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UMass Amherst Buys Historic Papers Of 'Pentagon Papers' Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg

Updated at 3:55 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2019 

UMass Amherst has purchased the historic papers of Daniel Ellsberg, one of the most well known opponents to the Vietnam War.

After seving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and working for years as a high-level military strategest, Ellsberg leaked top secret documents about the Vietnam War to The New York Times and other papers in 1971.

It was a Department of Defense study that became known as the "Pentagon Papers," and it exposed the public to decades of deceit by policymakers.

"You can agree or disagree with how he went about doing it," said Robert Cox, the head of special collections at the W.E.B. Dubois Library at UMass. "But I think a lot of people today would have a hard time denying that he was strongly motivated from a fundamental ethical perspective to do what he did."

Cox traveled to California to ask Ellsberg, 88, to consider UMass as the destination for his life's work. Some of the 500 boxes have already arrived.

UMass paid $2.2 million for the collection, of which $1.35 million was provided by an anonymous donor, according to the university.

Cox said about 98% of the library's collection has been donated free of charge, but he said acquiring Ellsberg's papers was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Ellsberg "is giving" his papers to UMass Amherst, and the headline said he "donated" the papers. In fact, UMass purchased the collection. The error was also included in a photo caption.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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