needs to make sure that Russo understands the gravity of the situation. If they go through with this plan, the Department of Defense will eventually discover the source of the leak. And when that happens, both Ellsberg and Russo could face life in prison for theft of government property and espionage. Russo nods, he understands the risks. But he believes the Vietnam War is unjust and immoral. And just like Ellsberg, he's willing to sacrifice his freedom if that means bringing the war to an end. With that, Ellsberg has heard all he needs. So he begins walking Russo through the details. Inside the offices of Rand, there's a copy of the entire Pentagon study. First, Ellsberg needs to smuggle it out of the building. Then he needs to find a way to make several copies. But that won't be easy. The study is over 7,000 pages long. And Ellsberg doesn't have access to a copy machine. Russo says he can take care of that particular problem. His girlfriend runs a small advertising agency and it's not far from Rand's offices. They have a Xerox copier. His girlfriend also opposes the war, so she'll help them out. Ellsberg will have access to a Xerox machine. But Russo asks, how soon are they talking about moving? Ellsberg gives a grave nod. He tells Russo that there's no time for delays. He wants to get started as soon as possible. And so unless something gets in the way, tomorrow night, after everyone's gone home, Ellsberg is going to steal a copy of the Pentagon's top secret study. The next night, Ellsberg is in his office at the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California. He checks the wall clock. It's nearly 9 pm. Most of his colleagues will have gone home by now, so it's time to begin. Ellsberg walks over to his office door and closes it softly. Then he turns and walks to a tall black safe in the corner of the room. He begins spinning the dials of the safe, his fingers trembling. There's a click as the safe unlocks. Ellsberg swings open the door, and inside, like some hidden treasure, is the Pentagon study of Vietnam. All 7,000 pages of it, a complete history of the US's involvement in the country. The study is separated into multiple volumes. With such a large cache, Ellsberg knows it'll take him several nights to copy the entire thing. So he begins by pulling out a few hundred pages. But as he lifts out the documents, he hears something and stops. Sounded like someone approaching, Ellsberg remains completely frozen, waiting. A minute passes, and then another. And finally, Ellsberg takes a deep breath. He was probably just being paranoid. So he gets back to work. He picks up his brown leather briefcase and slides the documents inside. Once the briefcase is full, Ellsberg realizes he's about to face his biggest test. He has to get the files out of the building without getting caught. Ellsberg turns off the light and steps into the elevator. He presses the L for lobby. Ellsberg shuts his eyes, trying to calm himself. A moment later, the elevator doors open, and Ellsberg steps into the bright lobby. Two uniform security guards stand behind a desk. As Ellsberg passes them, he forces himself to smile. He has to appear normal. Not walking too fast, not walking too slow. The guards will stop him if anything looks out of the ordinary. Ellsberg then reaches the lobby door and braces himself. He can already imagine the guards yelling out his name, demanding him to stop right there, asking what he's doing. But when he opens the doors, the guards don't say a thing. And after Ellsberg steps into the cool night air, it hits him. He's done it. Ellsberg wipes the sweat from his forehead as he makes his way to his car. He has smuggled out the first set of documents, and he needs to start making copies. But he'll have to do this again. And again, if he wants to smuggle out the entire 7,000 page study. But now there's no turning back. Ellsberg has committed a crime, and he'll have to finish the deed if the public is going to learn the truth about Vietnam. Three days later, Daniel Ellsberg sits down at a wooden picnic table at a local market in Los Angeles. It's a perfect and cloudless fall day, and the smell of baked goods wafes out from a nearby cafe. As he breathes in the sweet smelling air, Ellsberg is suddenly filled with a sense of poignancy, a loving appreciation for everything that's good and simple, everything he may soon lose. Last night, Ellsberg was up late again, copying the Pentagon study. So far, he hasn't been caught, but he knows it's only a matter of time. Which is why Ellsberg has decided to take his teenage son, Robert, out to lunch. It's time for him to confess the truth to his son, to explain why he's risking his own life, and why the sacrifice is so important for the good of the country. Ellsberg's son, Robert, takes a seat at the picnic table, and for a moment, Ellsberg only stares at his teenage boy. He's a great kid with a kind face. Dad, why are you looking at me like that? Oh, it's nothing, Robert. Just noticing your hair, it's dark. You're like mine. You're weird. What's going on? Ellsberg bites his lip. He can't delay this any longer. Well, I have something to tell you. I'm going to do something that could get me in trouble. Quite a bit of trouble. What are you talking about? Well, a while back, the military commission to study, a big one, all about Vietnam. It was looking at what the US has actually been doing in Vietnam, and not what the politicians have been telling us. And I found out that the truth, or the truth of it is really ugly. The