American Scandal

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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.

Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.

The Pentagon Papers | The Cold Warrior | 1

The Pentagon Papers | The Cold Warrior | 1

Tue, 07 Dec 2021 08:30

A war in Vietnam is on the horizon, as Daniel Ellsberg begins a new job at the Department of Defense. But after seeing the conflict in person, Ellsberg learns a terrible truth—one that forces him to take drastic 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. A listener note, this episode contains graphic imagery and may not be suitable for a younger audience. Wondri Up! Wondri Up! Wondri Up! It's October 4, 1969 in Los Angeles, California. In an office on the west side of town, Daniel Ellsberg creeps through a silent corridor. The night is late and by now the office is completely cleared out. So Ellsberg moves carefully, stalking through the hall like a burglar. He can't risk being seen by a security guard. A moment later Ellsberg turns a corner and arrives at a small dark room. He steps in and flicks a light switch and the fluorescent bulbs come flickering to life. And there, standing in the corner of the room is a hulking Xerox copier. Ellsberg pauses. The Xerox machine seems almost like something out of science fiction, something that can spit out endless copies of paper documents. And that's exactly what Ellsberg needs right now. In his arms is a thick blue folder labeled Vietnam Task Force. It contains a top secret report that belongs to the United States government and it reveals a dark truth about the Vietnam War. The government has been lying and these deceptions have caused tens of thousands of deaths. Ellsberg is planning to photocopy these documents tonight, tomorrow night, and every night after, until he has copies of the entire 7,000 page report. And when he's finished, he's going to release the documents to the public to reveal the truth. It could land him in prison for the rest of his life. But it's a risk Ellsberg is willing to take if it puts an end to the Vietnam War. Ellsberg raises the lid of the Xerox machine and lays the first sheet of paper on the glass surface. After hitting a few buttons, a bar of light begins to scan across the glass, then the machine starts churning out the first copy page. As the Xerox machine clunks and sputters, Ellsberg glances around the office. He knows he's lucky to be here. Few Americans have access to copiers, but Ellsberg has a friend who works in the building, and she was generous and brave enough to let him use the machine late at night. The page finishes copying and Ellsberg reaches for another document. But suddenly there's a tapping on the door. Ellsberg spins around, finds two police officers standing in the doorway. Good evening, sir. Mind telling me what's going on here? Officer! You startled me. I'm just doing a little work. We can see, but it's a little late for work. Yeah, big week ahead. The officer's step forward. Sir, what's your name? My name? Daniel Ellsberg. And you work here? Oh, no. I'm sorry, officer. I don't work here, but my friend does. And she knows you're here at night. After everyone left completely by yourself using this company's property? Well, yeah, that's right. I'm just finishing up a bit of a project. Project! It's a lot of paperwork you've got there. Ellsberg tries to muster a smile. Well, yes, officer. It's a big project. Well, would you mind if we just have a look? See what you're working on? One of the officers steps forward. His hand outstretched. Ellsberg begins to panic. Right behind him is a folder with documents labeled top secret. Ellsberg is a military analyst who's approaching the peak of his career. But if the police officer see what he's up to. Ellsberg's life as he knows it could be over. His eyes start left and right as Ellsberg searches frantically for a plan B. But right as the officer reaches for the documents, a voice calls out from behind them. The two policemen turn. And their striding forward is Linda Senei, Ellsberg's friend and the one who let him use the office. Her eyes twinkle as she smiles and Senei tells the officers that everything's okay. She works with the ad agency. Ellsberg's allowed to be here. The officers shoot each other a suspicious look. But then with quick nods, they're posture softens and they take off. Once they're out of sight, Ellsberg nearly collapses in relief. He reminds his friend that she might have just changed the course of American history. She's a hero. But Senei smiles and deflects the gratitude. She reminds Ellsberg that he's the one who deserves the praise. He's taking an enormous risk to help end the war. Now Ellsberg needs to get back to work. The public can't wait any longer to know the truth about Vietnam. Ellsberg nods, turns back to the Syrox machine. She's right. They've lost enough time already. You'll need to stay up throughout the night if he wants to make progress copying these government files. You'll have to go page by page, night after night, until the job is done. And he's not going to stop. Not until he brings the truth to the public and ends the Vietnam War. American scandals sponsored by Sachi Art. I'm lucky. Not only is my wife beautiful, funny and smart, she also has great taste that matches mine, which has made decorating our home together a