FAC Mourns Death of Lifelong Government Transparency Champion Daniel Ellsberg

June 16, 2023

Contact: fac@firstamendmentcoalition.org

San Rafael — The First Amendment Coalition mourns the loss of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who passed away today at the age of 92. Ellsberg’s 1971 leak prompted a watershed moment in American politics, journalism, and law, pitting the Nixon administration against the press in the U.S. Supreme Court case New York Times v. United States, which remains at the bedrock of First Amendment law. 

The case stands for the proposition that prior restraints — government preventing speech from going forward — are essentially verboten under the First Amendment. It is a crucially important bulwark for free speech and a free press. And it would not exist but for Ellsberg.  

“Daniel Ellsberg brought the importance of transparency and a free press to the American consciousness.His courage to leak the Pentagon Papers shaped the law for the better in America,” said FAC executive director David Snyder. “Journalists, activists, First Amendment lawyers, and anyone else who cares about a free press and government accountability owe Daniel Ellsberg a huge debt of gratitude. FAC is terribly saddened by this loss but inspired by his courage and lifelong commitment to open government.”