Live Chat with Ellsberg and Filmmakers

POV: Thanks for joining us for this live chat! Daniel Ellsberg and filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith will be here at 2:00 to answer your questions.

POV: Meanwhile, please feel free to submit your questions in advance. Your questions are being held in a queue, and will be published by the moderator as the session goes on!

POV: Unfortunately, due to the volume of questions, we cannot always publish every single question.

Comment From Guest

This is amazing. I am in a seminar called "The literature and culture of the Vietnam War" and this absolutely should have been part of the required viewing. I thank you for making the film and Mr. Ellsberg, I am grateful for your courage. Courage is something I am sure many people struggle to feel everyday, but fear keeps people from acting, fear sells, fear is a weapon. Many people feel if they stick their necks out, off goes their heads. Thank you so very much, I was so moved by the program. Everyone should see it.

POV: Filmmaker Judith Ehrlich is here, and Daniel and Rick are running late.

POV: Let's get started.

Comment From Chelo
If the PENTAGON Papers Leak were to happen today, do you believe that the New York Times, W Post, etc. would publish them?

POV: Rick is now here. Welcome Rick!

Comment From detous
Agree with Guest 1:54 - Thank you for POV/PBS for continuing this discussion...

Rick Goldsmith: thanks-- I'll take a shot at that question in a moment. Let me get my bearings.

judith Ehrlich: HI, ah technology... now I'm on.
I'll start since I'm the only one here. The simple answer would have been no before Wikileaks but now it is more complex

Rick Goldsmith: A good question. The times and other news orgs have become more timid, and have become less bold. Also we live in an era of heightened "national security" concerns. So it is no surprise that it is Wikileaks, for example, that is doing the "leaks' work. But the Times did work with Wikileaks on Afghan Diary, so that's a plus.

Comment From arnold

When and how did you meet Daniel Ellsberg?

Rick Goldsmith: I met and interviewed Dan for a previous film: Tell the Truth and run: george Seldes and the American Press, in 1992. He appeared in that film. So that made it easier to approach him for this film.

Comment From clark
How would this doc have differed if it were made twenty years ago?

judith Ehrlich: I met dan when he advised my on my last film, "The Good WAr and those who refused to fight it" about WWII Conscientious objectors

Daniel Ellsberg: Hello, I'm here.

POV: Welcome, Daniel!

Comment From Guest


Comment From MGK


judith Ehrlich: Hi DAn,
Everyone would have been 20 years younger, but we hardly missed any of the primary characters... maybe a few more would have participated.

Rick Goldsmith: Interesting question-- we're talking 1990. I think all the interviewees, including Dan, would be discussing those events thru a slightly different prism-- i.e. not being in two wars. However, we were still have our militaristic ventures-- Granada, Pamana-- so maybe the content and spirit of the film wouldn't be that different.

Comment From Jamie

"I am "guest" at 1:54. It is an honor Mr. Ellsberg, I am humbled and I must say thank you again. so very much.

Comment From russelbertrand
Mr. Ellsberg could you please comment on how information technology and social media has changed whistleblowing, specifically the ability to bypass the "Strategic Mediator" the NY Times in your example. Thank you sir we are all indebted to your sacrifice!

Daniel Ellsberg: Yes. Of course, WikiLeaks did not exist then

Daniel Ellsberg: If it had, I might have turned to it between the time that I gave the Pentagon Papers to Neil Sheehan and the New York Times published it.

Comment From detous
Greetings, Mr. Ellsberg! Phenomenal for you to join us!

Comment From Roger Bennet
Thank You, Dr. Ellsberg.

Daniel Ellsberg: So WikiLeaks serves as a back-up for those who want to tell the truth about the inner workings of government when the mainstream media is not willing or taking too long to publish.

Comment From Theresa
Who is your favorite whistleblower of the past couple decades?

Daniel Ellsberg: The first that comes to mind is...

Daniel Ellsberg: whoever it was who leaked the Eikenberry cables to the NYT

Daniel Ellsberg: earlier this year...