delight. But how do we go about finding the art for our home? When we agree on that too, Sachi Art. They have artworks from thousands of emerging artists around the globe in all styles. So you're guaranteed to find art that fits your style, space and budget. Their view your room feature lets you visualize the art on your walls. And my advisor, Siting, was instrumental in finding our newest piece. Get 15% off your first order with promo code podcast. Just go to and enter code podcast at checkout. Find art you love today. Officially one hour until your favorite show premieres. Time to get some snacks delivered through InstaCart. Okay, let's get some popcorn, seltzer, chocolate covered almonds and... Wait, did they release the whole season? Better cart some ice cream for the two part finale. When your day should be ending, but a new season is starting, the world is your cart. Visit or download the app and get free delivery on your first order. Offer valid for a limited time, minimum order $10 additional term supply. From Wondery, I'm Lindsay Graham and this is American Scan. The decision to go to war is one of the most consequential choices a nation's leaders can make. War is risky, costly and violent. It takes an immense and lasting toll on the combatants involved. And sometimes the validity of such a decision is debated. Sometimes that debate is never resolved. The Vietnam War is arguably the most infamous and controversial war in US history. American involvement in Vietnam began with support of France's eight year war against communist revolutionaries, the Vietnam. But France was defeated and subsequent negotiations split Vietnam in half. The North ruled by communists and the South aligned with the West. While never intended to be a permanent split, diplomatic and political failures entrenched the divide. At the same time, a growing insurgency supported by North Vietnam stoked American leaders fear that Vietnam could fully fall to the communists, starting a domino effect that could accelerate the spread of communism in Asia and around the globe. In a time when the Cold War was at its height, the United States found itself desperately supporting unstable authoritarian governments in South Vietnam and increasing its military presence in the country. Initially, support for US involvement was widespread. But that support began to dissipate in the mid 1960s when it appeared the war was escalating with no end in sight. Many Americans wanted to know why they were spending their blood and treasure and began questioning the government in unprecedented ways. One of the people asking questions was Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg was a young government official helping to set US policy in Vietnam. He soon discovered that US leaders were secretly escalating a war they knew could not be one. As a result, thousands of men were drafted every year, only to be senselessly maimed or killed. Once Ellsberg recognized this terrible truth, he acted to expose it. He leaked documents now known as the Pentagon papers. This is episode 1, The Cold Warrior. It's July 1964, and Daniel Ellsberg is striding down a wide corridor inside the Pentagon. With his curly brown hair and navy blue suit, the 33 year old Ellsberg doesn't exactly fit in with the surroundings. All around him are older men, in decorated military uniforms, with short cropped hair. The Pentagon is the nerve center of the Department of Defense, and it's clear to anyone looking that Ellsberg is not a career employee of the military. Still, Ellsberg isn't concerned about appearances. Because while he does spend his days inside the Pentagon, Ellsberg works for an organization called Rand. It's a think tank that provides research and advice for the military. And while Rand and the military have a close relationship, the two are independent from each other. Which is why Ellsberg was surprised by a message he just received. A top military official has summoned Ellsberg to a meeting. Ellsberg can only guess what it's about. As Ellsberg rounds a corner, he takes a deep breath, embraces for what's ahead. He's probably not in trouble, at least he hopes not. It would be devastating if in his work as a policy analyst, he somehow compromised the military. A moment later, Ellsberg reaches the door of John McNotten, an assistant secretary of defense, and the man who summoned him. Ellsberg takes a seat. McNotten adjusts his horn rim to glasses, and after a brief pause, he announces that he does have some troubling news. Ellsberg waits for it. Seems like he's about to be fired. But McNotten looks up and says he needs to talk about the situation in Vietnam. Tensions are rising between the United States and the North Vietnamese. For now, it seems that outright war in Vietnam is still unlikely, but it's possible. And that means priorities are shifting at the Pentagon. McNotten explains that President Lyndon Johnson tasked the secretary of defense with managing US involvement in the conflict. McNotten has been appointed the special assistant. But McNotten says the task is immense, and he'll need help. That's where Ellsberg fits in. McNotten needs his own assistant, someone to comb through classified reports, and decide how much of it merits McNotten's attention. It's a crucial job, and if Ellsberg accepts the position, he'll play a key role in shaping a potential war