Ellsberg Documentary Released; Nominated for Oscar; Catch it in NYC at Cinema Village

As the latest production of Top Secret nears its March 2010 opening at New York Theatre Workshop, another retelling of the Pentagon Papers story is also hitting theaters.  The Most Dangerous Man in America, which opened at select theaters in January 2010, is a documentary focused on the story of Daniel Ellsberg, the former high-level Defense Department analyst and consultant who leaked the Pentagon Papers to newspapers around the country.

The documentary, narrated by Ellsberg, traces his personal journey from as a Marine and Vietnam strategist who becomes convinced, in part because of the material he read in the Pentagon Papers, that the Vietnam War was a mistake.  As he says in the film, Ellsberg at first felt “half a radical,” but soon realized that his special access to secret documents placed him in a unique position to act on his sense of responsibility to help end the war.

By telling the Pentagon Papers story from Ellsberg’s perspective, The Most Dangerous Man in America provides an excellent complement to Top Secret which dramatizes aspects of the same story from the perspective of the Washington Post.

On Tuesday, February 2, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the film’s nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Those seeing the New York Theatre Workshop production of Top Secret, can catch the film at Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street, New York, NY.

DOJ Testimony on Applicability of Espionage Laws to Journalists

This post at Secrecy News reports on March 2007 remarks made by the Justice Department to Congress imparting DOJ’s view that the federal espionage statutes could be used against journalists who publish leaked information.

The post draws from a March 2007 written submission by the DOJ to Congress supplementing June 2006 testimony regarding disclosure of classified information by the press.

In its written submission the DOJ noted that the federal espionage statutes, 18 U.S.C. §§ 793, 798 do not exempt journalists and by their terms could apply.  The Department noted, however, that journalists were not necessarily a current focus of prosecution and that the DOJ “strongly believes that the best approach is to work cooperatively with journalists to persuade them not to publish classified information that can damage national security.”  Especially interesting is the exchange noted by Secrecy News in which the DOJ emphasizes that improper or unnecessary classification is likely not a defense to prosecution, citing to United States v. Boyce, 594 F.2d 1246 (9th Cir. 1979).  The DOJ also cites to Justice White’s concurring opinion in the Pentagon Papers case, New York Times v. United States, 403 U.S. 713, 740 (1971), as support for the potential for application of the espionage laws to journalists.