United States v
Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo: Selected Testimony (1973)
States District Court, Central District of California
Testimony of Daniel Ellsberg
by Leonard Boudin:
Q Would you continue describing what you did in
Vietnam in performance of your duties.
A In order to
find out-in order to come to understand so that we could improve
and our performance and I hoped win this war and beat the Communists
as I saw it, I felt that I had-I did begin to drive the roads of
through every part of the III Corps area, which surrounded Saigon, and
increasingly into IV Corps, the area below Saigon, the Mekong Delta,
plane and car into the northern II Corps and I Corps area.
I would use the
roads by car, visit along the way villages and hamlets. I would
an interpreter with me or I would speak to officials in French. Most of
officials spoke French, which I did, because the French had occupied
for seventy years, so I was able to communicate that way.
officials began to speak English, and I could communicate with them.
With the farmers
I had to use an interpreter that I carried. I would ask them what the
conditions of security were, what they feared, whether the Viet Cong
that area, what they-what the officials were doing and what they
thought of the
officials in that area, or, if I was speaking to the officials, what
the problems as being.
particular I should say I spoke to American advisors who by that time
to the district level and the battalion levels, a fairly low level, and
them spoke Vietnamese or had interpreters.
I would write
reports on these trips to my boss, General Lansdale, and some of-many
were forwarded by him to Deputy Ambassador William Porter or to
Lodge or elsewhere, and I made some other formal reports, in particular
that was meant for the President-a portion of one that was to go to the
President in the spring of 1966 based on these field trips that I was
I continued the
travel because of the discovery that I had made which confirmed a
THE COURT: Yes,
that is unresponsive to the question that is pending. If you will
in what you did in furtherance of your duties.
A I wanted to
compare-to compare what I would see with my own eyes along the roads of
and the hamlets of Vietnam with my own ears speaking to the
reporters I use
that word as officials-army people whose main job was reporting really
out from my own ears what their reporting was and to compare that
was coming up to headquarters through what I have described as that
Oh, each of the
things, if I may say-explain-each thing that I did was, of course,
with, although I often suggested it-but cleared with and had the
approval of my
boss, and in some cases-Lansdale-and I was loaned by him increasingly
deputy ambassador for special investigation, so as time went on less of
was at my own initiative and more I was directed to keep driving and
And I reported
to them that the fact, as I saw it, that there was a very great
between what was to be seen and what the advisers knew, our military
knew in the districts and in the battalions and in the platoons, and
what was being
told by the division advisers or MACV headquarters in writing to
and higher and higher, and in fact, second, that there was an
divergence, that the divergence between reality as one saw it with eyes
ears at the low level got larger as it went up, larger and larger.
So that I-so
that, as I informed former superiors in Washington and I informed
directly in writing, I could now understand the feeling that had lead
Vietnam that you could not learn about Vietnam from the cables....
Q Will you state
to the Court and to the jury how you came to work on that project. By
"that project" I mean the task force report.
A I was invited
by Dr. Morton Halperin, who had been named-put in charge of the report,
the task force. I can't remember the exact time that he asked me
because it was
during the summer, and I wasn't able immediately to comply, but I began
of about late September or early October 1967.
Q Were you given
specific instructions by Dr. Halperin and by one of his subordinates as
your work was to be?
A Yes, by Dr.
Leslie Gelb, who was immediately in charge of producing the report.
Q And what
A He was the
deputy to Mr. Halperin.
Q And what were
instructions were to produce a first draft of a portion of this
account of decision-making. He said that I could choose any area that I
particularly, and I chose the 1961 period of the early decisions by
to do research on....
Q Did you tell
Mr. Russo prior to September 30, 1969, of the existence of those
A No, I did not.
Q Did you tell
Miss Linda Sinay
Clarify one thing: When you say "those volumes," what do you mean?
THE WITNESS: The
explanation specifically with Mr. Russo, your Honor, would be that I
discussed in general terms with him and. others at Rand the existence
of a study
which I did not name or describe in any detail.
To my knowledge
he had no way of inferring anything about this particular study as
same one that I had described to him.
THE COURT: The
latter part of the answer, about what he may or may not have had any
knowing will be stricken. The first part remains. All right.
BY MR. BOUDIN:
Q Did you tell
Mr. Russo prior to September 30, 1969, that the volumes which you
March 3, 1969, set forth in receipts 30 and 31, 'had been at the Rand
Washington, D. C.?
A No, I did not.
Q Did you tell
Miss Sinay that?
A No, I didn't.
Q Did you tell
Mr. Vu Van Thai that prior to September 30, 1969?
A No, I didn’t....
Q In connection
with which of your duties were you reading Exhibits 1 through 18, the
force volumes which you have just referred to?