Daniel Ellsberg: giving the lie to Eikenberry's testimony earlier to Congress showing that the ambassador was in total disagreement...

Daniel Ellsberg: to the President's escalation in Afghanistan as of December 1st...

Daniel Ellsberg: Eikenberry had written those cables in November, but his opinions were rejected in favor of General McChrystal's...

Daniel Ellsberg: Apparently, this leak led President Obama to convene a panel ...

Daniel Ellsberg: to stop leaking which has resulted in 3 prosecutions to stop leaking which is as many as the prosecutions brought by all previous presidents put together...

Daniel Ellsberg: of which, mine was the first.

Daniel Ellsberg: I also was very impressed by Sibel Edmonds, the F.B.I. translator who made great efforts to reveal deception but whose revelations were shut out by several gag orders using the State Secrets principle and whose revelations have been almost entirely ignored by the mainstream press.

Comment From Lorrie
Can the contents of the Pentagon Papers be found online?

Rick Goldsmith: Google it. the entire Gravel edition-- i.e. the 47 volumes minus the diplomatic volumes-- is on a Mt. Holyoke website.

Comment From Eric Likness
Mr. Ellsberg, I recently heard and read a news story about Jack Anderson's battle with the Nixon Whitehouse and some Watergate Tapes indicating they were going to try to neutralize him. Was there any point you were worried about more than just going to jail. Was your personal safety ever at risk?

Daniel Ellsberg: I was not personally worried, though my wife was...

Daniel Ellsberg: and it turned out that she was right...

Daniel Ellsberg: Gordon Liddy had proposed putting LSD in my soup at an awards ceremony for federal employees for peace, which named me...

Daniel Ellsberg: federal employee of the year...

Daniel Ellsberg: and he hoped I would disgrace myself on the LSD...

judith Ehrlich: you never told us that. what a great story!

Daniel Ellsberg: This was not as bad as the Liddy plan for Anderson, in which he wanted to put LSD on his steering wheel. Approval came too late to arrange with the waiter to put acid in my soup...

Daniel Ellsberg: Later, on orders from the Oval Office...

Daniel Ellsberg: Liddy and Hunt bought a dozen Cuban CIA "assets" from the Bay of Pigs with orders to "incapacitate me totally"...

Daniel Ellsberg: on the steps of the Capitol during a rally on May 3, 1972.

Daniel Ellsberg: I asked their prosecutor whether that meant to kill me...

Daniel Ellsberg: and he answered that he believed that it did, but that "these guys never used the word kill." Actually, I'm not sure the intent was to kill me, but rather to put me in the hospital...

Daniel Ellsberg: so that I couldn't reveal Nixon's imminent mining of Haiphong, which took place on May 8, 1972...

Daniel Ellsberg: so, finally, I wasn't worried about physical harm, but I should have been.

Comment From Chelo
Where does "The Most Dangerous Man in American" quote come from?

Rick Goldsmith: That May 3, 1972 rally was pretty wild. if I remember correctly, there was agroup honoring FBI chief J Edgar Hoover, who'd just died, and another anti-war rally where Dan was, and the Cubans angling their way trying to rough up Dan.

judith Ehrlich: Henry Kissinger said it about Dan.

Daniel Ellsberg: Sy Hersh in his book, The Place of Power, Kissinger and Nixon in the White House quoted Chuck Colson as telling him that. Colson was quoting Kissinger in a meeting between himself and two Vietnam veterans.

Comment From detous
I'm just aghast at all you've been thorough, and yet you persevered then, and throughout the years. Thank you, sir, for continuing to bring out all these truths -- to this day!

Comment From russelbertrand
Mr. Ellsberg Howard Zinn was featured in your film and he recently left us as you well know. I was wondering if you would indulge us with your thoughts on any of the personal interactions you might have had. Specifically, Dr. Zinn commented with humor on your "undemocratic" leadership on May Day at the Capital.

