United States v Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo: Selected Testimony (1973)
United States District Court, Central District of California

Testimony of Daniel Ellsberg

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 our policy and our performance and I hoped win this war and beat the Communists for once, as I saw it, I felt that I had-I did begin to drive the roads of Viet­nam through every part of the III Corps area, which surrounded Saigon, and then increasingly into IV Corps, the area below Saigon, the Mekong Delta, and by 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 sometimes have an interpreter with me or I would speak to officials in French. Most of the officials spoke French, which I did, because the French had occupied Vietnam for seventy years, so I was able to communi­cate that way.
Increasingly, 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 were in 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 they saw the problems as being.
And in particular I should say I spoke to American advisors who by that time were down to the district level and the battalion levels, a fairly low level, and some of them spoke Vietnamese or had interpreters.
I would write reports on these trips to my boss, General Lansdale, and some of-many of these were forwarded by him to Deputy Ambassador William Porter or to Ambassador Lodge or elsewhere, and I made some other formal reports, in particular one 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 making.
I continued the travel because of the discov­ery that I had made which confirmed a suspicion from the
Pentagon that the channels­-
THE COURT: Yes, that is unresponsive to the question that is pending. If you will continue on 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 Vietnam 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 to find out from my own ears what their report­ing was and to compare that with what was coming up to headquarters through what I have described as that cable traffic....  

Oh, each of the things, if I may say-explain­-each thing that I did was, of course, cleared 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 to the deputy ambassador for special investigation, so as time went on less of this was at my own initiative and more I was directed to keep driving and keep reporting.
And I reported to them that the fact, as I saw it, that there was a very great divergence between what was to be seen and what the advisers knew, our military advisers 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 their bosses, and higher and higher, and in fact, second, that there was an increasing divergence, that the divergence between reality as one saw it with eyes and 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 them directly in writing, I could now understand the feeling that had lead me to 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, to join 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 work as of about late September or early October 1967.
Q Were you given specific instructions by Dr. Halperin and by one of his subordinates as to what 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 those instructions?
A The instructions were to produce a first draft of a portion of this historical account of decision-making. He said that I could choose any area that I wanted particularly, and I chose the 1961 period of the early decisions by President Kennedy to do research on....
Q Did you tell Mr. Russo prior to September 30, 1969, of the existence of those volumes?
A No, I did not.
Q Did you tell Miss Linda Sinay­
THE COURT: 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 had 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 being the 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 way of knowing will be stricken. The first part remains. All right.
Q Did you tell Mr. Russo prior to September 30, 1969, that the volumes which you received on March 3, 1969, set forth in receipts 30 and 31, 'had been at the Rand office in 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 task 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 that they answered in a smaller number of cases, and patterns that they suggested with respect to our decision making, high-level decision making in Vietnam over the period from '45 to '68.
I incorporated these-some of these conclu­sions in the draft memoranda that 1 have mentioned earlier, of which I think I wrote nine by July of 1969. So several of those did have conclusions and/or ideas or questions that had been suggested to me by reading the task force volumes, and that was the purpose for which I was reading them.
Of course, the ultimate objective was finished RM's of this sort, but meanwhile I was giving the results directly to officials from the Pentagon, from the Advanced Research Projects Agency, and other officials, some from International Security Affairs 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?
A Yes.
Q When did you take such action?
A On the evening of September 30-well, per­haps I should start in the morning. In the morning, with respect to these volumes, I went to the home of Tony Russo in Santa Monica, told him-reminded him of the study that I described earlier in very 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 Congress, and 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 able to find one.
Later that afternoon I was informed by him that he had found a Xerox machine at the office of a friend, and that night I took several of the volumes from my safe at the top secret--my top secret safe at the Rand Corporation, took them in to the Linda Sinay Advertising Agency on Melrose, having been given the address by Tony, and we proceeded to copy several of the documents. . . .
Q Why did you take the actions which you just described?
MR. NISSEN: Objection, immaterial.
THE COURT: Sustained....
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 taken them out.
Q Was copying of any of those documents ever done when you were not in the Sinay office and present?
A No. I was always present.
Q Were there ever any instances when anyone other than you took Exhibits 1 through 20 away 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 Rand on the first work day after Xeroxing?
A No....
Q During the time that Mr. Vu Van Thai was present in the advertising agency of Miss Sinay on October 4, 1969, did you read any of the task force-I'm sorry-did he read any of the exhibits in the group, Government's Exhibits 1 through 20?
A Yes, I showed him several pages of one, and he thumbed briefly through the rest 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 through 20?
A My children were present, yes. Robert was present on two occasions and Mary was present 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 think that was primarily all that he did, and Mary, on the evening that she was there, briefly helped cut off the top secret marking from the copies-of some 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 the top and bottom of the Xerox screen so that the top secret marking on the original would not come through on the copy that was made.
Q And why did you do that?
A I expected that in order to get it to a number of members of Congress I would need more than 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 would raise 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, 1969, did you know or believe that Exhibits 1 through 20 contained information, the disclosure of which could injure the national defense of the United States?
A I believed-I would say that I knew that not a page of those exhibits could injure the national defense if disclosed to anyone, and had I believed otherwise I would not have copied it.
Q Would you state whether there were any other reasons for your belief that the disclosure of the information could not injure the United States?
A Yes.
Q Please do.
A It seemed- I believed that disclosure of the fact revealed in these papers, the pattern, that the policy of the United States could not be improved simply by getting better information to the President, because the President had had adequate information.
And the revelation of that fact, which was- I learned from the Pentagon Papers and which contradicted what I had believed earlier, that couldn't injure the United States.
And that the revelation of the fact that if Congress really had the information it needed to make wise decisions, if only it realized that there were no super secrets somewhere else that gave a good reason for what we were doing, that there were no good reasons hidden in those Pentagon Pa­pers for what we were doing, that might give Congress this self­-confidence to act to end the war, and that could not damage any of the institutions or the people of the United States who were being damaged by the war....  