military, the presidents, they've all been lying. What do you mean? Who, lying about why? Lying about, about everything. Think about what they've been telling us. They tell us that we're winning, that everything's on the right track. But the truth is, they're going to keep sending more and more troops. More and more people are going to die, and there's no end in sight. Ellsberg's son, Robert, looks at him with confusion. What does this have to do with you? What are you going to do that's going to get you in trouble? Well, what it has to do with me is, I stole a copy of this study. It's top secret, and I made copies of it. I'm going to give these copies to newspapers, or some politicians, or someone who actually wants to help. I figure this could actually change things. But please, you have to understand, I stole them, and in giving them to other people, I am committing a very serious crime. Ellsberg's son continued staring, shocked. How serious could you go to jail? Yeah, I could. For a long time. Would you get caught? I mean, well, don't get caught. Do whatever you have to do, and then we'll go to Mexico. Ellsberg smiles at this suggestion. No, no, no, we're not going to Mexico. I'm not going into hiding, and I can't control it if I get caught or not. Truth is, I probably will. What? Why do you have to do this? Why you? You. You don't have to go to prison to prove a point. Surely they're going to figure it out. Robert has been years, and no one's figured that. No one's told the truth. Someone has to. But you can't go to prison. What about me? This is hard for me to explain, but Robert, I'm doing this for you. In a few years, you're going to be all enough to get drafted. And I couldn't live with myself if I knew I could stop that from happening. But I did nothing. Someday you'll understand. This is the kind of thing that fathers do for their children. Robert looks away, a tear forming in the corner of his eye. I don't like this. I don't like it either. It's the right thing to do, though. Is it? Well, you told me to read about civil disobedience. And this is civil disobedience, right? Might actually be kind of cool. Cool. Ah, so being cool is worth the risk of prison, huh? No, it's not funny. OK, yeah, it's not funny. You want to help me out? Robert wipes his nose as he gazes at his father. And he nods, says, yeah, you'll come along. It's an enormous gamble. Risking his son's comfortable ordinary life in order to save him and thousands like him from a possible death. And it's been hard to shape the doubts about his decision. But it's encouraging hearing his son agree that it's the right thing to do. His son's approval means the world to him. So Ellsberg shoots his son a smile and says they should probably get going. 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Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. It's early October in a quiet neighborhood in Los Angeles. Daniel Lalsberg parks in front of a freshly painted two story home and steals himself for what's sure to be a difficult conversation. Lalsberg is about to speak with his ex wife, Carol Cummings, the mother of his son Robert and his daughter Mary. He feels an obligation to give her a warning that her life is about to change. And for reasons outside her control. Lalsberg has continued to copy the Pentagon study about Vietnam. And soon he's going to leak the entire thing. But when he does, he will probably get caught. And be subjected to scrutiny by the media and Congress and the law. It's going to be a circus. And anyone he's connected to will invariably get roped in. So the best Lalsberg can do is warn his ex wife to prepare her for the coming spotlight. Lalsberg steps on to the front porch and rings the doorbell. After a few moments, Lalsberg's ex wife answers the door with a look of surprise. Daniel, what are you doing here? I need to talk to you about something. OK. Come on in. What's going on? Well, I'm not sure how to say this. I've become involved in something. I've come in contact with a study at the Pentagon about Vietnam. It's top secret. But it shows the worst of the worst of the worst of the war. And after reading through it, I've decided that it cannot remain a secret. So I'm going to leak it to Congress and the press. Lalsberg pauses waiting for a response. But Cummings just stares at him. Carol, do you understand what I just told you? Yes, I understand. What the hell are you thinking? I'm thinking it's time for the war to end. Women and children and our kids, American soldiers, they're dying over there. And leaking this study could show how for years people in Washington have been lying. Leaking this study could change things. Could end the war. You're going to get caught. You know that? I do know that. And I'll probably go to jail. When that happens, I won't have a job. I won't be able to make Alimony or child support payments. So I'm trying to prepare you. Daniel, you can't do that. You're under a court order. You have to keep helping out. I know. I realize. But I'll have no choice. I'll be in prison. Nice. And what happens when our children learn about what you've done? Well, Robert already knows. What? I told him. And last night, he came with me to copy a few volumes of the study. Cummings grows pale with shock. Are you kidding me, Daniel? How could you do that? How could you make our teenage son complicit and of crime? When I'm arrested and put on trial, they're going to call me a trainer. They'll say I've lost my mind. But I wanted Robert to see who I really am. And then