Rick Goldsmith: Henry kissinger kenw Dan from their days at harvard. Kissinger was a professor (this, in 1959 I think) and invited Dan to give a talk. It was "The political uses of Madness".

Daniel Ellsberg: I loved Howard Zinn...

Daniel Ellsberg: and fortunately, I found occasion to tell Howard before he died that...

Daniel Ellsberg: in my view he was the best example of a human being that I've ever met...

Daniel Ellsberg: On his comment about my being a squad leader refers to an incident on May Day in D.C...

Rick Goldsmith: Howard Zinn was actually the first person we interviewed on camera. He was in Berkeley with the stage performance of his "People's History" play.

Daniel Ellsberg: when our affinity group was sitting in the middle of 14th street and two policemen approached us...

Daniel Ellsberg: at right angles... how to describe this? they came at us from 90 degrees in two directions...

Daniel Ellsberg: the reason that mattered is that it was our first sit-down of the day... and it occurred to me that it was too early to get arrested, so I said to the group, "Let's move." ...

Daniel Ellsberg: We moved so quickly that one cop sprayed the mace in the face of the other cop that was intended for us...

Daniel Ellsberg: The other cop did not have his mask on...

Daniel Ellsberg: So he grabbed the other cops billy club and staggered about...

Daniel Ellsberg: while we escaped down the street...

Daniel Ellsberg: it was a Keystone cops scene...

Daniel Ellsberg: Sorry the cop that was maced dropped his billy club...

Daniel Ellsberg: and was staggering about...

judith Ehrlich: another great story I've never heard... maybe we need to do 'most dangerous man redux"

Daniel Ellsberg: anyway, for the rest of the morning I may have been giving directions like the platoon leader that I once was.

Comment From Amy
how long was the whole production many interviews did you guys do in total?

Rick Goldsmith: We were a year in pre-production and 3 years in production. We interviewed about 24 people on camera and used all but 3 in the film.

Comment From cinnamonflower

I have a seven year-old who is starting to ask questions about the war she sees portrayed in the news. How do you talk to an inquisitive child about the current situation without sounding unpatriotic?

judith Ehrlich: What a great ?. I think we've defined patriotic too narrowly. Just tell the truth.

Daniel Ellsberg: It's easier than it may seem. For an American to be patriotic is to be loyal to the principles of our Constitution, and the First Amendment. The truth is that the policies of the government is sometimes in conflict with that. In our country, patriotism should not be defined as obedience to an authority.

Rick Goldsmith: What a difficult challenge we all have as parents. I think for the future of our kids and of our country we need to think about values, and not "America right or wrong". We all debate policies of the government. What not discuss whether America is doing the right thing by using war as a first resort instead of a last resort? We all tell our young children, "use your words!" rather than hitting. That's what we should tell our leaders.

Daniel Ellsberg: Tell the 7 year old that presidents are very often wrong...

Daniel Ellsberg: And when they are, it's our right and responsibility to do our best to set them right.

Comment From clark
Or show your seven year old ANIMAL FARM

Comment From russelbertrand
Mr. Ellsberg the cost of whistleblowing as you well know includes career aspirations, lifetime friendships, and family relationships. In modern society how can we provide incentives for more people like you to come forward? As you have said, people in government advanced by harboring secrets and keeping their mouth shut, how do we changed that dynamic?

Daniel Ellsberg: I think that Judy and Rick's film and "The Insider" about Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco whistleblower and Serpico, about Frank Serpico who revealed corruption in the police dept. can do a great deal ...

Comment From Caroline
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to decide whether or not to blow the whistle on the government or their company?

judith Ehrlich: if I may respond too.
Don't threaten to prosecute them. Support the organizations that support whistleblowers like The National Whistleblowers Center and Government Accountability Project.

Daniel Ellsberg: to suggest to viewers that telling forbidden truths can actually be effective and worth the personal cost.

Daniel Ellsberg: It can be effective in saving lives, and worth the personal cost.

