Saturday, February 20, 2010

"The Most Dangerous Man in America" a must see documentary/Ellsberg speaks at Goucher

Goucher College will present three viewings of the film THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA, which recounts the circumstances surrounding Daniel Ellsberg’s decision to leak top-secret documents leading up to the Vietnam War to the New York Times. The free film screenings will be held in Kelley Lecture Hall at the following times: Sat., Feb. 27 at 4 pm; Sun., Feb. 28 at 4 PM; and Mon., Mar. 1 at 7 PM.


 Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who precipitated a national political maelstrom in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, will appear at Goucher College on Tues., Mar. 2, and he will discuss his decision to give the New York Times the top-secret Pentagon study of U.S. government decision-making leading up to the Vietnam War. The event will be held at 8 PM in Kraushaar Auditorium and is free and open to the public. Contact Kristen Keener at


The trailer for "The Most Dangerous Man in America:"

The film is up for as Oscar.


Friday, February 19, 2010 (SF Chronicle)


Review: Daniel Ellsberg - 'The Most Dangerous Man'


by Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Movie Critic


The Most Dangerous Man in America

Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers


Narrated by Daniel Ellsberg

Directed by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith.

Not rated. 94 minutes.


Daniel Ellsberg has always been a tough guy. But because he looked

like a patrician and could seem prickly and superior, and because he

was called Dr. Ellsberg, this toughness didn't always come through in

his media appearances. For years - I was in elementary school when the

Pentagon Papers story detonated, so I had an excuse - I assumed Dr.

Ellsberg was some radical professor who somehow got hold of secret

government documents and leaked them to the press.


In fact, he was the government's worst nightmare: A former Marine

officer, a military adviser with access to the highest government

officials, and a government researcher who knew where all the bodies

were buried. Ellsberg knew McNamara. He knew Kissinger. He knew

everybody. He was a true believer, with the courage to spend two years

in Vietnam getting shot at, because he wanted to see the situation for

himself. ... And then he stopped believing.


In a transformation that wasn't just political but spiritual, Ellsberg

went from being a man unafraid of getting killed in Vietnam to a man

unafraid of spending the rest of his life in prison, so long as the

truth got out. In another time and culture, a story on this scale

would deserve an opera. Instead, it's the subject of "The Most

Dangerous Man in America," a superb documentary by Judith Ehrlich and

Rick Goldsmith, which Ellsberg, now 78, narrates.


It tells the story of an era in American political history, the

pattern of lies that got the United States into Vietnam and the mix of

lies and propaganda that kept us there. But it's also the fascinating

story of a particular personality in collision with that era - not the

most cuddly guy, not the most lovable, but someone exacting and

rigorous, with no ympathy at all for moral weakness (especially his

own); someone temperamentally endowed with strategic cunning and an

advanced ability to get fed up and stay that way.


The title is not meant to be ironic. Ellsberg is exactly the enemy you

would not want to have.


The film is packed with stories, from numerous talking heads,

including Ellsberg. A wealth of information is conveyed with complete



Ellsberg himself corroborates Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's

claim that even before the Tet Offensive, McNamara was telling

President Lyndon Johnson to pull back on the bombing and to seek a

military solution in Vietnam. But Ellsberg also recalls that, on one

of the very days McNamara was expressing doubt about the war, he was

appearing before TV cameras and lying through his teeth about the

military progress being made.


Working inside the government, Ellsberg knew that the whole story of

the Gulf of Tonkin attack, which precipitated Johnson's escalation of

the war, was based on false information. And Ellsberg himself

participated in the creation of a specious report on North Vietnamese

war crimes.


Henry Kissinger comes across as a reasonable man in this account, both

in Ellsberg's recollections and on the Nixon tapes. Richard Nixon, by

contrast, sounds like a lunatic in these recorded conversations,

ranting and cursing and seeming, at every other turn, to be trying to

shock Kissinger by threatening to use nuclear weapons. JFK at least

had the sense to turn on the tape recorder only when he was about to

say something good. It's hard to imagine what Nixon was thinking,

recording himself raving like Sterling Hayden in "Dr. Strangelove."


In addition to Ellsberg, the other hero of this documentary is the

American press. After the New York Times was forced, by court

injunction, to stop printing the Pentagon Papers, the Washington Post

picked up the ball, and then other newspapers followed suit - all of

them mighty names in American journalism, most of them struggling

today just to keep afloat. Anyone with any doubt as to the importance,

in a functioning democracy, of American newspapers - with working

newsrooms full of professional, paid journalists - needs to see this movie.


* * *


E-mail Mick LaSalle at



No comments: