Heroes

The documentary film “The Most Dangerous Man in America” is a reminder of how important it is for journalists to have courageous sources willing to get the truth out to the public, and how important it is for the public to have courageous news organizations willing to publicize that truth. The film tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg, who risked imprisonment in 1971 when he leaked the secret history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam to the New York Times. The New York Times risked punitive fines and possible criminal penalties for defying the Nixon administration’s attempt to stop the paper from publishing the secret history, a document which made it clear how much the government had lied for years about our role in Vietnam (including false claims that the U.S. government sought no wider war). One of the heroes of this story is James Goodale, the in-house lawyer of the Times, who urged the publisher not to be afraid and to go ahead and publish the truth and fight the attempted censorship. The Times and the Washington Post eventually won in the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling against any prior restraint of the press. During the Pentagon Papers case, many other newspapers defied the Nixon administration and published parts of the secret history, and Sen. Mike Gravel read 4,000 of the 7,000 pages aloud in Congress, forcing it to be part of the official Congressional record which could not be censored. Ellsberg went on trial and faced the possibility of 115 years in prison but the case ended in a mistrial, partly because of shocking revelations of illegal FBI wiretaps and a break-in. (Nixon’s anger at the leak had led to the White House’s authorizing of a break-in of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, to look for dirt on Ellsberg. That and other crimes became known as Watergate and led to Nixon’s resignation, which was followed by the end of the Vietnam war.) What a story! It has many heroes, both whistleblowers such as Ellsberg and courageous journalists such as those at the New York Times. We need more heroes like that today.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Heroes

  1. Daniel Collings

    “A lost generation has no saints or heroes”

    – Vasco Rossi

  2. Glenn Thomas

    Excellent post!

    reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from philosopher George Santayana:

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

    seems appropriate with some of our recent history.

  3. Mr.Murder

    Our recent illegal wars and occupations also have seen Ellsberg protest. He is an American treasure, and has great standing in the world community. Thanks for helping maintain the vigil and legacy, as Ellsberg’s son has also done in recent times.

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