I was pretty much familiar with the story
about how the Pentagon Papers
were leaked to the press in 1971. I knew that
Daniel Ellsberg, a
high-level analyst at the Pentagon and the
RAND Corp., had Xeroxed the
Pentagon's secret history of the Vietnam War
and leaked it to the
press, notably the New York Times.
never realized was what a high-ranking
employee really Ellsberg was and
how secret the Pentagon Papers really were.
"The Most Dangerous Man in
America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon
Papers," a documentary by
Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, explains
all this. Locked in safes,
the papers' existence was a secret even from
President Lyndon B.
Johnson, who, it was believed, would have been
infuriated by such a
history. Ellsberg didn't merely leak the
papers, he played a key role
in contributing to them.
short, could not be dismissed as merely a
sneak and a snitch, but a
man who had direct knowledge of how the
American public had been
misled. He saw himself not as a peacenik war
protester, but as a
government servant exercising a higher moral
duty. "The Most Dangerous
Man in America" traces Ellsberg's doubts about
authority back to a
childhood tragedy and forward to the influence
of young men who went to
prison for their convictions.
skillful, well-made film, although, since
Ellsberg is the narrator, it
doesn't probe him very deeply. We see his
version of himself. A great
deal of relevant footage has been assembled
and is intercut with stage
re-creations, animations and the White House
tapes of Richard Nixon,
who fully advocated the nuclear bombing of
Hanoi. Kissinger was
apparently a voice of restraint.