Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
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Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  483 ratings  ·  63 reviews
In 1971 former Cold War hard-liner Daniel Ellsberg made history by releasing the Pentagon Papers-a 7,000-page top-secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam-to the New York Times and Washington Post. The document set in motion a chain of events that ended not only the Nixon presidency but the Vietnam War. In this remarkable memoir, Ellsberg describes in dramatic detai...more
Kindle Edition, 512 pages
Published (first published 2002)
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Hadrian
The recent attention over the Wikileaks cases, the Manning trial and Snowden's flight to Russia all have their precedent of Ellsberg in Vietnam. Although there are substantial differences in the nature and continuing effects of these cases, it still remains evident that the ethical imperative to 'speak truth to power' and to say the right thing even at immense personal cost is still alive and well.

That being said, this book, although overly long at points (and containing information about Vietna...more
Erik Simon
From the White House and Pentagon to the fields of battle and streets of protest, I think no one has a deeper understanding of the Vietnam War than Ellsberg: he was the one person who was in all of those places. His evolution from staunch advocate of the war to tireless opponent is a remarkable thing to read, even if the pace of this book was a bit plodding at times. I have long thought that anytime a president invokes, "National Security," for anything, but most especially for the right to keep...more
Rachel
I saw Daniel Ellsberg at a 2008 Great Conversations event at the University of Minnesota. He impressed me with his astonishing grasp of past and present events (he's either 76 or 78, depending on which source I'm relying on is correct), and his clear philosophy of right v. wrong. (Sounds simple I know, but I find it's rare in today's politics.) If you're interested, the audio is online: www.cce.umn.edu/conversations/audio.html

Back to the book...
Secrets at its best is a look into how the American...more
Keith MacKinnon
Words of James Madison, drafter of the First Amendment:

“A popular government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives."


Words of H. R. Haldeman spoken to President Nixon, Oval Office tapes, June 14, 1971, on the impact of the Pentagon Papers:

"To the ordinary guy, all this is a bun...more
Phil
This book was incredible. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in learning something about the Vietnam War and the lies and atrocities committed by our government. Ellsberg tells the story of his experience working for the Pentagon at the time and his travels in Vietnam. He risks his career and his life to release top secret Pentagon documents that expose the abuses of our government. It's a shame this book isn't more popular and that more people don't know who Ellsberg is and what he did for...more
Themistocles
A great book that reads like an Oliver Stone movie: one part Vietnam war, one part political thriller. Not only does Ellsberg a fantastic story to tell, but he tells it well to boot.

Granted, there are a few points that go on slowly, where he discusses internal politics, and also the final part (the papers release and the trial period) is toned down compared to third-party accounts and documentaries, but perhaps it's to be expected, since he's talking about himself...
Jamie
In light of Manning and the CIA/NSA/FBI whistleblower, Ellsberg - altho very old school and a total pioneer - didn't have strike teams out to find him.. =\
Steve
"Secrets" is the memoir of Daniel Ellsberg, the patriotic whistleblower who leaked a top-secret history of the Vietnam War (later called the "Pentagon Papers") in order to help end it, by revealing to the American people that the case for the war had been built on decades of lies and deception -- and that the war was not only unjust, but also fundamentally unwinnable.

Ellsberg was a high-level analyst who spent considerable time in Vietnam and advising policy-makers; he was, in fact, a Cold Warri...more
Dennis
There are 3 branches to the federal government under the law of the constitution. One would hope, given the tenets of the constitution, that each would keep each under check. Authority, or power, absolute, corrupts absolutely. Dr. Ellsberg's book shows clearly that abuse of those powers leads to destruction. The premise is simple: go to war; see death and destruction; analyze death and destruction to gain a superiority; then overcome. Or win. Blunt, yet mistaken. Ho Chi Minh was un-defeatable, a...more
Frederick Bingham
This is a memoir of Daniel Ellsberg. He was a mid-level analyst who worked at the Pentagon, State Department, Rand Corp. and other government and private jobs. He became famous in 1971 with the release of the Pentagon Papers, a classified study of the history of the war in Vietnam. The study showed a consistent pattern of lies and misinformation put out by the government over a period of 25 years between the late 1940's and mid 1960's.He discusses the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and the lies put out...more
Scott Holstad
This was a lengthy but fascinating book to read. I'd had it for awhile, but had never opened it. Now I'm glad I did. Daniel Ellsberg was an analyst with the State Department, Department of Defense, was a Marine in Vietnam, and worked for the infamous Rand Corporation. He knew details about the Vietnam War that most did not, and in the late '60s, he worked to uncover even more. Why? During his time in Vietnam, he had come to the conclusion that it was an immoral, unwinnable war, and he found in h...more
nanto
Aug 06, 2008 nanto marked it as wishlist-‎a-k-a-buku-buruan  ·  review of another edition
Filmnya kere...n, beruntung dia punya teman yang ada di sisinya ketika semua menuding dan menjauh. Salah satu teman itu akhirinya dinikahinya. Wanita yang menjadi pendamping di saat dia sendiri, bahkan ketika tidak mungkin lagi melibatkan anak-anaknya.

Tapi film TV yang berjudul The Pentagon's Paper bukan berdasarkan buku ini. Skenario film ini selesai terlebih dahulu dibandingkan memoir Ellsberg ini. Pembuatan filmnya juga tidak banyak konsultasi dengan Ellsberg. Sehingga banyak dialog yang men...more
Kristin Jenkins
"To the ordinary guy, all this is a bunch of gobbledygook. But out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing: you can't trust the government; you can't believe what they say; and you can't rely on their judgment. And the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been the accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the president wants to do even though it's wrong and the president can be wrong."

