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How a Cambridge, Mass., neighbor helped Xerox whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg, co-defendant in the Pentagon Papers case, talks to media outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, April 28, 1973. Ellsberg, the government analyst and whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, died Friday, June 16. (Wally Fong/AP)
Daniel Ellsberg, co-defendant in the Pentagon Papers case, talks to media outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, April 28, 1973. Ellsberg, the government analyst and whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, died Friday, June 16. (Wally Fong/AP)

When Daniel Ellsberg died last week at the age of 92, he was called the patron saint of whistleblowers, maybe the most important one in American history.

But how did the Pentagon Papers — 7,000 classified documents — travel from the apartment he was renting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the front page of the New York Times?

Ellsberg was a hawkish military analyst who would ultimately realize that several presidents were lying about the Vietnam War. In 1971, he announced he had the proof: the so-called Pentagon Papers detailing the government’s own concerns.

We speak with Ellsberg’s  Cambridge neighbor at the time, Pebble Gifford, whose husband Dun Gifford helped New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan Xerox the papers in Dun’s downtown Boston office. We also hear from our past conversations with Ellsberg about how he tried to get people to follow his lead and blow the whistle on lies about more current wars.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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