Daniel Ellsberg: They should ask themselves...

Daniel Ellsberg: whether it seems important enough...

Daniel Ellsberg: to reveal these truths to pay a serious personal cost...

Daniel Ellsberg: to themselves. Because that is usually the consequence of being a whistleblower...

Daniel Ellsberg: There will be times when they conclude that it is not worth the cost...

Daniel Ellsberg: but that should not be because they feel certain that there will be no useful effect. The truth is that courageous and costly truth telling can save many lives, or defend the principles of our democracy, and can be worth a very heavy personal sacrifice.

Comment From pork
how do you respond to people who say you or bradley manning put soldiers in harms way?

Rick Goldsmith: Pvt. Manning did not put soldier's in harm's way. President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did that.

Daniel Ellsberg: Well, that claim was made about the Pentagon Papers just as strongly as it has been made about Bradley Manning...

Daniel Ellsberg: It proved to be unfounded in my case...

Daniel Ellsberg: and so far, the Pentagon has acknowledged that they have no evidence that anyone has actually be harmed by Manning's revelations, if indeed he was the source.

Daniel Ellsberg: It should be obvious that the ....

Daniel Ellsberg: policies of putting our soldiers in harm's way unnecessarily in Afghanistan and Iraq have led to the actual, and not merely hypothetical deaths of thousands of Americans...

Daniel Ellsberg: and far more Afghans and Iraqis.

Daniel Ellsberg: That is also true...

Daniel Ellsberg: This actual harm has also resulted from a secrecy that permitted these wrongful unnecessary policies to be carried out.

Comment From Jeff
It is sooo... well put together if htere were one scene that you could have included but did not what would it be?

Daniel Ellsberg: In short, our soldiers, and the people of that area have been far more endangered by silence and secrecy than by truth telling.

Comment From steve
People who say you or bradley manning put soldiers in harms way see what they want to see. You can't reason with them.

Daniel Ellsberg: Steve, you know, they are repeating what they've been told by the Pentagon, which is, at most, a very small part of the reality. So I wouldn't give up on trying to expand the context in which they make these judgments.

judith Ehrlich: I would have liked to have shown the scene Dan described earlier of being threatened by the plumbers on the steps of the Capitol, but we didn't have good enough footage to use it.

Daniel Ellsberg: It's true that most people find it far more comfortable to trust an authority than to have their faith questioned.

Daniel Ellsberg: But, our democracy depends, ultimately, on people being reachable by evidence and discussion.

Comment From Jeff
Are most American people more informed or willing to handle the truth about these wars than 45 years ago?

Daniel Ellsberg: Jeff, Since 9/11, American citizens feel personally threatened in a way they did not 45 years ago...

Daniel Ellsberg: and so they are more inclined to rely on authority to protect them, and also they are willing to give these authorities much greater leeway in resorting to illegal or ruthless means...

Daniel Ellsberg: that amount to abandoning the rule of law...

Daniel Ellsberg: what goes along with that is a greater willingness to let the government keep secrets...

Daniel Ellsberg: and that is bound to be abused.

Comment From detous
You are a very wise man, Mr. Ellsberg...

Comment From UT Austin grad doc class
What ethical issues did you confront in the making of this film?

Daniel Ellsberg: So, there is a degree of consent in this restriction of our democracy...

Daniel Ellsberg: and that is a very dangerous trend in our society today.

Rick Goldsmith: "The first casualty of war is truth" is a saying that goes way back. We have been engaged in wars every generation since the mid-1700s (look it up!). The government has always used propaganda to get the public behind these wars. Typically, opposition to wars only becomes widespread (see Vietnam) when the wars are not being won.

judith Ehrlich: Interesting ?. Really very few ethical issues. We told the story from Dan's perspective and I think we shared that perspective in general. And it was extremely well documented in the media of the time.

Comment From Jessie
Where is the balance of keeping information out of the public to protect informants and America's best interst?

