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Author: The GroundTruth Project

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At the height of the Vietnam War, a government insider named Daniel Ellsberg leaked 7,000 pages of classified documents to American newspapers. The Pentagon Papers revealed that Americans had been lied to for decades about the war. Fifty years later, Ellsberg reveals his evolution from Cold Warrior to Whistleblower in the GroundTruth Podcast series The Whistleblower: Truth, Dissent and the Legacy of Daniel Ellsberg.

Based at GBH in Boston, the award-winning GroundTruth Podcast has covered global affairs from the War in Afghanistan to rising populist nationalism through shoe-leather, on-the-ground reporting.
62 Episodes
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Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press knowing he could face the rest of his life in prison. But what turned this Cold War hawk into an anti-war dove? What were the motivating events and people who influenced his transformation? At 15, a tragic car accident would shape his sense of responsibility to the wider world. His time in the Marine Corps strengthened his dedication to serving his country. But in 1968 he would begin an unlikely encounter with another faction, the anti-war movement. Their dedication to serving the truth would lead Ellsberg to a massive act of dissent.
In the series premiere, we pick up on Ellsberg’s first day at the Pentagon, the day he became acquainted with what he came to call the “lying machine.” It was August 4, 1964. Contradicting accounts of an attack in The Gulf of Tonkin would give President Johnson the green light to lead the country into war in Vietnam based on a lie. We follow this thread, and the deception, through his time in the field in Vietnam, where he saw how the lies on the ground made their way back to Washington. Back home, Ellsberg observes the power of leaking government lies: His very first leak to The New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan helped to end a presidency. This podcast series is part of a wider collaboration with UMass Amherst and GBH, including a two-day conference presented by GroundTruth and UMass Amherst on “Truth, Dissent and the Legacy of Daniel Ellsberg” featuring a conversation between the Pentagon Papers whistleblower himself and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. RSVP here: https://www.ellsbergpapers.org/conference/
Americans across the country opened their newspapers to the first reports based on classified documents leaked by a government insider, Daniel Ellsberg. Consisting of 7,000 pages of top secret documents, the Pentagon Papers revealed in cold, analytical detail how four presidential administrations lied to the American public: the reasons for entering the war, the failures of their policies, the low chances of success, and the reasons for staying the course. But for Ellsberg, the facts were overwhelming, the lies, extraordinary, and the dissonance too deafening for him to simply stay the course, as so many other administration officials had done. This 5-part podcast series sheds light on the pivotal moments and role models that motivated Ellsberg to risk 115 years in jail in service to the truth. The series also explores his role as a nuclear planner, firmly convinced that a nuclear war would vanquish the human race in his lifetime. In exclusive interviews with Ellsberg, he reveals his evolution from Cold Warrior to whistleblower, the legacy of truth and dissent in the U.S., and their implications for our democracy today. This season of the GroundTruth Podcast is part of a year-long public history project in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Amherst and GBH, Boston and was made possible through the generous support of the UMass Chancellor’s Office.
The turmoil of the 2020 presidential election campaigns has raised questions about just what it means to vote. Who gets to pull the lever? How can someone cast their ballot? Will all of the votes be counted in time? GroundTruth’s Voting Rights Fellows share local stories of voters, activists and election officials working to preserve the process this Nov. 3. Explore our Election 2020 reporting: https://thegroundtruthproject.org/election-episode-2020-and-counting/ Keep up with our on-the-ground reporting: https://bit.ly/2Jj1BRL
When you think about Kentucky's deep red politics today, it's likely the face of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his laconic drawl that comes to mind. But one northern corner of this solidly Republican state is streaked blue by its state house representation. Covering local government in northern Kentucky through our Report for America program, reporter Julia Fair with the Cincinnati Enquirer has been following this trend just across the Ohio River. It’s there, in Kentucky's District 67, that she’s been covering a race for the Kentucky general assembly. And though you may think you know where this story is headed, it’s not politics as usual. As Julia says, in her time reporting on local politics, she’s never seen a race quite like this – one that is starkly framed by a time of deep political divides. Sign up for the On the Ground newsletter for the latest dispatches from across the United States
The origins of Blues music is a complex weave of traditions, and the genre echoes suffering and endurance through centuries of hardship. Evolving from blended musical forms brought to the United States by enslaved Africans, then taking on the rhythm of work in the fields and heart of spirituals, the oppressive environment of the Jim Crow South ultimately shaped the Blues as we know it today. Today, the Blues are more often romanticized as the ballads of down and out troubadours, rambling and poor, but following their passion for music. Blues legend Robert Johnson’s story epitomizes these hard realities and an enduring mythology that surrounds his memory. Legend has it that Johnson signed a deal with the devil to perfect his guitar playing. And like so many legends, mystery shrouds the actual person and what really happened in his 27 years on earth, how he died and where he is buried. Until 2002, nobody knew for certain where the King of the Delta Blues Singers was laid to rest. Report for America corps member Alexandra Watts takes us on a journey to Robert Johnson’s final resting place in the Mississippi Delta. Listen to our Blues playlist: https://bit.ly/3imgIWn Get weekly On the Ground updates: https://bit.ly/3duok6K
