Daniel Ellsberg, PhD, (born April 7, 1931) 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 U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, to The New York Times and other newspapers. He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2006.
Ellsberg was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1931 to ethnic Jewish parents who had converted to Christian Science, and raised in a devout Christian atmosphere. He grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and attended Cranbrook Kingswood School. His mother had wanted her son to be a concert pianist but he stopped playing in July 1946 when she was killed in a car crash, together with his sister, after his father fell asleep at the wheel of the car in which the family was traveling and crashed into a culvert wall.
Ellsberg attended Harvard University on a scholarship, graduating with B.S. in economics in 1952 (summa cum laude). He then studied at Cambridge University on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and one year later he returned to Harvard for graduate school. In 1954, he left Harvard for the U.S. Marine Corps. He graduated first in a class of almost 1,100 lieutenants at the Marine Corps Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. He served as a platoon leader and company commander in the Marine 2nd Infantry Division, and after satisfying his two year Reserve Officer commitment was discharged from the Corps as a first lieutenant in 1957. He resumed graduate studies at Harvard, but after two years he interrupted his academic studies again, to work at RAND, where he concentrated on nuclear strategy. He earned a PhD in Economics from Harvard in 1962. His dissertation introduced a paradox in decision theory now known as the Ellsberg paradox.