Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers Whistleblower, Reveals Terminal Cancer Diagnosis

Doctors have told the 91-year-old anti-war activist he has three to six months to live

Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg (Getty Images)

Daniel Ellsberg, the activist and former military analyst whose leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 about the U.S. government’s policies in the Vietnam War shook the country and the Nixon administration, revealed via a friend on Wednesday that he has inoperable pancreatic cancer.

The decision by The Washington Post to publish the papers was the basis of Steven Spielberg’s 2017 film “The Post,” in which Matthew Rhys portrayed Ellsberg. Nixon’s White House Plumbers sought to discredit the former military analyst, whose leak of the Vietnam war report led to him being charged with espionage, charges that were dismissed in 1973. The release of the top secret 7,000-page report is credited with speeding the U.S.’s decision to end the unpopular war.

Laurel Krause of The Allison Center for Peace shared his message on Facebook: “I have difficult news to impart, the message began. “On February 17, without much warning, I was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer on the basis of a CT scan and an MRI… I’m sorry to report to you that my doctors have given me three to six months to live. Of course, they emphasize that everyone’s case is individual; it might be more, or less.”

Ellsberg, who is 91, added that he has decided not to undergo chemotherapy and is “not in any physical pain.”

“Since my diagnosis, I’ve done several interviews and webinars on Ukraine, nuclear weapons, and first amendment issues and I have two more scheduled this week. As I just told my son Robert: he’s long known (as my editor) that I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I live better under a deadline!” he said in the message.

“As I look back on the last sixty years of my life, I think there is no greater cause to which I could have dedicated my efforts,” he said of his work to end nuclear war. “I’m happy to know that millions of people… have the wisdom, the dedication and the moral courage to carry on with these causes, and to work unceasingly for the survival of our planet and its creatures.”

He concluded, “I’m enormously grateful to have had the privilege of knowing and working with [my fellow activists] past and present. That’s among the most treasured aspects of my very privileged and very lucky life. I want to thank you all for the love and support you have given me in so many ways. Your dedication, courage, and determination to act have inspired and sustained my own efforts. My wish for you is that at the end of your days you will feel as much joy and gratitude as I do now.”