in Vietnam. Ellsberg sits back, both relieved, and stunned by the offer. It's good to know that he's not in trouble, and he does have tremendous respect for McNotten. The two have had long stimulating conversations about nuclear arms, America's position overseas, foreign policy in general, and McNotten is clearly a capable man. Ellsberg also believes in the cause. He considers himself a liberal on domestic policy and supports unions and labor organizing. But Ellsberg draws a hard line when it comes to regimes like the Soviet Union. Ellsberg has an enduring belief in American values like freedom of expression and thought, and he sees the Soviets as a threat to freedom across the world. It was these impulses, in part, that propelled Ellsberg to enlist in the Marines, where he served as an infantry officer. So Ellsberg would like to do his part to win the war against international communism. But the truth is, he does not want to work for the federal government. It's a vast bureaucracy, and he enjoys the freedom of the private sector. So Ellsberg tells McNotten that the job sounds interesting, and important, but he's sorry. It's not right for him. McNotten pauses as he studies Ellsberg. Then he asks how Ellsberg feels about US involvement in Vietnam. Ellsberg doesn't hesitate. He tells the Assistant Secretary of Defense that he supports US involvement. The growing threat of communism must be stopped. So McNotten asks why he's turning down the job. The US needs people like him, brilliant analysts, who understand the complexities of the military and public policy. With this job, Ellsberg could direct his energy to an escalating crisis, one that could affect the balance of communism and democracy across the globe. Ellsberg nods. McNotten is right. The job he described is important, and maybe it is worth leaving the private sector. But in a moment of rash clarity, Ellsberg rises and reaches out his hand. He'll take the position. And in the months to come, he'll do what he can to help America defeat the growing threat of communism. 7 months later, Daniel Ellsberg enters the offices of the joint war room inside the Pentagon. It's 9 pm, but Ellsberg is cradling yet another hot cup of coffee. He's already spent the last 12 hours at work, but he knows he has a long night ahead of him. But at this point Ellsberg has grown used to the demanding work. Ever since he agreed to sign on as John McNotten's assistant, Ellsberg has had to put in excruciatingly long days at the Pentagon. It's a necessity of the job, especially considering the recent international developments. On Ellsberg's first day at work, an American ship was attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam. The US quickly retaliated, and the body count has risen steadily ever since. It's now clear that events are escalating. And as a staunch anti communist, Ellsberg will do whatever it takes to see the enemy defeated. He'll put in long hours, he'll work himself down to the bone. But most importantly, he'll do whatever he can to help mobilize the military, proving that war is the only option if America wants to eliminate the specter of international communism. Ellsberg steps into a small office within the joint war room. It's the only place inside the Pentagon with a direct phone line to American officers in Vietnam, personnel who can provide firsthand testimony about the need for war. Ellsberg closes the door behind him and takes a seat. He picks up the phone, and a moment later, he's connected with the US military assistance command in Vietnam. Colonel, this is Dan Ellsberg with the Secretary of Defense. Mr. Ellsberg, good to speak with you. How can I help you? Well as you're aware, we've been leading small scale strikes against the North Vietnam, but they're failing to deter the enemy. Secretary Macnamara and the Department believe it's time to get more aggressive, began larger scale bombing campaign. Okay. Has President Johnson signed off on any kind of order? No, not yet. But Colonel, that's where you come in. We need to help the President see the true threat, that our enemies are ruthless, and that they need to be hit hard until they surrender. So I'd like you to help build this case. I know you've seen atrocities. I know you've seen the worst from the North Vietnamese and their allies. There's a pause on the other end of the line. Mr. Ellsberg, do you know what you're asking? I think I do, sir. Well, this kind of stuff, it isn't easy to talk about. It's not gossip. Sir, gossip isn't my intention. I'm assuming you want to see the Communist disappear. Just like I do. They're terrorists. They shouldn't have control of North Vietnam. Yes, I agree. Then I need your help to make the case. We need graphic details. They're persuasive. So please, I'm ready, and don't hold anything back. Okay, Mr. Ellsberg. Well, just this morning, I learned that the B.I.C.K.A.L. took a village a few miles from the base. They marched out the district chief, strong amount. And then they used a machete right in front of his wife and kids. It was cut right open. On a steve a steady. And exactly the kind of story we need. Do you have any others? Yeah, I've got a few. Ellsberg continues to listen is pan flying across the pages of his no pen. And as the Colonel tells one horrifying anecdote after another Ellsberg feels something stir inside him. His fervent passion for