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The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
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The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers -- The story of what happens when a former Pentagon insider, armed only with his conscience, steadfast determination, and a file cabinet full of classified documents, decides to challenge an "Imperial" Presidency-answerable to neither Congress, the press, nor the people-in order to help end the Vietnam War.


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Lawrence Lerew (written by) &
Rick Goldsmith (written by) ...
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"The Most Dangerous Man in America" is the story of what happens when a former Pentagon insider, armed only with his conscience... See more » | Add synopsis »
Nominated for Oscar. Another 5 wins & 2 nominations See more »
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about conscience over power See more (19 total) »


Peter Arnett ... Himself - Associated Press Correspondent (archive footage)
Ben Bagdikian ... Himself - Editor, Washington Post
Ann Beeson ... Herself - Associate Legal Director, ACLU
John Dean ... Himself - White House Counsel to President Nixon
Daniel Ellsberg ... Himself
Patricia Ellsberg ... Herself
Robert Ellsberg ... Himself - Daniel's Son
Richard Falk ... Himself - Professor of International Law
Max Frankel ... Himself - Washington Bureau Chief, New York Times
J. William Fulbright ... Himself - Chair Foreign Relations Committee (archive footage)
James Goodale ... Himself - General Counsel, New York Times
Mike Gravel ... Himself - Senator (D-Alaska)

Morton Halperin ... Himself - Supervisor, Vietnam War Study (as Mort Halperin)

Lyndon Johnson ... Himself - President (archive footage)
Randy Kehler ... Himself - Draft Resister
Bud Krogh ... Himself - Director, 'Plumbers' Unit - Nixon White House (as Egil Krogh)
Pete McCloskey ... Himself - Representative, California
Wayne Morse ... Himself - Senator, Oregon (archive footage)

Richard Nixon ... Himself - President (archive footage)
Thomas Oliphant ... Himself - Reporter, Boston Globe (as Tom Oliphant)

Dan Rather ... Himself - Reporter (archive footage)
Tony Russo ... Himself - RAND Analyst
Thomas Schelling ... Himself - RAND Analyst / Nobel Laureate
Hedrick Smith ... Himself - Reporter, New York Times
Janaki Tschannerl ... Herself - Peace Activist
Leonard Weinglass ... Himself - Russo Defense Attorney

Howard Zinn ... Himself - Historian

Directed by
Judith Ehrlich 
Rick Goldsmith 
Writing credits
Lawrence Lerew (written by) &
Rick Goldsmith (written by) &
Judith Ehrlich (written by) &
Michael Chandler (written by)

Produced by
Lynn Adler .... associate producer
Judith Ehrlich .... producer
Jodie Evans .... executive producer
Rick Goldsmith .... producer
Max Good .... assistant producer
Claire Greensfelder .... consulting producer
Karen Payne .... consulting producer
Original Music by
Blake Leyh 
Cinematography by
Vicente Franco 
Dan Krauss 
Film Editing by
Michael Chandler 
Rick Goldsmith 
Lawrence Lerew 
Production Management
Jorge Trelles .... production manager
Sound Department
Nick Bertoni .... sound recordist
James Lebrecht .... supervising sound editor
Alex Wilmer .... sound designer
Animation Department
Eli Noyes .... animation director
Tom Rubalcava .... layout artist (uncredited)
Editorial Department
Michael Chandler .... consulting editor
Jesse Spencer .... on-line editor
Jesse Spencer .... post-production coordinator
Stephen Vittoria .... editor: Theatrical Trailer
Other crew
Lisa Callif .... clearance counsel
Thomas A. Cohen .... legal services
Michael Donaldson .... clearance counsel
Kenn Rabin .... archival consultant

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
92 min

Did You Know?

Anachronisms: (at around 1h 19 mins) Three Black Hawk helicopters are shown disembarking combat-equipped soldiers, ostensibly in Viet Nam. While the first YUH-60 did in fact fly before the fall of Saigon, it was 1976 before three of them had been produced. Production aircraft were not delivered until 1978.See more »
Movie Connections:
Featured in The 82nd Annual Academy Awards (2010) (TV)See more »


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29 out of 35 people found the following review useful.
about conscience over power, 27 September 2009
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States

In the movie The Most Dangerous Man in America, we see what distinguishes very clearly a man like Daniel Ellsberg from a man like Richard Nixon. Ellsberg, when first presented with the position by the President, Lyndon Johnson, that America had to go into war in Vietnam (and a long-term one of course, despite what Johnson said to the media) he knew it was a lie but one he had to work in. He even got into the swing of things early on to give the first report of a heinous act done on an American soldier to McNamara, which was "just what he wanted to see". But it wasn't long after that, while still being a 'hawk' for the side of the Pentagon and the Rand corporation, that he gripped with what he knew from the start: what he was doing was wrong, and he was helping perpetuate a wrong going back to Truman through Nixon. There's a revelation that comes to Ellsberg, and it's there in the film as well - in order to do the right thing, sometimes, one may have to be prepared (and practically be happy) to go got prison for a just cause.

Nixon, of course, never felt this way about his ties to the Vietnam war, and if anything, as heard in those oh-so cheerful tapes recorded with him and Kissinger, he wanted to go all out and bomb the "SOB's" into oblivion, to "think big" as it were. He didn't have a conscience about it, plain and simple, and it's this that we see makes out the hero/villain in this story in the film. Ellsberg was a key whistleblower of the 20th century, this despite the media latching more onto the persona of Ellsberg as opposed to the full-blown-holy-s*** content of the Pentagon Papers themselves. Nixon saw Ellsberg as a key threat - not ironically perhaps the reason why his administration tumbled down, this almost in spite of his landslide victory in 1972. I had almost forgotten until the film reminded me of a startling fact: the Watergate break-in was not just for the purposes of helping to sway the election, but to find any dirt at all in Ellsberg's psychiatrist's folders. That's just... mean.

Then again, Nixon doesn't become the antagonist in the film until after the halfway point. For the filmmakers, their documentary is poised on Dr. Ellsberg, a very intelligent man who rose up the ranks to become a key player in the Rand Corporation (a place for "free thinkers" to come up with "big ideas" as a think tank), and then into the Pentagon. But we also see how his level of trust and intuition with authority came into large question in his youth, when his father, whom he always trusted as an authority, was behind the wheel in a horrible accident that killed his mother and sister. We don't see how this tragedy of losing those closest to him changed him, per-say (I wondered for a while after the movie ended why this was, until later), but it does serve to show how his bond with his father was broken, how that coupled with the atom bomb drops a year before this left him disillusioned.

And if anything is the focus of this movie, aside of course from its protagonist, its about the way in which a person, in a society such as America's in the late 60s and wasn't 100% corrupted, could make a difference when nudged just a little. What not only Ellsberg but the New York Times and the press did gives us lessons today: sometimes a person who knows right and wrong, and knows the consequences both professional and personal (we see the latter especially in Ellsberg's friendship with his boss, the President of Rand, and a colleague who refused to testify at a grand jury trial), has to stand up and do something to break the mold. It's a stirring documentary, informative and full of sobering moments, seeming longer (in a good way) than 90 minutes. The only downside being a few cheesy 're-enactment' flash-animated scenes of some of the nefarious acts being done like photocopying and meetings at night.

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