Chelsea Manning — who as Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning gave WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified or sensitive documents and logs — spoke in April at SDSU.
But her talk fell short for Pierre Asselin, SDSU professor of history.
“Truth be told, I was a little disappointed by her response to some of the questions she was asked,” Asselin said Thursday. “Immediately after her talk, over beer with my students, we discussed how great it would be to have Ellsberg, whom we all felt had been more ‘thoughtful’ in the way he went about collecting and then leaking classified information, come to campus to do the same as Manning.”
So Asselin, a Vietnam War expert who met Ellsberg once at a conference, discussed the idea with his friend Larry Berman, author of several books on Vietnam.
And over the summer — “over beer, again, plus sushi this time” — Berman told Asselin that he happened to know “Dan” quite well and would be happy to contact him about an SDSU visit.
Announced early this week, Ellsberg’s visit Oct. 2 at Montezuma Hall is free but requires registration. A college spokeswoman said Friday morning that 1,102 had registered. The hall’s standing room capacity is 1,120.
Asselin, the school’s Dwight E. Stanford Chair in U.S. Foreign Relations, said he exchanged some ideas with Ellsberg when he met him in Texas years ago. They stayed in touch for a short while.
“He helped me refine one of the arguments I presented in my first book,” Asselin said of the now 87-year-old author, whose latest book is “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.”
Like Manning, Ellsberg is a controversial figure — now immortalized in the Tom Hanks/Meryl Streep movie “The Post” and the documentary (screened Tuesday at SDSU) titled “The Most Dangerous Man in America.”
“However one feels about what Ellsberg did in the early 1970s, this is an individual who impacted American and, to some degree, at least, world history in profound and meaningful ways,” Asselin says. “Rarely do our students and members of the local community have an opportunity to come face-to-face with ‘living history’ and engage it.”
Another benefit of the visit is something that “too many people these days ignore and otherwise neglect,” he said. “History matters. Ellsberg and his upcoming visit to our campus will serve to underscore that.”
The leaker of the government’s top-secret history of the Vietnam War will speak for about one hour, Asselin said, followed by questions and answers for about an hour.