American values is loyalty to his country. But also a rage, a thirst for vengeance, a desire to see the tyrants of the world vanquished. If it wasn't clear before now for Ellsberg, there's no mistaking it. America has to win the Cold War. And America must achieve victory in Vietnam. It's the evening of July 28th, 1965. And Daniel Ellsberg is staring nervously at a television inside the Pentagon. Beside him is his boss, the assistant secretary of defense, John McNaughton. The two men stand with arms folded, a heavy weight hanging in the air. Ellsberg knows this is a momentous occasion. After months of work, making the case for war in Vietnam, finally Ellsberg and McNaughton are about to reap the fruits of their labor. In just a few moments, prime time programming will be interrupted for a press conference with President Lyndon Johnson. The President will inform the American public that the United States is officially going to war in Vietnam, a war that's necessary and just. Ellsberg begins to pace when suddenly President Johnson's craggy face appears on the TV screen. I have asked the commanding general, General Westmoreland, what more he needs to meet this mounting aggression. He has told me, and we will meet his needs. I have today ordered to Vietnam the air mobile division and certain other forces which will raise our fighting strength from 75,000 to 125,000 men almost immediately. As the President wraps up his speech, Ellsberg stands staring at the screen and disbelief. Johnson just said that the American forces in Vietnam will only increase by 50,000 men, but that's a lie. Ellsberg has been involved in the military planning and he knows that twice that many men, 100,000 soldiers, will be drafted to fight. So Ellsberg turns to MacNoughten and asks if the President somehow mispoke. They both know that the number of men about to be drafted is far greater. MacNoughten raises a eyebrow as he thinks, and he tells Ellsberg that he doesn't believe the President mispoke. It was probably a political decision. President just wanted to downplay the significance of the conflict. Ellsberg is almost too stunned to speak. He can't fathom such a huge deception. He supports the war, but only if America's leaders speak honestly with the public. Ellsberg raises the issue again with MacNoughten, but he can see his boss growing agitated. The Assistant Secretary of Defense reminds Ellsberg that Johnson is the President, and if Ellsberg isn't on board with the President's policy, then he needs to say so now. Ellsberg realizes he's overstepped, he apologizes to MacNoughten, and says that he does support the Commander in Chief, and he was mistaken to raise any questions. Johnson has counseled from the entire U.S. military. He obviously knows best. But as Ellsberg walks out of the room, he can't stop feeling like he's been punched in the gut. Leaders in a democratic government have an obligation to speak honestly. That's what sets them apart from dictators in countries like the Soviet Union. Still, Ellsberg believes what he said. The President probably does know a lot more than he does. So maybe from here on out, he just needs to do more research, to better understand the war, and to figure out how he can best support the President's decision. At the end of the day, they all want the same thing, an American victory in Vietnam. 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. If you're looking to spruce up your home, proven winners color choice shrubs has an amazing selection of flowering shrubs and evergreens for planting in gardens and landscapes. With around 320 different proprietary varieties, including classics limelight hydrangea and little Henry sweet spire, all of their shrubs are trialed and tested for 8 to 10 years to ensure they outperform anything else on the market. Look for proven winners color choice shrubs in the distinctive white containers at your local garden center. Learn more and find a local retailer at proven winners color choice dot com slash one tree. That's proven winners color choice dot com slash one tree. Hi, this is famous Formula One driver Willarnat. Join me in comedian Mika Hakanen on our new Formula One radio program, The Fast and Loosed Post Show. Live on amp every race Sunday. Download the amp app today and follow amp presents f1 to join the show. It's April 7th 1966 in Saigon, South Vietnam. Inside an army barracks, Daniel Ellsberg paces in circles, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead. Not just that Saigon is unbearably hot, which it is, with air that feels thick and sticky. Ellsberg is also full of nerves. In a few minutes, he's going to lead a meeting with military leaders and it's sure to go poorly. Several months ago, Ellsberg renewed his vow to help the United States come out victorious in its war in Vietnam. He had felt initially betrayed after President Johnson went on TV and lied about the number of troops that would be deployed. Still, that didn't break his commitment to the war. Instead, Ellsberg asked if he could travel to Vietnam to be part of a team that would partner with America's allies in the South Vietnamese government. The United States and the South Vietnamese are at war with the communists in the North and Ellsberg wanted to see the conflict up close on the ground. He hoped he'd gain some important insights, which would allow him to provide better