The Vietnam War era intrigues me and this book di...more
Steve Van Slyke
Both an entertaining suspense thriller, as Ellsberg goes underground to avoid being nabbed by the FBI before he can release the Pentagon Papers, as well as a major piece of the history of how and why five US administrations led their country deeper and deeper into the abyss of Viet Nam. I'm currently reading Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly, which also addresses the latter. Whether or not you agree with what Ellsberg did, you have to admire him for being willing to give up everything meaning...more
Nick Black
what a mess that was (the buildup in vietnam, not Secrets). this reads like an informed moral justification for ellsberg's security violations more than anything, though, which is certainly going to result in a biased view. more interesting for large-scale analysis of decision making than details (for the latter, consult e.g. stanley kurnow's Vietnam).
Garth
A very important book which tells the inside story of the exposure of the systemic lies which successive US Executive branches (from Eisenhower to Nixon) told the US Legislature and public – because their real objectives would have been unacceptable and unsupportable if they were more widely understood.

A multitude of Executive and Pentagon staffers from all levels knew of the lies but rated their careers as more important than the lives of young Americans in Vietnam.

More profound than WikiLeaks...more
Robert Bason
Having lived through the 1960s, my political awareness of the Pentagon papers case with Dan Ellsberg was extreme. So for me, this book read like a mystery. Very thrilling.
Paul
I was privileged to work in a minor capacity on Daniel Elleberg's trial. His publication of the Pentagon Papers have always struck me as one of the most heroic acts of the Viet Nam era. So I was happy to find this memoir released in 2003.

Ellsberg tells the story of his personal Viet Nam experience, and describes how he transformed himself from a dedicated cold warrior to the sort of person who could consider revealing "Top Secret" material in the interests of peace.

I found his description of the...more
Paula
This is an excellent account by a pentagon whistle blower on the dynamics behind the continuance of the vietnam war.
Heather
Interesting in light of recent leaks of secret documents. Perhaps a bit self serving.
Naomi
I'm impressed. This is a memoir everyone should read. Some question the bias of a first person perspective on history like this, but aren't all histories written through a filter? I found Ellsberg believable. Talking with older friends who lived through that time, they found it believable, too. And something that made sense of things they'd experienced. Moreover, this was one of the most *readable* historical memoirs I've ever picked up. I normally have to slog through books like this, but I cou...more
Laura
While everyone may not agree with what Daniel Ellsberg did, I believe he did what he believed was the right thing to do under the circumstances. This book reveals how one government agency does not necessarily know what another agency is doing, all in the name of national security. It seems this was/is a serious systems breakdown. If agencies could share their intelligence and coordinate their efforts, perhaps a tragedy like 9/11 could have been prevented!
Emily
Incredibly important book to read. Made newly relevant by the recent Snowden revelations. Though I'm not sure a book like this can ever be made irrelevant. Maybe when we live in a much better world.

I found it a bit distracting that there were two different narrators who switched back and forth seemingly at random. Maybe Ellsberg only wanted to read certain sections? I'm not sure. But I would have preferred he read the whole thing or just let the narrator do it.
Dean Hamp
An excellent account of the theft of "The Pentagon Papers" by the fellow who stole them. Ellsberg narrates his journey from Washington analyst to Vietnam and back, as well as his famous 'leak' of top-secret documents to sabatoge the US war effort in Vietnam. Although his leak helped sway public opinion against the war, it was Nixon's psychotic overreaction to the leak that brought his Presidency crashing down in ruins. Well worth the read.
Billymojo
Sure Dan Ellsberg is a hero. But that doesn't mean he deserves a 5 star review. Nor does he get it because he artfully wrote about his conflicted and shifting loyalties. There's plenty of similar memoirs out there. I give this book 5 stars because, unlike the others, it's remarkably entertaining. Remember how slow and clunky copy machines were? Dan Ellsberg does. Little details like this make this a highly worthwhile read.
Jeremiah
Having read Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States and You Can't Be Neutral on A Moving Train (and enjoyed both), I was automatically drawn to reading this Dan Ellsberg book when I saw it a week ago on the shelf at the local library.

I would put it in a class with Philip Caputo's Rumor of War as far as Vietnam studies go.

Completely enjoyable if you are into Vietnam War history and literature.
Oli

Truly eye opening book. If you think that government is likely to act in the interest of the general public and ought to be trusted, please read this book. It is impossible to adopt a naive viewpoint of governance after understanding Ellsberg's story.
Gary Greenberg
A much different story than I imagined.

1) Ellsburg's more political than I thought.

2) The Pentabon Papers weren't just factual, but analytical, but still very compelling to the news-readers of the time.

3) Ellsburg's effet on the Nixon Administration's paranoia was realistically credited with the whole Watergate situation, from the crimes committed to the coverup which was botched.
Nancy
After meeting Daniel Ellsberg I decided to read his book and am so happy I did. I learned a tremendous amount about the history of the U.S. war on Vietnam and the political situation of the time and came away agreeing that Ellsberg is a true American hero. There were tons of acronymns that at times were hard to keep track of so I made myself a glossary and referred to it frequently.
Tyler
Ellsberg tells the great story of his awakening, of sorts, to the immorality of the Vietnam War and his desire to end it. This is an enlightening book by the man who destroyed the perception of an infallible presidents and blind American trust in their administrations.
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Daniel Ellsberg is a former United States military analyst who, while employed by the RAND Corporation, precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of US government decision-making about the Vietnam War, to The New York Times and other newspapers.

Ellsberg is the recipient of the Inaugural Ron Ridenhour Courage Prize, a pri...more
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