Daniel Ellsberg, the former government analyst who leaked a trove of classified documents that became known as the “Pentagon Papers” and has lived near Berkeley for more than four decades, announced that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
In a Facebook post Thursday, Ellsberg wrote that doctors told him that he has inoperable pancreatic cancer, and estimated he has three to six months to live. Ellsberg, 91, has decided to forgo chemotherapy.
Ellsberg and his wife, Patricia, moved to a home in Kensington several years after his leak of the Pentagon Papers — 7,000 pages detailing how the United States misled the public about the Vietnam War while escalating its involvement in the conflict over more than two decades — made him among the most famous whistleblowers ever. He has worked since then working to raise awareness of the threat of nuclear war.
“When I copied the Pentagon Papers in 1969, I had every reason to think I would be spending the rest of my life behind bars,” Ellsberg wrote in his Facebook post.
But after the attempt to prosecute him on espionage charges failed, Ellsberg continued, “I was spared the imprisonment I expected, and I was able to spend the last fifty years with Patricia and my family, and with you, my friends. What’s more, I was able to devote those years to doing everything I could think of to alert the world to the perils of nuclear war and wrongful interventions: lobbying, lecturing, writing and joining with others in acts of protest and non-violent resistance.”
In 2017, Ellsberg published “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.” Speaking with Berkeleyside soon after the book was released, Ellsberg said he believed the world was careening toward a nuclear war that would wipe out humanity, and that his fear of such a conflict had prompted him to leak the Pentagon Papers.
“I’m happy to know that millions of people — including all those friends and comrades to whom I address this message — have the wisdom, dedication, and moral courage to carry on with these causes, and to work unceasingly for the survival of our planet and its creatures,” he wrote in the Facebook post.
Ellsberg said he is not in pain and has continued doing interviews and working since receiving his diagnosis on Feb. 17. He said he plans to continue that work for as long as he is able.
“You’ll be hearing from me as long as I’m here,” Ellsberg wrote.