POV: Hi Everyone, unfortunately the chat is coming to an end, Jessie's will be the last question.

Rick Goldsmith: One of the biggest ethical issu any doc filmmaker faces is how to stay open to the facts as you discover them, given what your "agenda" is when you begin the film. So we tried hard to not distort the chronology, and the cause-and-effect relationship of our scenes, so as not to distort the truth, even as we tried to stick to our narrative.

Rick Goldsmith: I think there has rarely been a case where a public citizen, or the press, has revealed facts that harmed our so-called national interest. Government officials have done so, like the Bush officials who "outed" CIA agent Valerie Plame. (New movie out on that!)

Daniel Ellsberg: On the question of informants...

judith Ehrlich: the more truthtelling the better. As Bill Moyers said recently, (loosely quoting) everything that is news is a secret someone wants to keep.

Daniel Ellsberg: I would advise against releasing a mass of classified information which one has not had time to read entirely and I think WikiLeaks was mistaken to do that in their first big release of the Afghan War Logs, but they have learned from this...

Daniel Ellsberg: and are now delaying release so as to delete harmful material...

judith Ehrlich: But I agree with Dan, it should be done judiciously and within reason.

Daniel Ellsberg: Fortunately, the risk that they inadvertantly took (with the first release) does not seem to have harmed anyone.

Comment From Theresa
What do you say to those who say you committed treason?

Daniel Ellsberg: But it is important always to keep in mind ...

Daniel Ellsberg: that the danger of harming humans is not connected only or even mainly with telling secrets...

Daniel Ellsberg: there can be great danger in keeping secrets...

Daniel Ellsberg: and that danger has actually resulted in 58,000 American lives and several million Vietnamese lives, and in Iraq, several thousand American lives and possibly more than a million Iraqi lives.

Comment From Chelo Alvarez-Stehle
THANK YOU SO very much for what you did, Ms. Ellsberg, and to you doc filmmakers + POV for bringing this story of TODAY to light. You inspired me to keep fighting for peace.

Comment From russelbertrand
Thanks you all for your time!

Daniel Ellsberg: I'm saying that neither of these wars would have occurred if officials had told the truth about their own expectations, and recommendations...

Rick Goldsmith: Ellsberg certainly did not give aid and comfort to the enemy. he gave Americans an insight into how our government operates behind closed doors, and facts we all needed to determine foreign policy. That is essential to our democracy. And if it indeed shortened the war, it was a service To America.

Daniel Ellsberg: before the war and before massive escalation.

Comment From clark
and the truth shall set you frree....

Comment From Matthew
Thank you, Daniel! It's a pleasure

Comment From Jeff
Thanks to you all. The mesh of your talent and experience have produced an remarkable film.

Comment From steve
Thank you for all that you have done.

Daniel Ellsberg: So the secrecy practices that led them to keep their mouths shut, or to lie to Congress and the public actually caused very many lives.

Rick Goldsmith: Back at you for all the questions and thoughts. My pleasure.

judith Ehrlich: Thanks for watching. here's the plug-
Please let others know it is streaming on line on POV until Oct. 27 and you can get it on netflix and buy it on our website

Comment From detous
Thank you...cannot thank you enough for your courage...all of you~~

Comment From Matthew
this should be essential viewing in any U.S. history course, or journalism course, for that matter.

Comment From steph
Yes, thank you Mr. Ellsberg for your humanity, bravery and persistence in getting the truth out.

Daniel Ellsberg: Thank you. I enjoyed this, and I would have been glad to have it go on longer!

Daniel Ellsberg: I appreciate all the comments.

POV: Thank you Daniel!

POV: And thank you Judith and Rick!

judith Ehrlich: and for educators at the New Day website-- with lots of useful extras. hope to reach a new generation with this story. thanks to all

Rick Goldsmith: yes, for schools, please visit, for a special educational dvd with extras.

POV: Special thanks to all our readers for their insightful questions and comments.

POV: You can find out more about the film and watch it online through October 27!