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June 18, 2023

Former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg died Friday at 92 of pancreatic cancer. In 1971, he coordinated with the New York Times to publish The Pentagon Papers, a 7,000-page classified history of the US’s involvement in Vietnam. It revealed ways in which Lyndon Johnson had been misleading the public, such as denying that he planned to send more troops to Vietnam or that he was expanding the war to other nations.

His family called Ellsberg “a seeker of truth and a patriotic truth-teller, an anti-war activist, a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, a dear friend to many, and an inspiration to countless more." He was charged with espionage and theft for leaking the government defense documents, but his Boston case ended in a mistrial and the case against him in L.A. was dropped.

News of his death will give media outlets like the New York Times a good opportunity to reflect on whether people who allegedly mishandle defense documents are heroes like Ellsberg, traitors who should go to prison for 400 years like Trump, or people who’ve done nothing wrong at all really so why all the fuss? (Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, etc.) The fact that they have so many different standards depending on who the defendant is reveals more about these media outlets than the Pentagon Papers revealed about LBJ.

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