Q And with regard to each of the 20, you had obtained possession or custody of them with regard to duties that you had at Rand, correct?
A That is correct.
Q Those duties involved certain projects that you had mentioned on direct examination, sir?
A Yes.
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, perhaps, your Honor, would the witness read aloud the statement that you have signed.
THE COURT: Starting where?
MR. NISSEN: Starting, "I hereby certify. . . "
THE COURT: All right.
MR. BOUDIN: I object, your Honor. The document is in evidence. It speaks for itself.
THE COURT: Overruled.
"I hereby certify that I have received a security briefing. I shall not knowingly and willfully com­municate, deliver, or transmit in any manner classified information to an unauthorized person or agency. I am informed that such improper dis­closure may be punishable under federal criminal statutes. I have been instructed in the importance of classified information, and in the procedure governing its safeguarding. I am informed that willful violation or disregard of security violations may cause the loss of my security clearance. I have read or have had read to me the portions of the espionage laws and other federal criminal statutes relating to the safeguarding of classified information, reproduced in Appendix 6, Department of Defense Industrial Security Manual. I will report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to my employer, without delay, any incident which I believe to constitute an attempt to solicit classified information by any unauthorized per­son.”  

Q With regard to the portion that you read stating, "I have read or have had read to me the 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 laws and other federal criminal statutes referred to?
A Well, I don't-no portion of the espionage law comes to mind relating to classified information, other than one that is not in this case-and I think .that was not read to me­ having to do with government employees.
The answer is there are no portions of the es­pionage laws applying to people at Rand that refer to classified information, so I can't recall what my state of mind was 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 think they related to?
A Yes....
Q On or about July 1, 1971, did you orally state, sir, at a press conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in substance, that you did not release the negotiating volumes because you did not want to contribute to the possibility of getting in the way of the U. S. negotiations?
MR. WEINGLASS: Objection on the same ground.
MR. BOUDIN: Same ground ...
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 Senate 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 answer to that question when I am generally asked it, which is often, what I recall 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 not?
A Certainly not.
Q You have made the statement on several occasions over the past many months that at that time you believed you were violating the law­-
MR. BOUDIN: Excuse me, your Honor. I object to this question and­-
THE COURT: Sustained....  

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 aggressive war against North Vietnam; true, sir?
A Well, I tried to correct that. I think that is imprecise and misleading language. And I usually use the term on that subject, about the describing the experience that I had directly in the Pentagon, and these other episodes, but speaking now only from my personal knowledge in the Pentagon, that I tried to contribute to the volumes, I have spoken of a conspir­atorial style, distinguishing that from a conspiracy in which any individual meant harm to this country or to others.
On the contrary, the evidence seemed to be that they meant for the best of this country, of the country as they saw it, and even the best for world peace in what they were doing.
But they acted in a conspiratorial manner, in the sense that they did not tell the public what they were doing.
To the contrary, they denied what they were doing, day by day, and publicly and to the Congress. ...
They described 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 responsibility or exaggerate it.
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 out actions, in which a lot of people were going to die, for whatever motives, to do so knowing that if it were fully known what they were doing, even though, let's say we or the people I worked with thought that it was the best, it was for the best of the country, but knowing that if they said frankly what they were doing, the majority of the country wouldn't agree with it, and wouldn't 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 were 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 in the Seaborn case where we told Pham Van Dong through Seaborn what we were doing, even during an election campaign, when the American people were told by the opposing candidate that we should make such threats-Goldwater-and the incumbent said we should not, it would be illegal, it would be irresponsible, it would be 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 described in these documents, in some cases with minor help by me, were patriotic men who wanted the best for this country.
And so the word conspirator­-
THE COURT: Just the documents.
THE WITNESS: I say that to say that the word conspirator, your Honor, conveys an implication 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 doing something wrong, that they shouldn't be doing, that the people wouldn't want them to know, that that seemed to me not only an accurate word, but it came to me as a puzzle.
This is, as a researcher, I set out to read the Pentagon Papers, having lived through the 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 knew was good-why did they keep it a secret?...
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