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Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  777 Ratings  ·  85 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 det ...more
ebook, 512 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 2002)
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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
Jan 15, 2008 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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:

Back to the book...
Secrets at its best is a look into how the American
Mar 09, 2015 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I wanted to say something much longer here, but, in short: it’s the kind of book I immediately pass on to my father and then we discuss it for the next two six months.

There’s not a dry paragraph in the book. I’m tempted to say there’s not a paragraph that didn’t humble me. One of the best books I’ve read on the subject, from the man who practically wrote the subject. One of the best books I’ve read this year.
Sep 03, 2015 Pabgo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome memoir! Read like a thriller, a page turner. And it really happened!! All your favorite characters are there: Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, John Paul Vann, Neil Sheehan, and of course, Ellsberg himself. All the despots too, Mitchel, Erlichman, Kissinger, Hunt, Colson, Halderman, that psychopath Liddy, and the biggest scumbag of all, responsible for the needless deaths of thousands upon thousands (many young Americans), the war criminal Richard Nixon.
This is a detailed story of a true patr
Keith MacKinnon
Feb 16, 2011 Keith MacKinnon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 29, 2007 Phil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Dec 04, 2009 Themistocles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
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...
Randall Wallace
Jun 22, 2014 Randall Wallace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love in this book when Daniel in Vietnam comes across Japanese pillboxes and mounds of old stones of a Chinese fort and realized through interpreters that the Vietnamese believe they removed the Chinese after 1,000 years and the Japanese left much faster, so what hope does the US have to be successful? Arthur Schlesinger discusses the Vietnam policy of “one more step” – each step would be framed as one more step to victory while the outcome was that every step deepened US involvement in a quag ...more
Jan 29, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Feb 24, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This meticulously detailed book details Daniel Ellsburg at first supporting the war in Vietnam to exposing the lies of three decades of American foreign policy decisions made during the Vietnam War. His work at the Pentagon provided the springboard of exposing the lies because he had total access to confidential documents and secret files that covered up secret maneuvers and other operations that put our government and our soldiers in jeopardy.

After his volunteer tour in Vietnam as a State Depar
Mar 05, 2016 Dawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Long before the birth of Edward Snowden, America was rocked by the revelations of whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. This autobiography provides insight into his life and motivations, while also meticulously detailing the government's efforts to arrest and silence him.

Labeled a hero by some and a traitor by others, Ellsberg's release of the notorious (and highly classified) Pentagon Papers, a study by the US Government and the Rand Corporation of America's struggle in Vietnam, would shake American p
Alina Spiegel
Apr 18, 2016 Alina Spiegel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly important read for any American who believes that our foreign policy should be determined democratically. This book reveals the extent to which U.S. presidents can (and have) deceived the American public and the congress. It describes a culture (that likely still exists) in the executive branch that dismisses the opinions of a "common citizen" as uninformed, and therefore, not worth consideration. It begins to explain how a war so unpopular with the American public could last for t ...more
Jun 11, 2013 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.. =\
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 Frederick Bingham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 26, 2012 Scott Holstad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Michal Mironov
Apr 07, 2016 Michal Mironov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TLDR: Stop watching House of Cards, the life itself provides better screenplay, and there are real things happening out there!

Can you imagine situation, when otherwise peaceful man surprisingly finds himself shouting at generals in Vietnam: “I need more blood, more casualties!” (so president have an excuse to start a war)? Because that's exactly what happened to Daniel Ellsberg.

Can you imagine almighty bureaucratic machinery which makes even the most powerful people losing their moral integrity
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
Steve Van Slyke
Apr 01, 2010 Steve Van Slyke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Dan Cohen
Jul 10, 2015 Dan Cohen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this excellent book. The story of Ellsberg's career leading up to his leaking of what came to be known as the Pentagon papers is well told and very interesting. But the book really distinguishes itself in the sections where Ellsberg considers whether he was right to do what he did in leaking the material, and, more to the point, whether he should have done it sooner and whether he should have been so acquiescent in his earlier career.

Apparently Ellsberg has written articles abou
L Dalton White
Jan 31, 2017 L Dalton White rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a tail end of the baby-boom––er, Ellsberg’s memoir is compelling. My vivid memory of the turmoil around the Viet Nam War is very clear: you were either for it or against it. The deplorables of that time were those against. Perhaps that is why Secrets, so many years later, was a book I couldn’t put down. Perhaps now, more than ever, an inside look at the military culture that so influences our national path needs to be seen for the business that it is, and in feeding the profit motive, the nat ...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).
Jun 18, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 21, 2011 Garth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
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
Diana Long
Sep 17, 2014 Diana Long rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Daniel Ellsberg has been the voice of the conscious of the American people. Although Viet Nam is now a history and is far removed from the present day Daniel is still vocal and I believe the phase "I love my country, but I fear my government" will always apply more to him than any other American. Since this was a war that I did not believe in I wanted to know, I needed to know certain facts about the war in which claimed many lives of my generation. To anyone that is interested in the Viet Nam w ...more
Kristin Jenkins
May 26, 2014 Kristin Jenkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Apr 26, 2011 Naomi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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
Nov 01, 2013 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 19, 2009 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
May 31, 2012 Jeremiah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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
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