A That was also
in connection with my duties on the "Lessons for Vietnam" project. I
read the studies, took notes on questions that they raised or questions
they answered in a smaller number of cases, and patterns that they
respect to our decision making, high-level decision making in Vietnam
period from '45 to '68.
these-some of these conclusions in the draft memoranda that 1 have
earlier, of which I think I wrote nine by July of 1969. So several of
have conclusions and/or ideas or questions that had been suggested to
reading the task force volumes, and that was the purpose for which I
Of course, the
ultimate objective was finished RM's of this sort, but meanwhile I was
the results directly to officials from the Pentagon, from the Advanced
Projects Agency, and other officials, some from International Security
who came through Rand in July-June and July.
Q At the end of
September 1969 did you take any action with respect to the Government's
Exhibits 1 through 20?
Q When did you
take such action?
A On the evening
of September 30-well, perhaps I should start in the morning. In
with respect to these volumes, I went to the home of Tony Russo in
Monica, told him-reminded him of the study that I described earlier in
general terms, told him that I had copies of it, that it was marked
"Classified," that I had a copy of it in my safe at the Rand
Corporation, and that I wanted to get it—some information to the
that I needed to copy those copies.
I asked him if
he had access to a Xerox machine, and he said he thought he might be
afternoon I was informed by him that he had found a Xerox machine at
of a friend, and that night I took several of the volumes from my safe
top secret--my top secret safe at the Rand Corporation, took them in to
Linda Sinay Advertising Agency on Melrose, having been given the
Tony, and we proceeded to copy several of the documents. . . .
Q Why did you
take the actions which you just described?
Q Did you then,
Dr. Ellsberg, at Miss Sinay’s office, copy Exhibits 1 through 20?
A On a
succession of nights, yes, I did-either I or friends helping me.
Q And did you
return them to the Rand Santa Monica office?
A Yes. In each
case I returned them-the volume on the next working day after I had
Q Was copying of
any of those documents ever done when you were not in the Sinay office
A No. I was
Q Were there
ever any instances when anyone other than you took Exhibits 1 through
from the Sinay office after Xeroxing or copying?
A No. On each
occasion I took them back.
Q Were there
ever any occasions on which you did not return Exhibits 1 through 20 to
the first work day after Xeroxing?
Q During the
time that Mr. Vu Van Thai was present in the advertising agency of Miss
on October 4, 1969, did you read any of the task force-I'm sorry-did he
any of the exhibits in the group, Government's Exhibits 1 through 20?
Yes, I showed him several pages of one, and he thumbed briefly through
of that volume. That was the only one that he handled. . . .
Q Dr. Ellsberg,
were your children present during any part of the copying of Exhibits 1
A My children
were present, yes. Robert was present on two occasions and Mary was
on-my daughter was present on one occasion along with Robert. . . .
Q Would you tell
us what Robert did while he was there?
A Robert helped
on both nights, I think, that he was there, one of which was mostly an
afternoon, a Saturday afternoon-helped Xerox some of the papers, and I
that was primarily all that he did, and Mary, on the evening that she
there, briefly helped cut off the top secret marking from the copies-of
the copies that were made with a scissors or a paper slicer.
Q Did you take
any other steps to remove the top secret markings?
A Yes. Yes, I
used the method described earlier of putting strips of cardboard over
and bottom of the Xerox screen so that the top secret marking on the
not come through on the copy that was made.
Q And why did
you do that?
A I expected
in order to get it to a number of members of Congress I would need more
one copy, one or two copies, and for that purpose I would have to use
one of them
to make copies from a commercial copying establishment, and that it
questions if I asked a commercial firm to copy something that had
classification markings on it.
So I wanted a
copy that had no markings on it. . . .
Q On October 3,
did you know or believe that Exhibits 1 through 20 contained
disclosure of which could injure the national defense of the United
A I believed-I
would say that I knew that not a page of those exhibits could injure
national defense if disclosed to anyone, and had I believed otherwise I
not have copied it.
Q Would you
state whether there were any other reasons for your belief that the
of the information could not injure the United States?
Q Please do.
A It seemed- I
believed that disclosure of the fact revealed in these papers, the
that the policy of the United States could not be improved simply by
better information to the President, because the President had had
revelation of that fact, which was- I learned from the Pentagon Papers
which contradicted what I had believed earlier, that couldn't injure
And that the
revelation of the fact that if Congress really had the information it
make wise decisions, if only it realized that there were no super
else that gave a good reason for what we were doing, that there were no
reasons hidden in those Pentagon Papers for what we were doing,
give Congress this self-confidence to act to end the war, and that
damage any of the institutions or the people of the United States who
being damaged by the war....
EXAMINATION by David Nissen:
Q And with
regard to each of the 20, you had obtained possession or custody of
regard to duties that you had at Rand, correct?
A That is
Q Those duties
involved certain projects that you had mentioned on direct examination,
Q You had no
permission from anyone to remove the documents from the Rand
premises to Miss
Sinay's advertising agency, did you, sir? . . .
A No one had
given me such permission....
Q Yes. The part
that is filled in on the form is the Part 1?
A Right. Yes.
Q And that part
bears your handwritten signature, or your signature?
A Yes, it does.