policy recommendations to leaders in Washington. Ultimately, Ellsberg wants to help bring about a quicker American victory, with fewer deaths among the troops. But Ellsberg's realized that his hopes were naive. Since he arrived in Vietnam, he's accompanied US soldiers in the field. He's hidden in foul smelling rice paddies, facing heavy fire. He's gagged on the smell of burning flesh. And through all of these experiences, he's taken away one lesson. The situation in Vietnam is dire and a victory for America is unlikely, unless there's a radical change of course. So today, Ellsberg is going to deliver the news to a handful of government officials, including representatives from the CIA, the National Security Council, and the military assistance command, along several generals. A few minutes later, the men file into the barracks and take their seats. Ellsberg tries to study his nerves as he gazes at the military brass assembled before him. Then he begins passing out paper copies of a report that he prepared, which summarizes his findings. The group starts scanning the first pages. But rather than wait for the men to read the full report, Ellsberg launches in with his most important findings. Ellsberg says the military is pursuing a series of strategies in Vietnam that are not tenable. The Vietnam Army appears to be totally unantimitated by American forces. They're capable of disappearing into the jungle, and then reappearing when least expected. In ambush after ambush, they're inflicting heavy casualties on American soldiers. Ellsberg adds that if this continues, Americans will face an indefinite stalemate, or US forces may suffer an outright defeat. The officials immediately begin to chatter, sounding incredulous, and a scowling army general stands and declares that Ellsberg findings are not accurate. Maybe they were true in the past, the general says, but these dire predictions are just wrong. Of course, Ellsberg knew he would face pushback. So keeping his voice calm, he agrees that there is hope for the future, but only if the US military reexamines its assumptions and drastically changes its strategy. But again, the general barks at Ellsberg. He argues that the issue isn't with American strategy. It's the South Vietnamese. The Americans allies in the South have been a weak force, but it won't stay that way forever. Thanks to the excellent training of US officials, the South Vietnamese are growing strong. And as they become better fighters, America will have better chances of winning the war. As the general finishes, several of the other officials nod their heads in agreement. There's no disputing it, they say. It's just a matter of time before the South Vietnamese emerge as a capable force and drive out the communist waging guerrilla warfare. Ellsberg's concerns are misplaced. Ellsberg wipes the sweat from his forehead and takes a seat. He doesn't know what to do. These are America's military leaders, but none of them seem to care about the facts. They want their information to be convenient. They want to hear details that confirm their own beliefs. Ellsberg knows that's dangerous. Ignorance poses a serious threat, much larger than these men can possibly imagine. Still Ellsberg isn't ready to give up. And even if military leaders have their heads in the sand, he's not ready to call this war a failure. Not when there are still government leaders who have the power to change the course of the war. Officials who are willing to look at the truth and admit that something needs to change. It's June 1966 and a warm night in Saigon. Daniel Ellsberg is sitting at a long table inside a popular Chinese restaurant. He's surrounded by friends, and as he reaches for a dumpling, Ellsberg smiles and cracks another joke. It's been a lively and fun evening. Ellsberg and his friends have gathered for a sendoff for Neil Shehan, a reporter who's been covering the war for the New York Times. Shehan is leaving Saigon, and so the gang have gotten together for one last celebratory meal. Ellsberg takes a sip of cold beer and a feeling of ease washes over him. It's good to be here with friends, relaxing, and laughing. But the best part about tonight is the woman who's sitting next to him. Patricia Marx is beautiful and vibrant. She's a brilliant journalist and activist, and for the last six months, Shehan Ellsberg has been engaged. It's one of the happiest developments of his entire life, and all night Ellsberg hasn't let go of her hand. But suddenly Ellsberg notices Marx shift in her seat, something's off. So he tunes out his own conversation with a friend and eavesdrops on Marx's conversation with a man seated to her left. He's a military commissioner, and he spent time in North Vietnam in an area that the United States is bombing heavily. And right now, he's describing the destruction of a North Vietnamese neighborhood, giving excruciating detail. The commissioner pauses and refills his plate. Ellsberg notices that his fiancee has hazel eyes or glistening, and her mouth is pinched in a scale. Then without saying a word, she suddenly shoots out from the table and her is away. Ellsberg drops his fork and rises. Marx has already several steps ahead of him rushing through the restaurant. Ellsberg follows, trying to catch up. But he doesn't reach her until she steps out into the busy street. Patricia! Wait, what's going on? The