1971 September 9

President Nixon’s “Plumbers” Burglarize Ellsberg’s Psychiatrist’s Office


A White House group known as the “Plumbers” (reportedly set up on July 24, 1971, to “stop leaks” of information), burglarized the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in order to find information to discredit him. Ellsberg had leaked a copy of The Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, which published stories based on the Papers on June 13, 1971. The articles about the secret history of American involvement in Vietnam created a sensation. The Nixon Administration’s attempt to stop the Times from publishing even more stories led to a historic Supreme Court decision on freedom of the press in Times v. United Sates, on June 30, 1971.

The burglary of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist set a precedent for the break-in of Democratic Headquarters, on June 17, 1972, which set off the Watergate scandal and led to President Richard Nixon’s eventual resignation on August 9, 1974.

The burglary had a major impact on subsequent events. When Daniel Ellsberg was being prosecuted for stealing the The Pentagon Papers, the revelation of the burglary of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist caused the charges against him to be dismissed, on May 11, 1973. See the landmark Supreme Court decision on freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971).

Read about the “Plumbers”: Stanley Kutler, The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon (1992)

Learn more about the Pentagon Papers case: John Prados and Margaret Porter, Inside the Pentagon Papers (2004)

Read: Tom Wells, Wild Man: The Life and Times of Daniel Ellsberg (2001)

Watch the documentary about Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Man in America (2009)

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