In 2014, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower rallied journalists to expose what the oil companies knew about harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
One of my go-to news sites about the climate emergency is InsideClimateNews.org, a Pulitzer Prize winning organization covering the crisis from multiple angles, publishing easily verifiable content daily.
David Sasson, ICN’s founder and publisher, recently published an appreciation of Ellsberg in which he recounts their chance meeting at a journalism conference at the Cronkite School at Arizona State University. Ellsberg at the time was not familiar with ICN’s work, but his time with Sasson prompted Ellsberg to lead a conference session where he urged a standing-room-only crowd of reporters and editors “to expose what the oil companies knew and when they knew it.”
Here are a few excerpts from Sasson’s tribute:
Not much later in New York, at a rare in-person gathering of ICN’s scattered staff, I pitched the project, and saw that same look on their faces: how the hell are we going to do that? Hadn’t Daniel Ellsberg hastened the end of the Vietnam War with a Xerox machine? But everybody already knows the oil companies are lying, what would it prove? I managed to convince a small team to start scratching at the most powerful corporations in the world to find their people of conscience.
Nine months later our team that came to include David Hasemyer, Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song, John H. Cushman Jr. and Paul Horn began publishing an investigative series called Exxon: The Road Not Taken….The first story opened with an account about James F. Black, a senior company scientist, who stood before Exxon’s Management Committee [in 1977] and told them that the burning of fossil fuels — the product they sold — was warming Earth’s climate and could eventually endanger humanity.
Soon after we published The Road Not Taken, it spawned the hashtag #ExxonKnew. A coalition of state attorneys-general launched an investigation of the oil giant.