Q In the
statement to which you have put your signature it says, in part-well,
your Honor, would the witness read aloud the statement that you have
Starting, "I hereby certify. . . "
THE COURT: All
MR. BOUDIN: I
object, your Honor. The document is in evidence. It speaks for itself.
certify that I have received a security briefing. I shall not knowingly
willfully communicate, deliver, or transmit in any manner
to an unauthorized person or agency. I am informed that such improper
may be punishable under federal criminal statutes. I have been
the importance of classified information, and in the procedure
safeguarding. I am informed that willful violation or disregard of
violations may cause the loss of my security clearance. I have read or
read to me the portions of the espionage laws and other federal
statutes relating to the safeguarding of classified information,
Appendix 6, Department of Defense Industrial Security Manual. I will
the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to my employer, without delay,
which I believe to constitute an attempt to solicit classified
any unauthorized person.”
Q With regard to
the portion that you read stating, "I have read or have had read to me
portions of the espionage laws and other federal criminal statutes
relating to the
safeguarding of classified information." et cetera, at that time, sir,
which is September '67, had you read again or read at all the espionage
and other federal criminal statutes referred to?
A Well, I
don't-no portion of the espionage law comes to mind relating to
information, other than one that is not in this case-and I think .that
read to me having to do with government employees.
The answer is
there are no portions of the espionage laws applying to people at
refer to classified information, so I can't recall what my state of
when I wrote that, when I signed that. Confused, probably.
Q Had you read
portions of the espionage laws at that time, regardless of what you
Q On or about
July 1, 1971, did you orally state, sir, at a press conference in
Massachusetts, in substance, that you did not release the negotiating
you did not want to contribute to the possibility of getting in the way
U. S. negotiations?
Objection on the same ground.
MR. BOUDIN: Same
Q Did you on or
about that date make a statement, in substance, as I had asked you?
A In the course
of the year I have addressed questions as to why I gave that to the
Foreign Relations Committee and made only one copy and gave it to them,
and I could
not recall any given occasion.
Now, if the
period of time is the last year or so, I would be happy to say what I
that question when I am generally asked it, which is often, what I
saying on many occasions. I don't remember any specific occasion.
Q With regard,
sir. to the-
A I am not
denying that I addressed that subject. . . .
Q At the time
that you were copying the exhibits in Linda Sinay's office, sir,
you were of
the belief that your doing so was in violation of Section 793, were you
A Certainly not.
Q You have made
the statement on several occasions over the past many months that at
you believed you were violating the law-
Excuse me, your Honor. I object to this question and-
Q And one of the
types of material that you find in the Pentagon Papers is evidence of a
conspiracy by United States officials to secretly plan and wage
against North Vietnam; true, sir?
A Well, I tried
to correct that. I think that is imprecise and misleading language. And
usually use the term on that subject, about the describing the
I had directly in the Pentagon, and these other episodes, but speaking
from my personal knowledge in the Pentagon, that I tried to contribute
volumes, I have spoken of a conspiratorial style, distinguishing
that from a
conspiracy in which any individual meant harm to this country or to
On the contrary,
the evidence seemed to be that they meant for the best of this country,
country as they saw it, and even the best for world peace in what they
But they acted
in a conspiratorial manner, in the sense that they did not tell the
they were doing.
To the contrary,
they denied what they were doing, day by day, and publicly and to the
it in other terms. They consciously-and I was, of course, part of
this, in a
lowly way, in a kind of high paid clerk way, not to reduce my
But in which I
was quite conscious of the efforts taken to mislead Congress and
the public as
to what we were doing in '64 and '65, I am speaking now, and to carry
actions, in which a lot of people were going to die, for whatever
do so knowing that if it were fully known what they were doing, even
let's say we or the people I worked with thought that it was the best,
for the best of the country, but knowing that if they said frankly what
were doing, the majority of the country wouldn't agree with it, and
allow them, wouldn't give them the resources or the authority to do it.
And that is why
it had to be kept secret from the American public, even while what we
doing was of course directly known to the people on whom the bombs were
falling, or in some cases people to whom we explained it directly, as
Seaborn case where we told Pham Van Dong through Seaborn what we were
even during an election campaign, when the American people were told by
opposing candidate that we should make such threats-Goldwater-and the
said we should not, it would be illegal, it would be irresponsible, it
crazy, even while he was giving Seaborn the directions to do so. . . .
That I knew at
the time that the people that I worked for and with, and who were
these documents, in some cases with minor help by me, were patriotic
wanted the best for this country.
And so the word
THE COURT: Just
THE WITNESS: I
say that to say that the word conspirator, your Honor, conveys an
of conscious wrongdoing, which would be incorrect.
And if I ever
used that word hastily or sloppily, it is misleading.
But I think the
word conspiratorial, meaning as if in a conspiracy, as if they were
something wrong, that they shouldn't be doing, that the people wouldn't
them to know, that that seemed to me not only an accurate word, but it
me as a puzzle.
This is, as a
researcher, I set out to read the Pentagon Papers, having lived through
period. I set out to read them to come to understand that.
This was a
phenomenon. Why did they act that way? If they were doing what they
good-why did they keep it a secret?...
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