Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
The Most Dangerous Man in America catapults us to 1971 where we find America in the grip of a familiar scenario: a dirty war based on lies. And Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, one of the nation’s leading war planners, has the documents to prove it. Armed with 7000 pages of Top Secret documents; he leaks the truth about the Vietnam War to The New York Times and risks life in prison to end the war he helped plan. It is a story that held the world in its grip, with daily headlines, the top story on the nightly news for weeks on end.
What makes a dedicated Cold Warrior throw away his high-level access, his career, his friends, and risk life in prison for a mere CHANCE at helping to end the war? The Daniel Ellsberg in the first part of the film is a brilliant, complex man wrestling with his conscience over his role in a war he sees first as a problem to be solved, then as a hopeless stalemate, finally as a crime to be stopped at any costs.
Ellsberg’s leak of the top-secret Pentagon Papers to The New York Times sets into motion an extraordinary series of events. The Nixon Administration first goes after the nation’s press, resulting in a First Amendment battle that, within two weeks, ends up in the Supreme Court. Ellsberg goes underground to avoid a nationwide FBI manhunt. When he emerges, he is hailed as a hero, accused of being a traitor, ostracized by friends, and finds himself on trial for his life.