For most of us, it's hard to ignore the rising threat of climate change. But the sheer magnitude of the devastation it could cause is daunting. For those journalists trying to convey the sense of urgency to the public, it can become overwhelming. Living on Cape Cod, where towns and residents are trying to beat back rising tides with seawalls and sand, WCAI climate change reporter Eve Zuckoff is finding it difficult to build barriers of her own – between the existential threat she covers professionally and her life outside of work. Learn more: https://gtruth.co/35kZh5Z
For many growing up in Chicago, the barber shop is a refuge. Raised on the Windy City's West Side, Report for America corps member Manny Ramos knows that fact well. "Barbers do more than just cut hair," he says, "they record history." They hear about the aspirations of the people whose hair they trim, and whose major life events they mark together. Ramos' reporting shows us how the barber shop has come to play a key role as a "community center" in Chicago, and how the loss of one barber rippled through the South Side. Learn more: https://gtruth.co/2E8THIN
In August 2018, well before any thought of a pandemic sweeping the country, Mississippi’s prison system saw a spike in inmate deaths. Correctional officials attributed many of these to “natural causes.” But these deaths aren't the only concerns for inmates and their families. Conditions in some of these prisons – men sleeping five to a cell or the sparse and unappetizing meals they get on a day to day basis or what the showers look like – have come to light through documentation by the inmates themselves. For this episode, Report for America corps member Michelle Liu takes us inside her investigation into these unexplained deaths, why the victims’ families remain in the dark and what life is like for the inmates within the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Read Liu's in-depth reporting and further reporting on inmate rights, along with some of the sounds behind the story here: https://gtruth.co/3fEo4TY
Bird Singing is an oral tradition that has been passed down for centuries among the tribes across the American Southwest. These stories are sung by male members of tribes – from young boys to elders – whose only accompaniment is a gourd fashioned into a shaker. But the threat of COVID-19 has forced these traditions online, in isolation. See video of Bird Singers performing here: https://gtruth.co/2X4lyjh
“Deadly Force,” a new podcast series from Report for America host newsroom WPLN in Nashville, focuses on the trial of the first Nashville police officer to be charged with murder for shooting someone in the line of duty. Through newly uncovered documents, original interviews and audio footage, Deadly Force gets a glimpse into the mind of a police officer struggling to make sense of when to use his gun and the culture in Nashville surrounding the use of force. We speak with reporter Samantha Max on how the investigative report unfolded, and the status of the murder trial, which had been delayed due to COVID-19. https://gtruth.co/3jcoyUd
July 3, 20-18. It was almost Independence Day.  Lee Eric Evans straightened a flag pole on his aunt’s front porch. He carefully unfurled an American flag so that it hung properly, making sure it didn’t touch the ground. Lee, who is 26 years old, was fussing over the flag for the 4th of July celebrations in the Farish Street Historic District which would happen the next day.  I was working on a story about the importance of the District as a hub of black-owned businesses in the 1920’s and 1930s. I wanted to understand how this once-thriving economy had descended into neglect and how the city had become seized by violence.  I told Lee Eric why I thought the story was important, and asked if I could talk with him about the neighborhood.  Within days, Lee Eric Evans would be shot dead. https://thegroundtruthproject.org/portrait-struggle-violence-mississippi/
Report for America corps member Chris Ehrmann continues on his road trip across America, picking up in St Louis, where economic recovery depends on where you live. Chris listens to protesters from Denver to Los Angeles, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, who are wondering, is this a tipping point? https://thegroundtruthproject.org/on-the-ground-with-report-for-america-pandemic-and-protest/
Report for America corps member Chris Ehrmann embarked on a road trip across America, literally, from Times Square to Los Angeles, California. He traced the new landscape of COVID-19 across time zones and state lines. He spoke to those whose loved ones have been directly impacted by the virus, squaring off against those impacted by a devastated economy. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, his journey to witness a nation under lockdown was suddenly layered with thousands of protestors pouring into the streets demanding justice. https://thegroundtruthproject.org/on-the-ground-with-report-for-america-pandemic-and-protest/
The 9th season of the GroundTruth Podcast is a playlist of stories from across America. We shadow our Report for America corps members as they bring us into their communities, and share the stories of people who’ve often felt unheard. Amid a pandemic and nationwide demands for justice and reform, the audio road trip begins with an actual road trip from coast to coast.
