Letters to the Editor: Daniel Ellsberg was called a traitor in 1973. He died a hero in 2023

Daniel Ellsberg talks to reporters outside the federal building in Los Angeles in 1973.
Daniel Ellsberg, co-defendant in the Pentagon Papers case, talks to reporters outside the federal building in Los Angeles in 1973.
(Wally Fong / Associated Press)

To the editor: I am grateful to The Times for Elaine Woo’s detailed obituary on Daniel Ellsberg.

I was in graduate school when the Pentagon Papers came out in 1971 and had the opportunity to spend a semester reading them and discussing clear evidence of lies and war crimes. Years later I audited a class at UC Irvine taught by Ellsberg. It was one of the most informative classes of my life.

The article suggests that, at the time he announced his cancer earlier this year, Ellsberg was “considered a hero by some and a traitor by others.” That may have been true in 1973, when he was criminally charged for releasing the Pentagon Papers, but anyone who now thinks Ellsberg a “traitor” has never studied the papers.


The article labels the Gulf of Tonkin incident as a “confrontation with North Vietnam.” In reality, nothing happened on Aug. 4, 1964. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was the original fake news and was revealed as such by journalist Robert Scheer in The Times in 1985.

Wisely, Ellsberg is quoted as saying in 2017 that “something like the Pentagon Papers should be coming out several times a year.” No kidding.

Jim Mamer, San Diego


To the editor: It was like touching greatness when I had the privilege and honor to bestow the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club’s Award for Political Courage to Ellsberg and Ron Kovic in 2006.

Meeting both these courageous men, friends for many years, who individually shaped the course of history with their strong commitment to truth, affected me greatly. With the enduring support and love of his wife, Patricia, Dan was one of the most gracious, insightful and unpretentious heroes I have ever met.

I so hope today more individuals of courage would address the grievances and lies being spread throughout our country. May we continue to be inspired by Ellsberg’s legacy.


Alice Lynn, Pacific Palisades


To the editor: I began reading the obituary on Ellsberg without noting the author. Eventually I was impressed enough to turn back the pages to see who had written it.

Elaine Woo, who left The Times in 2015, was always one of my favorite writers. The Ellsberg material — so complex, so intertwined with my own history and understanding of government — was a marvel of clarity and comprehension for a subject that demands an excellent writer.

It was so good to see her credit again.

Lynne Culp, Van Nuys