The secrets of Daniel Ellsberg's father

Daniel Ellsberg is back in the news with the release of the movie “The Post” and his memoir “The Doomsday Machine.” In a review of the latter, Thomas Powers relates an amusing anecdote about secrecy involving Ellsberg’s father:

There is a widespread belief, Ellsberg writes, that “everything leaks; it all comes out in the New York Times.” That, he says, “is emphatically not true.” Even analysts at the heart of the secret world are not cleared for many categories of secret information and are not cleared to know that they are not cleared. While Ellsberg was being initiated into these secrets he did not know that his own father had once enjoyed an early version of a code-word clearance, a “Q” clearance that protected the secret work on fusion weapons in the years after World War II. Ellsberg’s father told him this in 1978, when he also confessed that he had resigned in 1949 from a bomb- related engineering job–“the best job he’d ever had,” Ellsberg writes–because he wanted no part in building anything a thousand times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

Ellsberg was astonished. Why had he never known about this? “Oh, I couldn’t tell any of this to my family ,” answered the senior Ellsberg. “You weren’t cleared.”