moment Marx stares at the ground, unwilling to look Ellsberg in the eye. Finally, she turns and looks up. Daniel, I just... don't understand how you can be part of that. Part of what? What are you talking about? Bombing. That man was talking about bombing innocent civilians. Not soldiers, civilians, women and children, Daniel. Getting killed because of what you're doing. Because of what I'm doing. No, you can't put that on me. I didn't order that operation. In my work, I'm trying to limit the bombing. And I'm doing my best. What does your best? What does that mean? In a war. What possibly could be best about a war? Back home every night on the 60 o clock news, they say the war is going great. It's almost over. All the bad guys on the other side are either dead or about to surrender. But it's a lie. It's a big lie. Patricia, it's a war. And war people get killed. I don't like it. That's a reality. I'm trying to minimize the killing. I'm trying to change things from the inside. You... you have to see that. I don't know. You sit in the airbase with your charts and reports. And you tell yourself you're telling me that you're doing the right thing. But this war is immoral. Not deep inside. You have to know that. And if you're part of it, Daniel. Ellsberg stares at his fiance, stunned. Patricia, what are you saying about me? Mark steps forward, and she pulls off her engagement ring and hands it to Ellsberg. Without saying another word, she turns and walks away. As Mark disappears into the crowd, Ellsberg feels an anguish, unlike anything he's ever felt before. The love of his life, the woman he vowed to marry, just walked away from him and his idea that there can be a justified war, that he is doing the right thing. But he's questioning everything now. It's October 1966, and Daniel Ellsberg is seated inside a military plane high above the east coast of the United States. After a long stay in Saigon, Ellsberg is finally heading home for a few weeks. Ellsberg closes his eyes, hoping to get a little rest before his connecting flight to Los Angeles. But just as he feels himself nodding off, he overhears a heated conversation coming from a few rows back. Ellsberg opens his eyes and turns in his seat, listening to the two men argue passionately about the war in Vietnam. One of the men has graying hair and stands in the aisle puffing on a pipe. It's Robert Comer, a special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson. Beside him sits Robert McNamara, a man in impeccable shape with short cropped brown hair and the United States Secretary of Defense. Ellsberg is trying to ease drop on the conversation when suddenly McNamara turns in his direction. Ellsberg's about to spin back around, but McNamara back into him over. The Secretary of Defense is inviting him to join their conversation. Ellsberg stands and walks towards the back of the plane. When he reaches the two officials, McNamara explains that he and Comer are having a debate. Maybe Ellsberg can help resolve it. Ellsberg nods, feeling a little bashful to be roped into a conversation with such high ranking members of the administration, but he also feels eager to share whatever he can about the war. McNamara begins by laying out the two sides of the argument. Comer, the President's aide, believes the situation in Vietnam is improving, but McNamara is growing increasingly skeptical. It seems like no matter what the military does, the situation is just getting worse. At the same time, the two men recognize that they haven't spent time in the field, not like Ellsberg has. So McNamara asks, what does Ellsberg think? Is the war getting better? Getting worse. Ellsberg looks from one man to the other. He doesn't want to risk offending either of them. At the same time, Ellsberg believes in telling the truth, especially in matters this important. It's his duty. So taking a diplomatic approach, Ellsberg explains that Vietnam was bad when he arrived, and things are still bad. Nothing's necessarily getting worse, but nothing's getting better. To Ellsberg's surprise, McNamara lights up in triumph, saying that Ellsberg just proved his point. The US has deployed 100,000 fresh troops to Vietnam in just the past year. If that deployment produced no improvements, it confirms the situation in Vietnam is, in fact, getting worse. Ellsberg nods, trying to contain his excitement. It's incredible. As Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara is the chief architect of the Vietnam War. He has the power to change the shape of the war, but unlike others in the military, McNamara seemed willing to confront reality. For Ellsberg, this might be a victory. McNamara answered directly to the president, and if he understands the war is going badly, maybe he also understands that US policies have to change, and that the president needs to order a new direction for the war. As the plane begins its descent, Ellsberg returns to a seat with a feeling of satisfaction. After all the suffering he's witnessed, and after losing the love of his life, maybe it was all worth it for this moment. He saw Vietnam up close, and he was able to report back to the United States Secretary of Defense, a man who seems committed to doing the right thing. There's no telling, of course, what President Johnson may ultimately do, but for now, Ellsberg has reason to be hopeful. Less than an hour later, the