In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a RAND analyst and former DOD official, leaked the 7,000-page secret Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. This action ignited a series of actions that led eventually to the Watergate burglary and Richard Nixon’s resignation from the presidency. Ellsberg, who had been a committed cold warrior until he became aware that the government had been misleading the American people on the Vietnam War for more than 20 years, had a crisis of conscience that finally led him to violate his oath of office and commit a crime in the interest of the peoples’ right to know.
Most Dangerous by investigative journalist, Steve Sheinkin, is a powerful look at what happens when those in government put personal pride and ego ahead of their responsibility to live up to the ideals of America’s Founding Fathers and to respect the right of their ultimate bosses, the American people, to know what their government is doing in their name.
The book includes interviews with many of the people who were directly involved during this turbulent period in our history, as well as excerpts from the media and official documents. It’s a must-read for anyone who is interested in how government often really works.
A well-written book, its weakest part comes at the end when the author compares NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, who leaked classified files exposing NSA’s programs of spying on Americans’ communications to Ellsberg. While both leaks exposed what were, in fact, government’s misdeeds, Ellsberg, unlike Snowden, made a valiant effort to correct the problem from inside government, and when that failed and he made the decision to leak the information, stayed and faced the legal consequences of his actions, which included being put on trial. Snowden, on the other hand, shows no evidence of ever having tried to deal with the NSA situation inside the system, and after he leaked the information, fled the country and sought asylum in Russia. For me, this weak comparison of two very different people who took vastly different paths did a disservice to Ellsberg, who was more in the mold of the Civil Rights pioneers who violated unjust laws, and took the consequences, even when they ended up in prison for their stands.
I received a free copy of this book.
I give it four stars.