4. The study was leaked to The New York Times
As 1969 went on and the casualties in Vietnam continued to mount Ellsberg, who had spent two years in Southeast Asia as an assistant to a State Department official, became convinced that American involvement there was wrong, or at least what the American people were being told about it was wrong. Ellsberg began surreptitiously copying the study in late 1969, taking the copied documents with him when he left his office at RAND. Both actions were against the law as violations of security. He did not act alone, at least one assistant aided him in copying the materials. He also made multiple copies which once they were made available to the public became known as the Pentagon Papers.
Though Ellsberg had become convinced that overt action against American involvement in Vietnam was a moral obligation, he was uncertain at first what to do with the documents in his possession. He attempted to convince several Senators to review the documents and introduce them on the floor of the Senate, since to do so was not illegal for a Senator, regardless of how the documents had been obtained. One such Senator was the influential William Fulbright, who demurred. He also approached several foreign policy experts, distributing the documents – still highly classified – without authorization. Then he gave a copy to The New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan, who had already heard of their contents from contacts Ellsberg had previously approached.