plane carrying Daniel Ellsberg touches down at Andrew's Air Force base in Maryland. Ellsberg takes a moment to gather his belongings. Then he heads up the aisle and exits the plane behind Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. When they reach the tarmac, they find a group of reporters waiting. Nearby there's a podium with microphones. McNamara must be scheduled to give a press conference right outside the plane. As McNamara walks to the podium, Ellsberg stops, interested to hear what McNamara is going to tell the press. Maybe he'll reiterate some of Ellsberg's analysis and start laying the foundation for a large scale shift in Vietnam. McNamara steps up to the microphone and takes his first question. As expected, the reporter wants to know about McNamara's trip to Vietnam. The Secretary of Defense pauses for a moment, looking down, as if considering his words carefully. Then in a booing voice, McNamara says he's very encouraged by everything he's seen and heard in Vietnam. He's happy to report the news the United States is making great progress in every dimension of the war effort. Ellsberg stares at McNamara, horrified by the lie. On the plane, he professed a deep skepticism about the war, and that was just an hour ago. And as he continues to speak to the press, McNamara goes on to give more misleading statements, painting a rosy picture of the war in Vietnam. It's an outrage. McNamara can't listen to any more of it, so he turns and walks toward the airbase, a sour taste in his mouth. For the briefest flicker of time, Ellsberg felt hopeful. It seemed that truth and sanity might win out, that America might change course in its failing war abroad, who's a feeling that was quickly dashed. Still, Ellsberg isn't fully willing to give up, not yet. There are still more policymakers in Washington, and more people who have the President's here. Ellsberg is going to keep speaking out, telling the country's leaders about the need to change course in Vietnam, because Ellsberg is convinced. If he keeps speaking out and sharing his observations, sooner or later, America will change the way they're waging this war. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion, or you woke up in the morgue, or you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening, asks our listeners this very question, while we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit, and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives, even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus, and if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. It's the summer of 1967. Daniel Ellsberg steps into a large and brightly lit room inside the Pentagon. It's lined with rows of file safes, with enough storage to hold a seemingly endless array of documents. As he gazes across the room, a Pentagon official joins Ellsberg. Leslie Gell is the director of policy planning and arms control at the Defense Department, and he tells Ellsberg that he's finally ready to explain why he asked for this meeting. Inside this room, spread across all the cabinets and drawers are the materials from a top secret project that was launched while Ellsberg was overseas. The purpose is to create a detailed study of American military strategy in Vietnam. It's crucial for the war effort, and Gell says he and his superiors would like Ellsberg to be a contributor. The offer catches Ellsberg's interest. If he takes part in the study, he'll gain access to the library of research about the Vietnam War. The information he gathers could bolster his arguments to government leaders, not the need to change course, and pursue a different kind of war in Vietnam. So Ellsberg says he wants to know more about the study. Gell nods and points to the file safes. He says they're filled with top secret papers and intelligence cables, covering American involvement in Vietnam from the 1940s on. If Ellsberg contributes to the study, he can choose the period he'd like to focus on, assuming it isn't already covered. Ellsberg is intrigued, but he's also curious what purpose the study is supposed to serve. So Ellsberg asks who commissioned the study. Was it Gell's idea? The Pentagon official shakes his head and says, no, it was requested by the Secretary of Defense. The Pentagon official shakes his head and says, no, it was requested by the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. Hearing the news, Ellsberg is pleasantly surprised. He'd written off McNamara after hearing all of his lies on the airplane tarmac. But if McNamara is requesting a massive study, it probably means he has a serious interest in improving Vietnam policy after all. So Ellsberg turns back to Gell and says he's interested. He'll join the project. And he would like to start by reading about the early 1960s, a period of Vietnam decision making he knows little about. Gell says that works for him and asks Ellsberg when he'd like to start. Ellsberg sets down his jacket and says he's ready right now. It's the summer of 1967 in Washington, D.C., and Daniel Ellsberg is walking through the White House. He's on his way to a meeting with Walt Rostow, the President's National Security Advisor. As one of the most senior aides in the White House, Rostow has the ear of the President, and that means he has a great deal of influence over America's foreign policy. Which is why Ellsberg is so