As a thick morning fog was still lifting over the hills here above the San Francisco Bay, Ellsberg sat at his dining room table, sipping a cup of coffee and reading The New York Times. It was Friday, December 13th, the House Judiciary Committee had just sent the articles of impeachment for a full house floor vote.  It feels like deja vu, 50 years on. Dan Ellsberg was reflecting on then and now. To some, the whistleblower is a hero, to others, a traitor. But at their core, at least, whistleblowers are vested with secrets--it’s just part of their job. If the whistleblower protections are functioning, they are anonymous. These individuals have the highest security clearances, they’ve built careers around protecting their country from external threats.  But it is the internal threat that challenges civil servants to defend the fundamental tenets of the constitution, to risk everything they’ve worked for, and to blow the whistle on corruption, abuse of power, and criminal activity, carried out by their fellow citizens, even colleagues. For this epilogue to the Democracy Undone series, we reflect on the role of the whistleblower. Their proximity to the veiled, inner workings of government puts them in the unique position to monitor the integrity of our elected officials.    
As Donald Trump took the oath of office and became the 45th President of the United States, journalists’ role of covering the White House and the presidency was turned upside down. It started day one with the inauguration and the very first press conference.  Sean Spicer: “This was the largest audience to ever watch an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.” The next day, on Meet the Press Kellyanne Conway stepped forward to defend the president’s exaggerations. She coined a phrase that would define the trump era. Kellyanne Conway: “You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving, Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary, gave alternative facts to that.” Politicians lie, they always have. But it seems to be a go-to strategy for the trump administration. From dealing with an issue as serious as the president’s justification for firing FBI Chief James Comey, to something as trivial as the crowd size at his inauguration.  But spreading disinformation has consequences...long-term consequences, which will shape how united these United States of America will actually be. How do we, as a nation, decide which truths are self-evident? ABOUT THE SERIES In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order. Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration
LGBT communities face challenges in all parts of the world. But in Poland, the right-wing populist Law and Justice party spent the last year insisting that pro-LGBT stances were a western import meant to weaken Poland internally.  They claim that progressive social values have no place in polish identity, and refer to values pertaining to the LGBT community as “LGBT ideology.” Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński describes it as a battle.  “The LGBT ideology is an offensive. Look at the traveling circus going through our cities...First they provoke us, and when we react they cry and claim they are the victims. This must be unmasked and rejected. There must be order in our homeland.” For populist politicians, real or invented enemies are key to creating divisions in society. These divisions help win elections. They mobilize voters to conquer the enemy at the ballot box.  If the ruling Law and Justice party can convince the people that the so-called LGBT ideology is a threat to Polish identity, and by extension, Poland – it makes it easier for them to rule by the playbook tactic of divide and conquer. ABOUT THE SERIES In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order. Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration
In August, 1947, British colonial rule officially ended in India. Within 6 months, Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement, was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist who rejected Gandhi’s openness to India’s Muslims. For more than 70 years, India more or less remained a constitutional democracy granting religious equality to all. In 2014, Narendra Modi was elected prime minister. In May of 2019, Modi and his BJP party swept the elections with an overwhelming majority. This mandate gave Modi the power to reforge India in the mold of a Hindu nationalist ideology. To many observers, Modi literally unleashed the forces of Hindu nationalism that Gandhi feared, and that motivated his assassin. Ever since 2013, candidate Modi has made three campaign promises: He would cancel a provision in the Indian constitution that granted the troubled region of Kashmir its autonomy. He would weed out “illegal immigrants” from the country through a process called the NRC or National Register of Citizens. And third, he would enable construction of a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque used by Muslims for centuries. GroundTruth Global Reporting Fellow Soumya Shankar tracked Modi’s progress on each of these campaign promises. She begins in Kashmir, where she witnesses the upheaval of Modi’s latest policy shift on the only Muslim majority state in the country. It’s early August. Day 5 of the lockdown in Kashmir… ABOUT THE SERIES In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order. Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration
It is often said that journalism is the first draft of history. Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s dominance of Hungarian media gives him the power to not only write the first draft, but to rewrite history, in step with his own nationalist narrative. Over the past 9 years, media outlets in Hungary have fallen victim to Orban’s campaign to expand government control or to shut down independent media. Critics say Orban’s goal is to create his own media machine to control the political climate, and to deliver his party’s nationalist narrative. So far, he has succeeded. In the last 4 years, the number of pro-government news outlets in Hungary has shot up from 30 to over 500. Giving Viktor Orban control of over half of the news organizations in the country. ABOUT THE SERIES In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order. Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration
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ID21791632

If you’ve watched The Post movie with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, you know about the Pentagon Papers and the big risks newspapers took to get out the truth about Vietnam. But this podcast is about the man in the opening scene — Daniel Ellsberg — the govt insider who risked life in prison to tell the truth about the Vietnam war. He released the papers to the press. GroundTruth got exclusive interviews with Ellsberg and unprecedented access to his archives for this limited series.

Apr 30th
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