I'm not betraying his country. I'm doing this for the country. I'm doing this for him. Oh my God, you're a vile man. You have no right to involve our son. If you want to ruin your own life, they go ahead. But there's nothing heroic about ruining the lives of your family. Shame on you, Daniel. Leave. Al's brick nots. He was prepared for this. Without saying another word, he turns and walks back to his car. The door slams behind him. But suddenly, Ellsberg feels stung by doubt. He wonders if there was truth in what his ex wife said. Is he being selfish? Is he pursuing this entire project out of vanity? Some inflated view of his own self worth and importance? Maybe his quest isn't so pure after all. And maybe it's not too late to stop. He could burn the copies of the Pentagon study. Put everything in a safe? You could get back to living a normal life. One that doesn't endanger his family, his friends, or himself. Later that evening, in an office in Santa Monica, Daniel Ellsberg hitches the start button on a massive Xerox machine. Beneath the glass, the bar of green light slides from right to left and the machine rumbles as it processes the page. And then it turns out another copy, which Ellsberg sticks into a growing pile. Ellsberg sighs as he gazes at the copied pages from the Pentagon study. He's still having trouble shaking his feelings from earlier. His doubts about the righteousness of his entire endeavor. But Ellsberg isn't yet ready to pull the plug. So he came to the ad agency run by Tony Russo's girlfriend, Linda Sene. And tonight, both Sene and Russo are here alongside him helping to organize the copies. Ellsberg places another page of the Pentagon study on the glass. And once again, the room lights up with an eerie, emerald glow. The work is methodical and repetitive. And Ellsberg begins to feel lulled into a calm and sleepy state. He really could use a good night's sleep. Ellsberg feels his eyelids growing heavy. When suddenly Sene gasps, Ellsberg is shocked back into a state of high alert. He turns and asks, what's wrong? Is there someone in the building? Sene shakes her head. She tells Ellsberg that she started reading one of the copied pages and was deeply disturbed. The document revealed the president Johnson had ordered covert raids on the North Vietnamese. But Sene recalls Johnson had publicly claimed he would deescalate the war. The president was lying. Sene sets down the page. And with a look of deep sincerity, she tells Ellsberg that she's grateful for the work he's doing. The government is clearly destroying people's lives, committing atrocities, lying to the American public. These deceptions have to be exposed. Ellsberg nods in agreement. And he's grateful for Sene's recognition of the importance of the work. Because it renews faith in his cause. It strengthens his belief that what he's doing, all the risks he's taking, the sacrifices he'll have to make, everything will have been worth it. If his work can save the lives of American soldiers and the people in Vietnam. So Ellsberg places the next sheet of the study on the Xerox machine. He clicks the start button. And he takes a deep breath. He may be here till sunrise. He won't be getting any sleep. But he's not going to stop working. Not until he finishes copying the study and has what he needs to help put an end to the Vietnam War. From Wondering, this is episode two of the Pentagon Papers from American Scandal. In our next episode, Daniel Ellsberg begins leaking the stolen Vietnam study. And with the nation riveted by the story, the federal government launches a man hunt for the culprit. It sets off a war with the National Press. If you like our show, please give us a five star rating and leave a review. And be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like. American History Tellers and Business Movers. Follow on Apple podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening right now. Or you can listen to new episodes early and ad free by subscribing to Wondering Plus in Apple podcasts or in the Wondering app. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support the show is by filling out a small survey at slash survey to tell us what topics we might come next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A. Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle Initially. And thank you. If you'd like to learn more about the Pentagon Papers, we recommend the book Secrets, a memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg. A quick note about our reenactments. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said. But all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham for airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Perens, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Hannibal DS, edited by Christina Malzberg. Our senior producer is Gabe Ribbon, executive producers, our Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Marsha Louis for Wondering. Hi grownups. Bedtime isn't always easy. And winding down after a busy day can feel almost impossible. But we're here to help. Introducing Stories Podcast Sleep Series. All of your favorite stories from classic fairy tales to modern myths. All read in a calm and soothing voice over dreamy soundscapes and gentle lullabies. Snuggle in and turn down the lights. And let us read the bedtime story so you can relax and unwind with your kids. With Stories Podcast Sleep Series. Listen exclusively on Wondering Plus Kids and Apple Podcasts. Or on Wondering Plus in the Wondering app. Sweet dreams.