eager for the meeting. For the past month, Ellsberg has immersed himself in the Pentagon's secret files. He's read about America's role in Southeast Asia, and what he's learning has been shocking and upsetting. Ellsberg now believes that America needs to fundamentally change course. But these decisions don't happen in a vacuum. Advisors like Rostow need to be breathed on the truth about the war. Only then can they alert the President and set in motion a larger shift in foreign policy. Ellsberg arrives at Rostow's office and knocks on the door. When he enters, Ellsberg comes face to face with Rostow, a balding man in his early 50s who's sitting in front of a window overlooking the White House Rose Garden. Thanks for making the time. Of course, Dan. Come in. It's been a couple of years. Let's go see you. Please have a seat. Yeah, appreciate it. You know right now, you might be the only person who can help me. The only person. What's on your mind, Dan? Well, here it is. The administration needs to completely rethink our strategy and Vietnam. There's been too much denial and wishful thinking in the Pentagon, and I think it's costing us. But I don't believe it's too late to change course. We have options. We need to choose those options right away. Okay? Well, thank you, Dan. Truly. I need men like you bringing concerns to my attention. Otherwise, I'm in the dark. Well, I'm relieved to hear you say that. A small part of me was worried you wouldn't take my concern seriously. No, not a chance. No, but there is something I want to show you first. You're the like it. Rostow opens a desk drawer and pulls out several graphs and charts. So here, take a look at these. They're all details about the war. This one shows, I think, how we're finally turning the corner in Vietnam. The Viet Cong, they're near collapse. Look, look, victory is close. Elsberg freezes as he stares at the colorful diagrams. Walt, I appreciate your data. But listen to what I'm telling you. We're losing the war in Vietnam and we're losing it badly. It's time for the president to consider pulling out. No, no, you're not understanding these charts. I'm telling you, Dan, you'll have to stop. Elsberg catches himself. He didn't mean to yell, especially at such a high ranking official from the White House. I'm sorry for raising my voice. You have to understand. I've been to Vietnam. I've watched our servicemen go into that jungle thinking they're going to save the world. They come out, if at all, missing arms and legs. Those charts, they look good. But they're fantasy. Believe me, victory is not near. We have to change course, or the war will end in disaster. For the people of Vietnam and for us, please relay the message that the truth is not in these charts. Because it's urgent. Rostow is silent for a moment. Then he shakes his head. Dan, I'm not going to relay that message to the president. Not today and not ever. Understand? Elsberg sits staring at Rostow. And slowly adorns on him. He does understand. It does not matter what the human costs may be. Rostow is a self interested government official, just like all the rest of them. He won't risk upsetting the president, not if his job depends on it. So Elsberg gets up and walks out of Rostow's office. His heart pounding with anger. The military generals, the president's advisors, the lawyers, the support staff, not a single one is prepared to prevent needless deaths in Vietnam. No one is willing to be honest with themselves, or the public, who they've sworn to serve. For decades, the government has lied about Vietnam. Countless officials have deceived the public. Elsberg has seen the proof. Still, no one is willing to speak up for what's right. But as Elsberg walks out of the White House, he realizes that maybe he should stop looking at others to make sure the government will be held accountable for its actions. From wondering, this is episode one of the Pentagon Papers from American Scam. In our next episode, Daniel Elsberg meets with an unexpected political group. As he grows more to solution with the war, he considers taking an extraordinary and risky step. 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 add free by subscribing to OneGree Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the OneGreeM. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode, and supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support this 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 Elsberg. A quick note about our reenactments. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said, but all our johnmitizations are based on historical research. American Scandalists hosted, edited, and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham, or Airship, audio editing by Molly Bogg, Sound Design by Derek Barons, Music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Hannibal Diaz, edited by Trasena Mallsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Ribbon, executive producers of our Stephanie Jen's, Jenny Lauer, Beckman, and Marsha Looney 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. This is an exclusively on Wondering Plus Kids and Apple Podcasts, or on Wondering Plus in the Wondering App. Stories Podcast Sleep Series. Sucthing Stories to Help You Sleep. Available exclusively on Wondering Plus Kids and Apple Podcasts, or on Wondering Plus in the Wondering App. Sweet Dreams.