News Release

Ellsberg’s Message: Truth-Telling Stops Wars


Robert Ellsberg is the publisher of Orbis Books. His most recent book is Lead, Kindly Light: Gandhi on Christianity.

Daniel Ellsberg recently announced he has a terminal diagnosis, but is continuing to be active, recently remarking: “As I just told my son Robert: he’s long known (as my editor) that I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I live better under a deadline!”

RootsAction Education Fund has teamed up with the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy to co-sponsor Daniel Ellsberg Week, April 24 to 30, to celebrate his life’s work and “to honor peacemaking and whistleblowing.”

Robert Ellsberg edited both of his father’s memoirs: Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers and The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.

He said today: “My father’s message has been a message of peace, and he continues to apply it to major crises of our time.

“Whistleblowing, or as he prefers to say, truth-telling, is a major part of that. People often talk about the alleged harm of whistleblowing, whereas he believes there’s incomparably greater damage done in the keeping of secrets.

“The public has a right to know about so much that is hidden from view, especially threats to peace. We need truth-tellers inside major institutions, especially those involved in war-making to share internal secrets. Even if this means risking security clearances, careers or even jail time to share what they know.”

In 2021, Robert Ellsberg wrote the piece “Fifty years ago, my father leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. It changed his life — and mine” for America magazine:

“I had been watching this slow process of my father’s conversion from Cold War insider to committed truth-teller. He had returned from that conference with books by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., along with Thoreau’s famous essay on civil disobedience. Over lunch one day at an outdoor restaurant, he described what he planned to do. In the spirit of civil disobedience, he intended to copy these documents from his safe at RAND and provide them to Congress. It would certainly involve some risk, but he felt it was necessary. Would I help him?

“That is how I happened to find myself, later that day, standing over the primitive Xerox machine in a borrowed office. I didn’t suppose that this might entail any personal risk for me — though it did later cause me to be subpoenaed before a federal grand jury and thus implicated me in a case for which my father would ultimately face 115 years in prison. But that was in the future. On that fall day in 1969, the most exciting moment occurred soon after we arrived — when police officers knocked on the door, my father having neglected to turn off the burglar alarm.”