Class of 1948
Scholar, Anti-War Activist, Government Official
Ellsberg graduated first in his class in 1948 and thus earning a full academic scholarship to study at Harvard. There he majored in economics and wrote a senior honors thesis entitled "Theories of Decision-making Under Uncertainty: The Contributions of von Neumann and Morgenstern," which he later developed into journal articles published in the Economic Journal and American Economics Review.
Upon graduating from Harvard summa cum laude in 1952, Ellsberg received a Woodrow Wilson Scholarship to study economics for a year at King's College, Cambridge University. He returned to the United States in 1953 and immediately volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps Officer Candidates Program (he had earlier been granted educational deferments of military service).
In late 1969, with the help of former RAND colleague Anthony Russo, Ellsberg began secretly photocopying the entire Pentagon Papers. He privately offered the Papers to several congressmen including the influential J. William Fulbright, but none was willing to make them public or hold hearings about them. So in March 1971 Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times
, which began publishing them three months later.
When the Times was slapped with an injunction ordering a stop to publication, Ellsberg provided the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post and then to 15 other newspapers. The case, entitled New York Times Co. v. The United States, ultimately went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which on June 30, 1971 issued a landmark 6-3 decision authorizing the newspapers to print the Pentagon Papers without risk of government censure.