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Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg receives honorary degree from UMass Amherst

From left: UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, Daniel Ellsberg, and his wife, Patricia Marx Ellsberg are seen during a ceremony in San Francisco where Ellsberg received an honorary degree from the university.UMass Amherst

Daniel Ellsberg, the war analyst who in 1971 leaked the so-called Pentagon Papers that publicly exposed government deception and mistakes during the war in Vietnam, received an honorary degree Saturday from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the institution that has housed his archive of documents since 2019, officials said.

In a ceremony in San Francisco, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy praised Ellsberg for his devotion to public service, the university said in a statement.

“We honor you for a lifetime of truth-telling that demonstrates how dissent can be the highest form of patriotism and citizenship,” Subbaswamy said, according to the statement. “We thank you for inspiring others to follow your example.”

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Ellsberg was working for Rand Corp., a nonprofit research institution, when he copied the 7,000-page, top-secret report on Vietnam, the details of which later appeared in a bombshell New York Times report published on June 13, 1971.

The university acquired Ellsberg’s massive trove of historical documents — about 500 boxes in all — for $2.2 million, most of which was provided by an anonymous donor. The papers document decades of Ellsberg’s life, including his assessments of the Vietnam war, his trial for releasing the Pentagon Papers, his work in the antiwar and antinuclear movements, and his advocacy for freedom of the press and First Amendment rights.

Since receiving the Ellsberg documents, the university has honored his life and legacy through a yearlong seminar, the creation of the online Ellsberg Archive Project, and a series of podcasts with The GroundTruth Project, the university said.

The university is now moving to launch the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy “to highlight the value of the Ellsberg archive and to engage the public in the vital issues so central to Ellsberg’s legacy,” the statement said.

Ellsberg, 91, who lives in the Bay Area, expressed gratitude to the university for supporting his work. He previously said that he considered placing his papers with the University of California Santa Cruz but decided on UMass after meeting with school officials.

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“This is actually the first institutional community that I’ve been in for 50 years, since I left Rand in 1970 and MIT in 1972 when they terminated my fellowship at the Center for International Studies because I was on trial,” he said, according to the statement.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.